Owing to various distractions, moves towards a merger of the Queensland Nationals and Liberals have gone under-reported on this site. This is just as well, as I might otherwise have joined the large number of writers and critics who prophesised with their pens that the move would fail. It appears instead to have built unstoppable momentum following yesterday’s constitutional conventions of both parties, smartly symbolised for the cameras by the removal of partitions between the separate Nationals and Liberal meetings. The Nationals, and in particular their state parliamentary leader Lawrence Springborg, appear to have succeeded in steamrollering senior Liberals’ concerns that the new Liberal National Party would amount to a Nationals takeover of the Liberals. The Liberal state council last week defied the result of a party plebiscite to announce the convention would be postponed to allow time to negotiate a better outcome, but this was scotched by a court ruling that their sons and their daughters were beyond their command. The sticking point as far as the state council and the federal party (which must still confirm the new arrangement) were concerned was the presidency of the merged party, which yesterday’s joint convention decided by weight of numbers in favour of Nationals president Bruce McIver. This had been seen as too much to ask given that the Liberals were conceding to the Nationals a party structure that over-represented rural and regional areas, in time-honoured Queensland style. While recently elected Liberal state president Mal Brough is maintaining the rage by declaring he will not join the new party, Brendan Nelson and federal director Alan Stockdale can now be heard denying the presidency will prove a deal-breaker. Springborg has thus emerged with greatly enhanced prestige at the head of a united conservative force without precedent in Queensland history (CORRECTION: Thanks to those in comments who have noted the two short-lived precedents for Queensland conservative unity early last century), facing a fourth-term Labor government whose old road is rapidly agein’.
UPDATE (30/7/08): An excellent analysis from Andrew Fraser of The Australian, who like Mal Brough foresees trouble once the blush of the honeymoon wears off.
UPDATE 2: Another good analysis from the The Piping Shrike. Note that both good analyses sound less rosy for the LNP than my own.