Several challengers emerge in the Victorian Liberal leadership race after Matthew Guy resigns

Several potential challengers have emerged in the struggle for the Victorian Liberals’ leadership, but the outcome may not be known for days or even weeks.

Incumbent MPs Brad Battin, Ryan Smith and Richard Riordan have their hands up and former shadow prosecutor John Pesutto will make a bid if he beats blue-green independent Melissa Lowe to retake his Hawthorn seat.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Matthew Guy resigns as Victorian Liberal leader.

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As of 4 p.m. Monday, Pesutto is leading the count with about 500 votes, with more than 70 percent of the ballots counted.

Pesutto said he has signaled to various party members that he intends to raise his hand for leadership if he hangs on.

“The initial discussions have proved very positive and receptive to this concept,” he told AAP on Monday.

“Obviously we are subject to the contingency that I have to win the seat. For now, things are looking positive, but it’s still too close to tell.

“Because of the nature of these things, you can’t really wait until you have that result.”

Victorian Liberal leadership candidates (top left) Matthew Bach, (top right) John Pesutto, (bottom left) Ryan Smith, (bottom center) Richard Riordan and (bottom right) Brad Battin. Recognition: AAP IMAGE/AAPIPICTURE

Pesutto said the party needs to go back to the drawing board to appeal to more regional and younger voters and demonstrate that it is an inclusive party.

“We have lost six of the last seven elections. That’s not good enough for anyone,” he said.

“We need to rebuild the organization so we can start campaigning … over several years to build the membership that gives us the network in our state to fully engage with the communities.”

A Liberal source with knowledge of the early backroom discussions believes it is a two-horse race between Pesutto and Battin.

They said Pesutto’s less aggressive style could be more effective when facing Prime Minister Daniel Andrews in Parliament, but still see Battin as a viable second option if Pesutto fails to last at Hawthorn.

There are reports that House of Lords Representative Matt Bach is considering leaning but would need to move to the House of Commons to be eligible.

Smith told the Herald Sun that if he is successful, he will focus on regaining support among voters in the suburbs rather than in the inner city fringe seats.

Matthew Guy announced his resignation as leader of the Victorian Liberals after leading the coalition to its second consecutive electoral defeat.
Recognition: AAP

Outgoing leader Matthew Guy confirmed he would convene the parliamentary chamber to elect a new leader once a clearer picture of successful candidates emerged after his second election defeat.

Liberal candidates remain locked in close arguments in Bass, Hastings, Pakenham, Hawthorn and Mornington.

As things stand, the coalition is expected to win at least 25 seats and may be limping at or just above its starting tally of 27, largely due to the Nationals getting three regional seats.

Labor is on track to win more than 52 of the 88 seats in the House of Commons, despite a slump in the primary and double-digit swings in north and west Melbourne.

The results of the House of Lords should be known in the next few days.

Parliament is due to meet before Christmas.

Speaking at a suburban rail loop construction site on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Jacinta Allan said the government was “ready to tune in” and move ahead with its big construction agenda.

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Melbourne Zoo celebrates the birth of a second baby elephant Several challengers emerge in the Victorian Liberal leadership race after Matthew Guy resigns

James Brien

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