In an exemplary display of class and taste, new Leader of the South Australian Opposition, Martin Hamilton-Smith, chose his now erstwhile leader Iain Evans' absence in Canberra at the memorial service for the late Sentaor Jeannie Ferris as the ideal moment to knife Evans in the back, mounting a leadership challenge that saw him elected leader this afternoon by a slenderish 13 votes to 10.
Hamilton-Smith's first move as leader was to announce that the party would be 'more aggressive'. Oh goodie, I can hardly wait.
Former Liberal leader Rob Kerin, universally regarded as the archetypal good bloke, mildly pointed out on the teeve a minute ago that the timing really was rather unfortunate in its upstaging of the service for Senator Ferris. This remark could have been a bit of belated payback for Hamilton-Smith's unsuccessful challenge to Kerin's own leadership in 2005.
Deputy leader Vickie Chapman, elected 13 months ago on a so-called 'dream team' ticket with Evans despite the fact that the two were rumoured to dislike each other, will remain Deputy, something about which her fellow Liberal Isobel Redmond has declared herself less than thrilled.
Hamilton-Smith says he wants Evans on the front bench, which could mean a demotion to the back bench for former Treasurer Rob Lucas. Evans says he'll think about it overnight.
That is to say, everything's normal in the SA Liberal Party: they're all at each other's throats.
Of course, if the Libs had wanted to change leaders with a view to actually winning the 2010 election, they would have installed as leader not Hamilton-Smith but Chapman, well known in SA legal and political circles as the sharpest knife in the Liberal drawer and a highly personable and charismatic presence to boot -- far more so than either her former or her current leader.
Perhaps she's biding her time. Hamilton-Smith assured journalists this afternoon that she would remain as Deputy.
That's what he's saying this week, anyway.