Nelson gets rolled in leadership spill

The federal Opposition has elected Malcolm Turnbull following a party-room vote on the Liberal leadership

Brendan Nelson’s attempt to silence his detractors has back-fired, with Shadow Treasurer Malcolm Turnbull emerging as the new Federal Opposition leader this morning.

Nelson last night put the Liberal leadership up for grabs, calling a surprise ballot in an attempt to catch Turnbull - who only returned from an Italian holiday on the weekend - off guard in the wake of growing unrest within party ranks over who would be best to lead the party.

"I am asking our Party to draw a line in the sand and mark a transition - from the difficult aftermath of an election defeat to the building and presentation of a credible, attractive and inspiring alternative government," Nelson said last night on announcement of his decision.

"In doing so, we will make a renewed commitment to unity and discipline, to focus less on internal preoccupations and more on the Rudd Government, policy and the important issues concerning everyday Australians."

It was a big risk for Nelson, who only beat Turnbull to the leadership by three votes after John Howard’s exit from politics in November last year.

But it seems he failed to present as a "credible, attractive and inspiring" leader to his own party, with the votes this time swinging 45 to 41 in Turnbull's favour.

Some experts suggest part of the swing could have resulted from Nelson’s threats of a front-bench "clean out" of those undermining him if he was to be re-elected as Opposition Leader.

But there is still an element of risk for the Coalition in electing Turnbull, with the former barrister-turned-merchant banker at times perceived by the public to be out of touch with working Australians and only interested in looking after the interests of his ‘wealthy’ electorate.

This is a line the Labor Government has pursued since his promotion to the Howard front bench in 2006.

Turnbull this morning tried to dismiss this perception, saying he was "humbled" by the experience, and that despite his successes, he was not born into wealth, rather raised by a single parent, renting flats and struggling to earn money.

Julie Bishop will remain as Deputy Opposition Leader.

Nelson says he is committed to defeating the Rudd Government at the next election, and will not be leaving politics.

He has confirmed will not be mounting another leadership challenge before the next election.

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