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Coalition MPs may not be plotting to topple Scott Morrison but succession jockeying is absolutely under way | Katharine Murphy

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On Monday, news photographers returned chuckling after an early assignment because the defence minister, Peter Dutton, had been seen smiling, spontaneously, in daylight, apparently without effort.

Dutton smiling is a persistent Canberra in-joke. Back in 2018, when the right faction came for Malcolm Turnbull, and Dutton was the candidate, the hard man of the Liberal party thought – and said – he needed to smile more and “maybe show a different side to what I show when I talk about border protection”.

This pitch, both calculated, and guileless, was so clickable and shareable BuzzFeed produced the definitive ranking of all Dutton’s smiles. Number one was the “just-joined-the-backbench-after-running-for-PM smile”.

Dutton’s unprovoked smiling on Monday was clocked in the context of Scott Morrison’s fraught final parliamentary fortnight. With an election now in sight, Labor wants to pin the prime minister as a liar and is firing daily kill shots from Morrison’s back catalogue.

Bookending Labor’s character test is internal disunity noisy enough to create the impression Morrison isn’t in full command of his troops. Morrison is battling an insurrection over vaccination mandates because some of his MPs are worried about bleeding votes to Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson. To straddle internal and external pressure, Morrison has been positioning against his own interventionist record during the pandemic, which is unhelpful, to put it mildly, given that was the period when he was most popular.

Moderates have also found their voices. MPs sick of Nationals dictating the government’s climate policy (and then pretending they oppose it to signal cultural affinity with voters in the Hunter and regional Queensland) are also disinclined to be quiescent boys and girls on religious discrimination to facilitate a culture war Morrison thinks he needs with Labor.

If you watch politics from a distance, you’ll certainly hear the clamour. Up close, the impression is pervasive exhaustion. MPs are tired. Senior ministers – now running on backup battery power after grinding away on the pandemic response, the climate policy pivot, and the other pressing problems of the year – are now working flat out to neutralise feckless screeching about vaccine totalitarianism that stands between them and a brief Christmas respite.

Morrison is always relentless. He’s a human bulldozer. On Wednesday, he fired up in question time. But he looks weary as well. Earlier in the week, the prime minister swung (and missed) at Anthony Albanese when Labor provoked him on his now infamous Hawaiian holiday in the middle of catastrophic bushfires. Morrison was forced to clean up his own mess.

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It’s bumpy enough for Morrison to have issued the pro forma disunity is death homily to government MPs during their regular party room meeting on Tuesday. Morrison also delivered what he hoped would be a mind-focusing comparison. The coming election could either be the contest in 2004, where the Liberals came from behind and smashed the “new sensation” Mark Latham, or it could be 2007, where the rout was so substantial John Howard lost his own seat.

“It’s up to us,” the prime minister said. Actually, ultimately, it’s down to the voters.

Speaking of voters, Labor’s truth and trust strategy is pitched predominantly at swinging voters inclined to be disenchanted with the prime minister and his rolling brinkmanship.

But the trust sortie is also pitched at Liberals – because politics is a confidence game. This point might require a little unpacking.

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Morrison’s central pitch to any colleagues inclined to doubt is: Trust me, I know how to win. I won when you doubted me in 2019. If you back me, I’ll do it again. The prime minister is asking MPs to take him on trust. But if trust gets eroded, if he looks vulnerable to a kill shot, subordinates can begin to doubt the durability of Morrison and his electoral miracles, and in that environment, politics enters a period of every man and woman for themselves.

We know there are a few iron-clad propositions in politics. The first is that existential doubt is an accelerant of ill-discipline in the major parties.

The second involves the base. When Liberal leaders start signalling comity with the base in the way Morrison currently is – preaching the case for freedom and for government to get out of people’s faces when five minutes ago he said the opposite – it points to trouble, either internal or external.

Polls suggest Labor is in the contest. So there’s a degree of external trouble.

But if colleagues are plotting pre-election to replace Morrison with another frontman (which sounds like a wild killing season conspiracy theory until you remember this exact refresh has happened with brutal precision before the past two elections) – it is happening so quietly that people who should know about it profess total ignorance. Obviously, this is politics. All things are liable to change without notice, but right now these characters look too spent to plot.

