So Steven Newnham might not become the new state secretary of the Victorian ALP, and might not fill the vacancy created by the sudden resignation of the well-regarded – if you ignore a certain preference deal – Erik Locke.

We reported last week the concerns over the Right nominee, and today’s Australianclaims that Steve Bracks has “asked the Victorian Labor Party to find an alternative candidate for the job of state secretary after raising concerns about the suitability of the frontrunner… Critics within the Right say Mr Newnham lacks social skills, has made too many mistakes in his current job and will be unable to charm donations from big business. Marginal seat MPs say they do not trust his ability to secure their places in parliament.”

That’s pretty rough, even by ALP standards. And Newnham has his defenders. According to The Oz , a ubiquitous “Right powerbroker” says: “He may not be the most exciting, charismatic, Martin Luther King-type figure, but if there was a test of social skills, how would (Left scion and federal MP) Kim Carr or half the federal caucus have got where they are?”

The critics won’t be silenced, however. Two neat Newnham profiles reach Crikey. “Just keep him away from the phone and the stationery,” one says. “Briefly, a bovver boy who is truly bested by his better half,” runs another.

Meanwhile, the Victorian Liberal Party organisation is showing signs of some smooth ALP-style arm twisting, with The Agereporting yesterday that “Young Turk” Michael Gidley won’t challenge shadow minister Kim Wells for the pre-selection in Scoresby. Neat. Instead, he’ll just leave behind chaos in the rank and file.

“Party chiefs are expected to suspend the [Scoresby] branch within weeks over allegations of branch stacking and improper conduct by some members,” The Age reports. “Liberal powerbrokers have been working frantically behind the scenes to get Mr Gidley to contest another seat, and prevent Mr Wells – widely regarded as one of the party’s better performing MPs – from being embarrassingly ousted from Scoresby by one of his own colleagues. The Age believes Mr Gidley may instead nominate for the seat of Mount Waverley, the marginal Labor seat held by Government frontbencher Maxine Morand.”

Well done, 104. If they pull it off, it will be uncharacteristically neat footwork from Liberal head office. Neat, but pointless. The Scoresby pre-selection was being seen as a referendum on the position of Liberal leader Robert Doyle. Does it really help if he lives to flop another day?

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off