VICTORIAN Premier Ted Baillieu has been told he would be dumped unless he transformed the way he ran his government.
The Australian can reveal that Mr Baillieu's sharp change in tactics in the lead-up to Christmas came amid direct warnings he would be replaced by a younger, more energetic candidate.
Several senior Liberal sources have confirmed the revolt led to plans being drawn up for Planning Minister Matthew Guy, 38, to be brought down from the upper house to replace Mr Baillieu.
The revolt has forced Mr Baillieu into a frenetic "mini campaign" of media appearances, policy announcements and public engagements designed to promote government initiatives and achievements.
Tentative talks were also held about promoting Energy and Resources Minister Michael O'Brien but sources said Mr Guy had emerged during the revolt as clear favourite to replace Mr Baillieu.
Mr Guy, a cross-factional MP, is now widely seen as the alternative Liberal leader.
The fallout from the revolt late last year will define Victorian politics ahead of an election in March next year.
Senior government sources said it was made clear in the period around the government's two-year anniversary in November that Mr Baillieu had to fundamentally change the way he operated, particularly selling the government's achievements. "It was absolutely on, it was a rocket," a senior MP told The Australian.
Another MP said: "It's amazing this has never leaked."
The Australian understands a pact was made at the time to keep the revolt secret, amid concerns the Liberal Party was heading down the same destructive path as in 2002 when then state leader Denis Napthine was dumped in the run-up to that year's election.
Mr Baillieu was not confronted in the partyroom.
It is understood that key ministers were supporting the push to back Mr Guy for the position, despite it requiring a byelection at a time when the party was trailing Labor 45 to 55 per cent in Newspoll. A plan was in place to provide Mr Guy a seat.
The most recent Newspoll, published this month, showed the government still trailing Labor by 10 points.
The fallout from the anti-Baillieu backlash has led to an agreement that, on the condition he changes his ways, Mr Baillieu should be given a clear run at the job this year.
A senior MP said "Ted deserves a chance to pick himself up" and that cabinet had now united behind Mr Baillieu.
Another MP said the revolt was "historical because Ted has changed his ways".
"It was going badly and he lifted his work rate," the MP said. "That's what we were looking for."
Another senior Liberal described the backlash as "nonsensical" and "unhelpful".
Last November, Mr Baillieu dumped his two-year strategy of minimalist engagement with the media. Since then, he has been running a "mini campaign" in an attempt to rejuvenate his government.
The Australian reported on January 22 that Liberal powerbrokers had ordered MPs to throw their weight behind Mr Baillieu to enable the struggling government to claw back its position in the polls.
Supporters of Mr Baillieu have acknowledged that "inexperienced" MPs had been spooked by the government's poor position in the polls.
His supporters also have conceded his poor standing in the polls needed to be addressed.
The Baillieu government holds power with a one-seat majority, including the support of controversial marginal seat MP Geoff Shaw.
Mr Shaw, who is facing a police probe over the use of his parliamentary car, is considered to be at serious risk of quitting politics or withdrawing his support for the government. He holds his seat of Frankston by a margin of 2.1 per cent.
On current polling, the government would lose the seat.
Read more at The Australian.