Craig Kelly leaving the Liberal party has solved at least three problems for the government but created one more, writes James Morrow.
Craig Kelly leaving the Liberal party has solved at least three problems for the government but created one more, writes James Morrow.

Kelly in 'quick and clean divorce from Liberals'

OPINION

In politics as in real life, break-ups come in many flavours.

Last week saw Kevin Rudd testify before a Senate committee, carrying on like a man who years later still can't believe she left him, blaming News Corp mastheads for the souring of his relationship with his party and the wider electorate.

Craig Kelly's quickie divorce from the Liberal Party was a far cleaner affair.

At Tuesday morning's weekly Liberal party room meeting, the often contentious member for Hughes delivered a Dear John letter to the prime minister, saying in essence "it's not you, it's me".

In doing so, he solved at least three problems for the government - but created one more.

Remarking on the Coalition's come from behind win in the 2019 election, Mr Kelly's letter made an analogy to New Zealand's America's cup defence, "where the only relevant consideration for anything they did was, 'does that make the boat go faster'".

"I acknowledge that some of my conduct over recent months has not helped the boat go faster," he wrote, referencing his advocacy for coronavirus therapies such as hydroxychloroquine.

He recently got into a hallway confrontation with Labor MP Tanya Plibersek.
He recently got into a hallway confrontation with Labor MP Tanya Plibersek.

With Mr Kelly no longer shacked up with the Coalition, he is free to promote whatever ideas wants about coronavirus without Scott Morrison having to play clean-up.

And with the government taking knocks all week over the treatment of women in parliament, Mr Kelly's departure also means the prime minister is distanced from the ongoing controversy over a member of his staff who has been kept on the books despite being accused by a young woman of unwanted touching.

Finally, the move to the crossbench solves at least one element of what could be a messy Hughes pre-selection and will at least prevent Mr Morrison from perhaps being faced with the dilemma of whether or not to once again intervene to keep Mr Kelly's name on the ballot.

Of course, the move also creates one very big problem for the government, and that is that it is now essentially reliant on at least one crossbencher to get legislation through.

Mr Kelly has promised to guarantee supply and support the government consistent with what was taken to the 2019 polls, but of course that can always change.

A clean break doesn't mean both sides won't be keen to catch up for the occasional coffee and see how the other's getting on, it seems.

Originally published as Kelly in quick and clean divorce from Liberals


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