Matthew Guy, architect of a phone-box party, goes the reverse ferret

Intoxicated by barroom chatter that Michael O’Brien is driving Liberal voters into the arms of Labor, the Liberal Party room has gone full blotto.

In a strategy known to backroom operators as “the reverse ferret”, the party is said to be reviving its affections for Matthew Guy, a fellow who has proven at least as capable as O’Brien at forcing the previously faithful into the grasp of Daniel Andrews.

Former opposition leader Matthew Guy, pictured conceding defeat in the 2018 election, wants another go at the top job.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Guy’s most significant political achievement to date was to lose an election to the said Andrews by such a margin that the remaining Liberal MPs resemble a school excursion from Yaapeet Primary School.

This, it turns out, has proven handy for Guy and his … shall we call them followers, or is that too suggestive of a contender-admirer relationship in a gathering of the eternally peeved?

The traditional telephone ring-around – where a supplicant gathers numbers by promising advancement, threatening the opposite or plain begging – is surely a breezy matter when the numbers are barely worthy of the term “numbers”, and could fit handily inside the phone box fashioned for the party by Guy at the 2018 election.

At a guess, however, we imagine Guy is veering away from offering anyone a lobster dinner or promising an unusual zoning decision on an island somewhere. All in the past, that sort of thing.

And given his old propensity for enthusiastically supporting cloud-busting CBD high-rises that these days are spookily empty of tenants, he seems unlikely to use the cheery term “the sky’s the limit” when doing his wooing.

Instead, we are led to believe, he has been portraying the inoffensive O’Brien as “too angry”.

If true, it seems unsporting.

Matthew Guy surely wrote the book on angry.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and then opposition leader Matthew Guy in November 2018 ahead of the state election.Credit:Joe Armao

As opposition leader, he perfected the theatre of working a fierce blush into his cheeks for his daily condemnation of anything with the vaguest connection to an Andrews decision, from roads to crime.

He became an over-achiever at angry when he upset the South African government by claiming Melbourne was experiencing daily riots and crime waves and was becoming “the Johannesburg of the South Pacific.”

We await his COVID thunder.

Might Victoria be on a trajectory to become the “Florida of Bass Strait”?

Or might Guy conveniently leave the matter of the pandemic to Tim Smith, the chap tipped to become his deputy, should a spill prove successful for him?

Smith has spent the past 18 months all over the job of getting COVID-angry, with mixed results.

He has publicly called Andrews a “schmuck, loser and dictator”, a “loony”, and “Lurch”, earning a pained rebuke from O’Brien, who was at the time trying to get a little traction with an economic policy and undoubtedly knew Smith was taunting him as much as Andrews.

Undaunted, Smith merrily fired up when case numbers went high. When they went low, he lampooned the idea they could reach zero by tweeting a picture of doughnuts arranged in such a manner they unfortunately looked like a schoolboy’s graffiti of a penis.

In this time of the reverse ferret, he seems a splendid candidate for deputy leader.

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