John Pesutto is learning – too late – an old truism in high-stakes politics: never ask a big question before you know the answer.
And so, by asking publicly that his party room expel Moira Deeming, he needed to know that his colleagues would go along with him.
He can now try desperately to spin his way out of his humiliation, but it changes nothing: he is still humiliated.
He leads a party room that couldn’t bring itself to agree with him on a matter he elevated to the highest of shouted principles: that it must give Deeming the boot.
Deeming was a Liberal MP who “organised, promoted and attended” an event headlined by extremist British anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull.
Controversial Victorian MP Moira Deeming avoided being expelled from the Liberal party room on Monday.Credit:Darrian Traynor
In the Liberal Party leader’s own words, the Keen-Minshull rally included “speakers and other organisers who themselves have been publicly associated with far right-wing extremist groups including neo-Nazi activists”.
Apparently uninvited, a cabal of neo-Nazis had turned up to the rally, complete with a self-consciously staged group Nazi salute.
Deeming didn’t walk away, though she later condemned the masked men who performed the salute.
She couldn’t find it in herself, however, to condemn the tawdry circumstances surrounding her association with Keen-Minshull and fellow travellers until the 11th hour. It wasn’t until Monday’s party room meeting, called to expel her, that Deeming delivered her mea culpa.
Pesutto said she condemned references to Nazi material featured in tweets by Keen-Minshull.
Take that for what it’s worth.
However he wishes to frame it now, Pesutto blinked.
He allowed a slap on the wrist.
Deeming, having associated with those said to associate with neo-Nazis, escaped expulsion and was given a nine-month suspension from the party room.
Any naughty school kid knows suspension amounts to a get-out-of-jail-free card compared with expulsion.
Pesutto was left opening and closing his mouth at a long press conference, trying – vainly, you might think – to persuade those listening that it was all for the best.
He was, he said, satisfied he was leading a party where everyone knew the importance of representing decency.
Leading? If so, for how long?
Now there’s a question that doesn’t have an easy answer.
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