The former leader, who is widely seen as a decent, smart and dignified man, was urged to build relationships with MPs and change his leadership style following an unsuccessful coup attempt in March.
He hired a new chief of staff, laid out new policies and stepped up attacks on the Premier and the government.
However, he continued to alienate his colleagues, according to MPs. This included barely speaking to or acknowledging the March coup leaders Brad Battin, Ryan Smith and Richard Riordan.
As he ignored them, they had regular conversations over winter with Matthew Guys supporters to heal differences and strike a deal to roll the leader, out of sight of the small and less social group of MPs Mr OBrien relies on as his eyes and ears.
The power lines furore highlighted the tinderbox environment inside the opposition. MPs on thin margins, who fear an electoral wipeout similar to that experienced by the WA Liberal opposition, became increasingly concerned that Mr OBriens policy agenda was philosophically inconsistent and flaccid.
In late June two weeks after Mr Guy questioned whether border closures were turning the nation into a group of colonies Mr OBrien said the Andrews government should have shut the border to NSW sooner and avoided two removalists entering the state and spawning a COVID-19 outbreak.
The new hardline stance, which Mr OBrien revealed in an interview with The Age, was a departure from the oppositions frequent warnings against disproportionate public health measures. It provoked red-hot anger from MPs who represent border communities and within days the Herald Sun reported the border stance had prompted a renewed push against the leader.
MPs frustration over policy announcements extended to the most trivial of decisions. When the party room last month learnt of a proposed COVID compassion commissioner to champion Victorians and make kinder judgments on compassionate exemptions to public health rules, the position was quickly labelled the cuddle commissioner.
That champion should be the Opposition Leader, one MP said.
Mr OBriens supporters believe the last month or two have been his best in the job and that he had begun to land some blows, but the die had been cast for months and MPs once loyal to him no longer trusted his decision-making.
Mr Guy is set to revisit the power lines policy to assuage the concerns of MPs and local councils. While praising the new leader for his political nous, one senior Liberal source warned his charm offensive in recent months could backfire as leader.
I dont know what he has promised his colleagues to get here, the source said. If he wants to win he needs good people around him to give him support; he doesnt need to be returning favours.
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