Hillary Bray, Crikey’s number one political commentator, writes that
while King may have lost the fight, the war for Wentworth could still
be on.
Can the Wentworth campaign – or pseudo campaign – get any more
ridiculous? In the weekend papers we had Malcolm Turnbull leaping
in and out of the Bondi Icebergs pool to qualify as a member, at the
chaotic Bondi Junction transport interchange and saving the cliff top
Waverley Cemetery.

A cemetery. How appropriate – for Turnbull needs to keep an eye on the political dead who refuse to lie down.

The Sunday Telegraph said it all in the lead into its obligatory
Wentworth feature: “Dumped Liberal MP Peter King is capitalising
on the treachery factor, with Eastern Suburbs voters urging him to run
as an independent against Malcolm Turnbull…”

King spent last week very publicly trying to pressure the Government
into giving him a job – some kind of job – in exchange for not running
as an independent at the upcoming poll.

King is a clever schmoozer, no doubt – but the only time he ever seems
to have demonstrated any political skill was when he dispatched another
sitting member, Andrew Thomson, to become Wentworth MP.

It looked a little obvious, getting the Telegraph into his office,
talking to the ABC when he was expecting an encounter with the Prime
Minister and refusing to say to the Sydney Morning Herald “whether the
Prime Minister has offered him a government job to stop him standing”
but confirming he had held two “friendly chats” with the short bloke.

King seems to have three options. Option I is probably his
preferred one – getting a government job. Option II requires a
bit of work and spending a bit of cash – running as an
independent. It’s also risky. He hasn’t exactly done
anything to endear himself to Wentworth – nor has he had much time to
even establish himself as a figure on the landscape. Then there’s
Option III – fall back on the network. All that needs to be said
about III is that King never made silk during his legal career.

It’s got to be Option I. But how hard can he push? How much will people put up with?

Howard seemed unconcerned about letting King go down – and he will
scarcely have been impressed by the suggestion in the Wentworth Courier
last week that King is getting locals to pass on messages of support
for him to the PM’s office. King’s line that it would be “highly
inappropriate” to comment on the matter – as opposed to denying it –
won’t have helped, either.

So will the PM come to the party? Why should he.

Malcolm Turnbull is controversial – but he’s also Malcolm
Turnbull. If King runs as an independent, he will be the
conservative candidate. It will be Malcolm in the middle.

The latest big name being talked about in Wentworth is Peter
Garrett. If the bald bawler has finally made up his mind where
his allegiances lie and runs as a Green, it’s unlikely that he will
preference Turnbull.

However, Wentworth voters must be some of the clueyest in the
country. They won’t follow a how to vote. They’d much
rather see their preferences go to a hero of the campaign for an
Australian head of state. It will be the same with the local
Labor voters. They’ll see Turnbull as a republican, not a rat.

Michelle Grattan reported yesterday that “Peter King, whom Turnbull
ousted for preselection, has jumped into the chill water the required
75 times to be allowed to call himself an ‘Iceberg’.”

If he jumps in again and doesn’t surface, if he joins J F Archibald and
the other worthies in the Waverley Cemetery, who would notice or care?

Peter Fray

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