Meg Lees isn’t about to be expelled from the Democrats but things aren’t about to settle down.

Virtually all the Dem Senators have realised that dragging Mystic Meg into the Star Chamber in chains will do nothing to fix disunity, and want the matter expedited or dropped and soon.

Every columnist and their dog has made the obvious comments about the Dems over the past few days:

* that the Impossible Princess’ tactic of seeing off the Greens by being just like them has only served to remind people why they set out to vote Green in the first place Newspoll has Bob Brown and co on five per cent while Tashy’s dwindling band are down to just three; and

* that after Bob Browns’ members told him Trotsky was more important than trees, scope exists for a party that can make policy trade-offs such as supporting the sale of the remainder of Telstra in return for major concessions such as environmental not Green goals, particularly when there are so many Liberals disaffected by Rodentism, willing to cast a protest vote in the Senate but currently scared off by what’s on offer.

Normally, if you want to find out how many factions there are in the Democrats, you take the number of Senators, divide by one and subtract one off the total, just in case there are any Sid and Jeanette style liaisons going on. Now, it’s much tighter and the Princess is looking increasingly sidelined.

There’s no real move for a spill. Instead, it seems as if Tashy’s colleagues are more inclined to let her sit there and er, enjoy, her role. And who knows what that nice Senator Ridgeway might be doing, say, in the middle of next year. Those disaffected Libs and, no doubt, more than a few Labor supporters sick of the general uselessness of the party would find the fact that a socially and economically liberal party had an Indigenous leader another factor that made them attractive.

The Dems internal structures have created an interesting situation. If just the Senators voted for the leader, the Princess would probably be dethroned. If the vote was based on competency, Andrew Murray or even Lyn Allison backed in some quarters after Chezza eloped would be elected.

However, the Impossible Princess has attracted a lot of new members in the form of students and the gay community, while older and more sensible members have let their memberships lapse. Tashy could probably see off Lees although a competition against Ridgeway would be much closer if he wanted to move.

Reality seems to be sinking in amongst Liz Oss-Emer and her colleagues on the Democrat executive. Meg Lees is likely to escape any substantial sanction. However, there are a significant number of Democrats who would welcome a real blow up. They believe the loops can join with the Greens and let the sensible Democrats mop up a few disaffected major party players and re-invent themselves as the party Don Chip envisioned.

That means that the sniping is continuing and what interesting sniping it is. Some Democrats are quite happily pointing to examples of behaviour that could have gone before the compliance committee but that less paranoid leaders and officials let pass.

The favourite case they point to concerns a certain Princess. It says points out that when she refused to vote for the GST, she actually voted against party policy because the Australian Democrats had voted, as a party, in favour of a tax on services back in 1998.

Then there are issues of destabilising behaviour. A certain Democrat Senator staged a press conference or three during the GST negotiations complete with of piles of alleged faxes allegedly from zillions of outraged Australians. It has been suggested that the piles had grown skyward somewhat due to the liberal sorry, generous addition of a good deal of photocopy paper.

This Senator persisted with her populist stunts and did her level, undergraduate best, to maximise publicity against the majority opinion in the Democrat Party Room and, in particular, against the leadership of Meg Lees during this period.

And in all cases there were no complaints direct or indirect to the national executive from Mystic Meg.

At the same time, these same people are drawing the attention of political observer to the large number of letters to the editor suddenly popping up in newspapers of late taking pot shots at Mystic Meg.

They find it strange that all seem to follow the same theme very succinctly arguing that Meg is to blame for the GST and therefore can never be trusted again and wonder if this is part of an organised strategy.

Still, Lees isn’t rocking the boat. Yes, she keeps talking about Telstra but that’s because Dems are free to float ideas. Strangely, at the same time her leader seems to have run out of things to say.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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