New Nationals leader – and DPM – set to be picked

David Littleproud and Barnaby Joyce at the opening of Mr Littleproud''s Warwick office last year.

By Jeremy Sollars

Maranoa MP David Littleproud is still staying mum on whether or not he’ll put his hand up for the leadership of the Nationals – and becoming Deputy Prime Minister – following the resignation of Barnaby Joyce last week.
Mr Littleproud – who was elected as our local federal MP in July 2016 – has been touted as a possible contender, although political commentators are saying he is “highly unlikely” to run.
The 21 federal Nationals pollies – made up of 16 Members of Parliament and five Senators – will hold a party room meeting in Canberra tomorrow morning, Monday 26 February, at 7am Queensland time to choose their new leader.
The frontrunner at this stage appears to be New South Wales MP for Riverina and Veterans’ Affairs Minister Michael McCormack, but fellow NSW MP for Lyne Dr David Gillespie is also understood to be nominating.
The Free Times attempted to contact Mr Littleproud for comment over the weekend but he was unavailable.
The 41 year old first-term MP has had a meteoric rise in his 19 months in office, being appointed Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources in a cabinet re-shuffle just before Christmas.
While he has impressed his Coalition colleagues in his ministerial role to date, Mr Littleproud could be seen by them as unready for the leadership role at this time.
But it could be a blessing in disguise for the Warwick-based MP, with some political pundits predicting Barnaby Joyce will be back in the leader’s chair before the next federal election, which could at the earliest be held in August this year.
But with the Turnbull Government’s shaky one-seat majority and backbench unrest on both the Liberal and Nationals sides the timing of the next election will remain anyone’s guess for now.
Many in the Coalition believe Mr Joyce is still the Nationals’ strongest campaign asset, with regional voters not as divided over his relationship with former staffer Vikki Campion – who is understood to be expecting the couple’s child in April – as their metro counterparts.
For now Mr Joyce will move to the Turnbull Government’s backbench as the MP for New England.
Under the century-old Liberal/Nationals coalition agreement the leader of the Nationals automatically becomes Deputy Prime Minister.
David Littleproud and other Nationals MPs have foreshadowed they will campaign solely as ‘Nationals’ at the next election – as opposed to branding themselves as coalition members – believing the Liberal Party is neglecting the interests of regional Australia.
Maverick North Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen this weekend even suggested ending the formal coalition altogether.
Mr Littleproud – who is a close political supporter and personal friend of Mr Joyce – issued a statement late last Friday praising Mr Joyce as “the best Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister in living memory”.
Updates online at www.freetimes.com.au
 

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