The consensus is that Barry O’Farrell will
be the next leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party – and that’s where the
consensus ends. One school of thought says he’s a skilled
operator. The other says he’s been much too Machiavellian. Yesterday there was
a definite “stop Barry” mood in some Liberal circles. O’Farrell may end up
becoming leader by default, but that will not stop Liberals from claiming he
has been disloyal to the last three heads of the party.

One school of thought says that too many
people have too many scores to settle with O’Farrell. If the Liberals lose the
2007 election – which appears wide open now – he’ll be gone quickly. Which puts
the emphasis on the deputy’s job, even though that’s not being publicly
discussed and no serious counting seems to have happened yet.

Insiders say Peter Debnam, the other likely
candidate for the leadership, appears not to be interested in the deputy’s job.
Shadow Treasurer Peta Seaton is overseas. Shadow AG and Leader of the House
Andrew Tink probably won’t make the grade. O’Farrell would probably be pleased
to have Member for North Shore Jillian Skinner in the job, but she may not be
acceptable to the party’s right and may have been around too long. Which leaves
a few people looking in the direction of Shadow Justice Minister Andrew
Humpherson, who may just have the cross-factional support needed to pull it