Victorian Liberal leader Robert Doyle would love to be able to by-pass a pre-selection in the seat of Scoresby. Unfortunately for him, it ain’t gonna happen. Factional strife in the local party seems set to come to a head in the electorate, with three candidates contesting the nomination.

Sitting member and front bencher Kim Wells is facing a challenge from “Young Turk” Michael Gidley. A third candidate, advertising executive Jeremy Furness, is seen as a stalking horse for local federal Aston MP, Chris Pearce, who’s paranoid after seeing his knife edge seat at the 2001 by-election now mega-safe.

Today’s Agequotes ubiquitous “senior Liberals” as saying the pre-selection has become a referendum on Doyle’s leadership, with threats MPs might turn if Doyle cannot save the seat for Wells.

Local party president Helen Kroger is also caught up, thanks to her support for Wells. But The Age also claims “the Young Turks have been telling local Liberals that they are strong supporters of Mr Doyle’s leadership, whereas Wells had backed former leader Denis Napthine when Doyle won a party-room leadership ballot before the 2002 state election”.

“Supporters of Mr Doyle emphasised that Liberal leaders have never had the power to “direct” preselection outcomes,” it reports. “Mr Doyle played down the importance of the Scoresby battle, saying Liberal Party rules allowed for any sitting member to be challenged for preselection, and the process was open and democratic. ‘Contrast that to the Labor Party, where we’ve had allegations of corruption, enormous branch-stacking, and fighting between themselves to either protect seats or to shoehorn people into seats,’ he said.”

Up to a point, Mr Doyle.

Wells is the only sitting Liberal MP being challenged. What has he done to deserve this? Plenty, according to enemies. The dirt is flooding in to Crikey. Kim Wells does not genuinely support Robert Doyle’s leadership, claims one. Kim Wells has never supported the party’s Kroger faction, says another. Kim Wells did not attend the Liberal Party meeting in which the Scoresby Tollway buyback decision was made, goes a third. As shadow, Kim Wells failed to get Police Minister Andre Haermeyer sacked, merely shifted. Kim Wells is lazy – other than when it comes to recruiting.

And so it goes, and, no doubt, will continue through the pre-selection.

Peter Fray

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