What is absolutely happening, however, is succession jockeying for whenever any leadership question becomes relevant – and that’s where we return to Dutton.

The Queenslander had a fallow period after he lost the prime ministership contest to Morrison. There were complaints around the government Dutton wasn’t pulling his weight in times of adversity, seemingly content to leave Morrison out there. But the Queenslander in recent months has been back, assertive and present, with his loud hailer, picking political fights and looking generally content with his lot.

Also busy busy busy is the Victorian Josh Frydenberg. The treasurer is genuinely loyal to Morrison and has worked to maintain a good relationship with him, which isn’t a given between prime ministers and treasurers. But when the moment presents, he wants to be prime minister of Australia. This is a core life plan. No ifs, buts or maybes.

Given this is the reality, we can end by reminding ourselves of the third iron-clad rule of Australian public life. Politics, for the restless, for the ambitious, is always a game of opportunity.

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‘Selfish’ Gov. Baker ‘Bad News’ For Republican Party – CBS Boston

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No Covid positive case reported | Ludhiana News

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Ludhiana: No positive case of Covid-19 was reported in the district on Wednesday.
According to the health department officials, the district’s case count is 87,664 and the toll tally is 2,110.
The health department teams collected 1,060 samples on the day.

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Political storm over ‘murder plot’ by Congress leader against BJP MLA- The New Indian Express

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By Express News Service

BENGALURU: An alleged plot to murder BJP MLA and BDA chairman SR Vishwanath created ripples in the state’s political circles on Wednesday. Yelahanka MLA Vishwanath alleged that his political rival from the Congress, Gopalakrishna, has been ‘persistently’ plotting to bump him off. He has filed a complant against the Congress leader.

Home Minister Araga Jnanedra said the government has taken the issue seriously and security for the Bengaluru Development Authority chairman will be stepped up. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai is also said to have promised him a thorough probe.

At a press meet on Wednesday, Vishwanath claimed that Gopalakrishna is former CM M Veerappa Moily’s ‘Man Friday’. He alleged that as Gopalakrishna was pushed to the third position in two  polls (2013 and 2018), the latter had been tracking his whereabouts for three months through his agents.

“But when Gopalakrishna’s accomplice Kulla Devaraj wrote an apology letter to the CM, Home minister and the city police commissioner and delivered a copy to me as well, which I found outside my house around 7 pm on Tuesday, I realised the gravity of the issue and immediately spoke to the CM and the Home minister seeking necessary action”, Vishwan-ath said.

“Kulla Devaraja apologised for joining hands with Gopalakrishna owing to a financial crisis and confessed to his mistake”, Vishwanath added. In a four-hour unedited video, Gopalakrishna, while speaking to Kulla Devaraja, allegedly insisted on eliminating Vishwanath by roping in ‘supari’ killers from Andhra Pradesh and says he is ready to pay Rs 5 crore. He also suggested creating an impression that the ‘murder’ was over a real estate feud, the BJP MLA said.

Vishwanath also appealed to the  Congress to stand by him to check the trend of failed politicians planning to kill their rivals. Rubbishing Vishwanath’s allegations, Gopalakrishna termed it a ploy to tarnish his image. “Let the police trace the call list of Vishwanath and Kulla Devaraj for three months, and the truth will come out. In fact, Vishwanath was giving me trouble in an 8-acre land case”, he alleged, suspecting the authenticity of the video.

“During the CCB interrogation, I have clarified that 80% of the video is fabricated. All allegations against me are false. I never ever tried to hatch a plot to kill Vishwanath. Kulla Devaraj is Vishwanath’s right-hand man who had come to me with a land deal,” Gopalakrishna alleged. Earlier, KPCC president DK Shivakumar said they will not protect those who commit mistakes. He had also accused the BJP MLA of having rowdy elements as hangers-on. 

Vishwanath hit back at Shivakumar and questioned him for “backing a person who hatched a murder plot”. Shivakumar had not supported his own party MLA Akhanda Srinivasmurthy when his house was burnt, he said. Vishwanath lodged a complaint against Gopalakrishna, Kulla Devaraj and others at the Rajanukunte police station and a non-cognisable report has been registered. 

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