Deb’s last laugh as MPs turn guns on party president
LNP leader Deb Frecklington has refused to back the man who will fund her campaign for premier, as pressure last night mounted for his resignation less than 20 weeks before the do-or-die October election.
A defiant Ms Frecklington yesterday declared it was a "matter for the party" whether LNP president Dave Hutchinson survived the week after days of damaging polling leaks.
It came as a high-ranking LNP member last night said there was an "expectation" that the LNP president could resign today.
However, it's understood Mr Hutchinson was digging in a day after Ms Frecklington accused unnamed "backroom boys" of trying to bully her out of the job and said she will not quit, with the next state executive meeting in which the matter could come to a head not until mid-July.
Mr Hutchinson, former president Bruce McIver and former premier Campbell Newman are among a small group being blamed for the attacks on Ms Frecklington as donors pull back on funding the party's war chest, believing the Opposition Leader can't win.
Mr Hutchinson and Mr McIver have refused to comment, while Mr Newman has said his role was only that of a media commentator who had pointed out that the LNP team had to improve or Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk would win another term.
Pressure to resign last night came as other party sources questioned how Mr Hutchinson can remain in the lead-up to the October 31 poll, with MPs and candidates likely to question whether LNP headquarters - which control fundraising and campaign purse strings - are fully behind them.
The president would not comment yesterday, but has earlier left open the possibility of leaving the role if Clive Palmer runs candidates in the state poll.
That follows an earlier internal spat sparked by revelations he is doing paid work for the LNP's political rival - a position strongly criticised privately by Ms Frecklington.
It came as frontbencher and tourism spokesman David Crisafulli finally publicly ruled out a leadership challenge and a conga line of MPs entering a marathon party room meeting declared their allegiance to Ms Frecklington, including senior LNP frontbencher Jarrod Bleijie who said Mr Hutchinson should support Ms Frecklington.
"She's going to be a terrific Premier," he said.
"The president should back Deb like we back Deb. As I said, if he wants a great premier, he will get behind Deb."
Senior MPs Ros Bates, Andrew Powell, Fiona Simpson and David Janetzki also spoke in support of Ms Frecklington ahead of the meeting.
Despite the support for Ms Frecklington yesterday behind-the-scenes complaints continued that donations were drying up as long-time contributors decided that Ms Frecklington and her team could not win.
A senior source close to Ms Frecklington has denied that and pointed to the $1.4 million raised this year, and the nearly $8.8 million declared since 2017. Further complaints centre on a lack of experience in the Opposition Leader's office and poor media strategy.
The Courier-Mail has been told by senior and grassroots members that a "shocking" interview by Ms Frecklington in The Sunday Mail last December in which she criticised Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for being a "princess" and for her fashion choices had done "irreparable damage".
The story created a social media backlash, in which people called the comments "mean", and led some in the party to question the political acumen of the leader and her team. It's understood that women were particularly offended, as reflected in polling at a time the party is trying to build up its support among females to win key seats it needs to take government.
"She needs some grey hair in that office," one party member said.
But Ms Frecklington's supporters questioned the polling existed and suggested her detractors were just trying to legitimise their attacks.
Another party member agreed the story had been a misstep, but that it wasn't an ongoing issue for young people with short memories, adding: "People were willing to forgive it as a bitchy mistake."
Others backed Ms Frecklington and her team, pointing out the criticisms she was facing around being too negative, not getting enough media coverage and not announcing enough policy were perennial complaints party members had about every opposition leader because they didn't understand the media cycle.
Meanwhile, a raft of federal MPs phoned in their support to the state leader, including LNP Senator Susan McDonald who said Labor would use the leadership stoush to distract from their troubles. "They love nothing more than seeing us talking about leadership in this period before the election," she said.
With no appetite for leadership change within the parliamentary wing, some claim that could change as itchy MPs worry that poor polling might threaten their seats.
Originally published as Deb's last laugh as MPs turn guns on party president