Members of the Victorian Liberal Party are shaking their heads in disbelief over a story in yesterday’s Herald Sun about the Bayswater preselection. The convention had selected Gordon Ashley, the former MP who lost the seat in 2002. But, according to the story, the administrative committee “voted to disendorse Mr Ashley because it did not believe he was capable of winning the seat.”

Labor’s margin in Bayswater is 2.7%, so it’s one of the first group of seats the Liberals would need to win next year to regain some credibility. And there’s no doubt Ashley is a dud candidate. But why just pick on him? There are plenty of duds around: take Christine Fyffe, who lost Evelyn (0.3%) last time with a swing of 12.6%. (See complete list here) And what about recycled MPs getting seats in the upper house, like Bernie Finn and Inga Peulich – both of whom make Gordon Ashley look like Winston Churchill.

Ashley evidently thinks he’s been mistreated. According to The Herald Sun, he “does not accept his preselection was beyond redemption and said he would appeal to the party hierarchy to reassess its decision to overturn the democratic vote of local delegates. ‘I will pursue this vigorously because of what I consider to be a matter of injustice,’ he said.”

Part of the explanation is that Ashley is associated with the factional enemies of Robert Doyle and the party’s current administration. But so are a number of others who have been let through, such as Clem Newton-Brown in Prahran (4.4%). Perhaps Ashley has done something special to upset them (although nobody seems to know what), or perhaps there is a new high-flyer candidate ready to be inserted there (but why Bayswater?).

Doyle needs all the friends in parliament that he can get, but so far this has been a horror stretch of preselections for him. On one view, it’s encouraging that the administrative committee has realised there’s a problem and it needs better candidates in winnable seats. But it looks like too little, too late.