Liberal leadership challenge looms as Matthew Guy resigns from shadow cabinet

Liberal frontbenchers Matthew Guy and Tim Smith resigned from Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien’s shadow cabinet on Monday morning ahead of a planned leadership spill this week.

Mr Guy and his closest ally informed Mr O’Brien of their decision early on Monday.

Leadership tussle: Michael O’Brien, Brad Battin and Matthew Guy.Credit:Darrian Traynor, Daniel Pockett, Eddie Jim

It is standard practice for those attempting to topple the leader to resign from their portfolios because their position serving the party leadership is untenable.

Mr O’Brien and Mr Guy spent last night on the phones persuading MPs to vote for them.

There is a chance Mr O’Brien may pull out of the contest if he believes he does not have the numbers, or he may not contest the leadership if a spill motion is successful at a meeting that could be held as early as Tuesday.

Much of the discussion among MPs on Monday had turned to who would be Mr Guy’s deputy if he were to ascend to the leadership.

Backbencher Ryan Smith has been mooted, while shadow treasurer Louise Staley and the opposition police spokesman David Southwick are also said to be in the mix.

Mr Guy’s camp and a grouping led by Mr Smith have come together over the winter to build a coalition big enough to topple Mr O’Brien, so Mr Smith is likely to be Mr Guy’s favoured pick.

Backers of Mr Guy say the Victorian Opposition, under Mr O’Brien, has failed to present itself as an alternative government, and that it had been “consistently angry” throughout the pandemic without a positive platform.

While Mr O’Brien’s supporters have previously told The Age, the Opposition under Mr Guy had been “too angry”, appealing to the Liberal Party’s base instead of ordinary Victorians.

with Sumeyya Ilanbey

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