The Age would have been thin this weekend – Saturday and Sunday – if it hadn’t had Labor branch stacking stories to fill it’s pages. Victorian state Labor president Brian Daley claims a police investigation into branch stacking is “almost inevitable”, the paper reported on Saturday – although it says today that Treasurer John Brumby has told the factions to “take a cold shower.”

Two would-be Labor saviours, internet millionaire Evan Thornley and QC Mark Drefuss, got a plenty of column centimetres over the weekend in The Australianhere. But one key question remained unanswered: would the factional warlords stand aside to make room for the new boys? It’s unlikely. Unless the party’s federal executive gets assertive, the pair will need to do a Turnbull if they want to sit on the green leather benches. And that involves setting themselves up as – you guessed it – defacto warlords.

The Liberal Party tension in Victoria we reported last week also spilled into The Sunday Age. “A vote for the seemingly minor position of state Liberal Party vice-president is being framed as a referendum by 700 Liberal Party members on Robert Doyle’s future as state parliamentary leader,” Phillip Hudson reported here. “Melbourne City Councillor and former state vice-president Peter Clarke is running against public relations consultant Jason Aldworth for the post of metropolitan male vice-president… Senior Liberal Party figures say that if Cr Clarke won it would be ‘enormously destabilising’ for Mr Doyle and might ‘give heart’ to his critics, particularly planning spokesman Ted Baillieu, to challenge Mr Doyle for the leadership.”

Indeed. Aldworth is part of Camp Costello. Their power is currently unchallenged – although last week’s story and the reference to the pre-selection spat in Kim Wells’s seat of Scoresby sparked off this email: “One of the problems with the Victorian Liberals is that Costello has never owned this town. He doesn’t run this state like Howard runs NSW. Costello chooses to power-share with the once useful, but now largely despised if not totally ignored, Michael Kroger. Costello should get his own house in order if he ever wants to be PM. Although his cronies have perfected the art of branch stacking over the years, and never made it to the front pages of The Age, one gets the feeling that unwelcome branch-stacking related publicity is not too far off. Costello should start by ordering these snotty-nosed few to go and play somewhere else other than Scoresby … It is a tad easier to win a Federal poll with good to average cattle and a superior leader, than it will be to win at State level with no cattle and a leader under continual (if not somewhat unfair) pressure.”

There’ll be more in the inbox, no doubt.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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