Five sitting Liberal MPs face fight for preselection and David Davis to vie for Kew

At least five sitting Liberal MPs will face preselection challenges in what will present an unwanted disruption to the Coalition ahead of next year’s state election.

A second candidate has emerged to oppose former Coalition leader Michael O’Brien in Malvern, while frontbencher Brad Battin and veteran MPs Neil Angus and David Morris will also face fights to retain their seats.

Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.Credit:Joe Armao

Meanwhile, Shadow Treasurer David Davis has submitted his preselection forms for the seat of Kew, angering some senior Liberals who believe he is moving to the lower house to angle for the leadership of the party if Matthew Guy loses the election. They are also worried he might deprive the party of a young female candidate.

The Age revealed this week that Mr O’Brien and Brighton MP James Newbury will be challenged.

On Friday, a second challenger to Mr O’Brien emerged, with lawyer and Malvern resident Virginia Wallace putting her hand up to challenge the former leader.

Ms Wallace is a director of Tennis Victoria, board member of two water catchment authorities, former chief of staff to a federal minister and a former employee of NAB, AMP and BHP. She is being backed by former minister Amanda Vanstone.

Opposition MP Tim Smith, who will quit politics following a drink-driving incident.Credit:Justin McManus

Long-serving Mornington MP David Morris will be challenged by a local candidate. Opposition police spokesman Brad Battin, who unsuccessfully challenged Mr O’Brien for the leadership in March, will be challenged by party member Michael Kean. Forest Hill MP Neil Angus will face a fight from former candidate Nick McGowan, who is close friends with Mr Guy.

Preselection challenges are extremely rare, and the number of battles highlights both the bitter factional divide in the party and the tinderbox environment following Mr Guy’s dumping of his close friend Tim Smith, who will quit politics at the next election after driving drunk and crashing his car last month. Nomintions closed at noon on Friday.

Several of the challengers, including councillor Alex Lew against Mr O’Brien, and Mr McGowan – are part of the faction aligned with Mr Smith, federal MPs Josh Frydenberg and Michael Sukkar, and powerbroker Michael Kroger.

The move represents a distraction for Mr Guy, who sided against the federal MPs who initially stood by Mr Smith after his drink-driving accident.

Michael O’Brien after his defeat by Matthew Guy in September.Credit:Justin McManus

One senior Liberal said Mr Davis’ nomination for Kew was a sign that he intended to succeed Mr Guy if he failed to win the November 2022 election.

“There’s only one job you can’t do from the upper house,” the source said, adding that the veteran’s tilt could deprive the party of a younger female, such as former staffer Jess Wilson.

Mr Guy has been keen to generate renewal in his parliamentary ranks, but several of the party’s longest-serving MPs, who have faced calls to leave Parliament to make way for fresh talent, have decided to contest the next poll.

Lower house veterans Kim Wells, Neil Angus and David Morris are set to contest the 2022 election, though Mr Morris will now face a test of his support in his local branches.

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