Our say | End of the line for Labor’s favourite Liberal

SO what of the legacy of Malcolm Turnbull? How will history recall him, and what has he achieved as prime minister?

Perhaps the most enduring memory of Mr Turnbull will be as the Liberal prime minister most liked by Labor supporters.

While right-wing media commentators and colleagues derided him as “conservative lite”, that was actually seen as his greatest strength by many voters.

In Malcolm Turnbull, Australia had a prime minister who was statesmanlike, articulate and worldly.

He boasted a successful and diverse professional career before entering politics, and was not cut from the same cloth as the many career politicians who now walk the corridors of Parliament House.

But Mr Turnbull’s Achille’s heel was an inability to win over the large conservative bloc of his own party that did not see him as one of their own.

That left him irretrievably weakened on some of his pet policy areas, including same-sex marriage, the republic and the environment.

This week he was rolled as the leader for the second time on the issue of carbon pricing, with the National Energy Guarantee – which already had the support of the states and many business leaders – failing to win over those who wanted him gone.

Malcolm Turnbull ended as a leader who looked able to unite Australia but unable to unite the Liberal Party.

That he consistently led Bill Shorten as the preferred prime minister in the countless polls that now rule Australian politics was evidence that he was generally well-liked – or, at least, grudgingly respected - among the broader community.

But the two-party preferred polls told a different and very damaging tale.

In has now been almost 40 polls in succession that the Coalition has trailed Labor as the preferred government, clearly illustrating Malcolm Turnbull’s greatest weakness.

He could not remain as leader because many of those who preferred him as prime minister were never going to vote for him.

They were those Labor supporters who saw Mr Turnbull as almost one of theirs, but not quite. But they were never going to change their vote on election day.

Only time will tell if the new Liberal leader Scott Morrison, a man unlikely to have any support from Labor, can at least count on the support of his own party.