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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

NSW Liberals in Disarray

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of election night was the fact that Peter Debnam did not announce his resignation. Bigger still - he continues to maintains his faith in his own leadership, and continues to refuse to step down. This comes despite the fact that it now appears unlikely that the Liberals will win any seats from Labor, and extraordinary rumblings that the Nationals - who performed far better - may exit the Coalition while the Liberals sort themselves out.

This could be the final showdown between the party's far-Right and its moderates (well, those that managed to wrest back their preselections from same). The overthrow of John Brogden was largely seen as the final stage in the David Clarke-fueled far Right's gradual encroachment upon the party machine, and the beginning of its inroads into the parliamentary party. It has since seen to the preselection of a number of allies and the deposal of its enemies, such as Patricia Forsythe and Steven Pringle.

When Barry O'Farrell was overlooked as party leader in favour of the lower key Peter Debnam, it was viewed as a surprise result, especially given that he was a natural successor as Brogden's deputy, and second only to Andrew Tink as an effective parliamentary performer for the Coalition. Since then, O'Farrell is rumoured to have been approached at least once to challenge Debnam, but has refused.

When you look at it, who could blame him? He faces the job of uniting a party that is obviously deeply divided, and demonstrating leadership towards and of not any particular faction, but of the party as a whole. He is currently approaching this task by refusing to commit anyone to any particular shadow portfolio so as not to alienate the various factions (a process that says a lot in itself).

Should Debnam hold on - surely, after all of this, he can't possibly - what then? More of the same?

Should O'Farrell triumph, we can all only hope that he makes it his task to address the pernicious influence of David Clarke and his cohorts. He will plausibly be able to argue that they have helped to make the party unelectable. However, whether Clarke's tactics makes the party more or less attractive to the general public never seems to have been one of Clarke's major priorities, and the notion that he may continue to drag his party into extremism must frighten a good many Liberals as much as the rest of us.

12 Comments:

At 9:11 am, Blogger TimT said...

More and more, I'm placing credence in the argument that the popularity and success of the State Labor Governments lies in the fact that they are seen as a balance to the Federal Liberal Government. The NSW election is suspiciously similar, in many ways, to the Victorian election we just had, which I'm sure is similar to the recent Queensland election: slight gains for the Liberal/National coalition which did virtually nothing to offset the large majorities held by Labor. And certainly in NSW and Victoria, this loss is achieved in the face of a ridiculously unpopular State Government!

Appalling victories, wondrous losses: where will it end up?

Though it has to be said some of the Opposition politicians are pretty shite. Baillieu is a bit of a dill when you whack a microphone/camera in front of his face, though I think he's got some good policies. Dunno about Debnam, though the one time I came across a Debnam interview at work, he came across as completely pathetic, whingy and whiny and utterly unable to convey policy ideas.

A little like Bracks, really...

 
At 10:25 am, Blogger Minotaur said...

The dearth of talent in state Coalition parties is hardly surprising. If you're a young aspiring politico, the choice between languishing on the shadow backbench (or working for someone who does) and working for or being a powerful Federal MP whose legislation will not be hampered by objection from either House - well, it's a no brainer.

 
At 11:10 am, Blogger TimT said...

Mmm, but I don't know whether it's even a result of dearth of talent. The ongoing Federal success of the Libs would argue that they don't lack for talent. I go back to my original contention, that the state parties may be seen as in a kind of balancing act with the Federal party.

And there's nothing about the current Victorian State Government that particularly inspires me.

The endless political infighting has somewhat hampered the success of the state governments, too: no, I don't think lack of talent quite explains it.

 
At 11:12 am, Blogger TimT said...

Correction:

The endless political infighting has somewhat hampered the success of the state governments, too...

Er, I meant state oppositions.

 
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