Simon Crean went into the Hotham preselection ballot sounding
confident, but everyone assumed it was just the faux bravado of the
condemned man. But he was right: it was announced
late last night that Crean had won almost 70% of the local vote. His
challenger, Martin Pakula, “later rang Mr Crean to congratulate him and
withdraw from the race”.


This is a stunning lesson for branch-stackers, a category that includes
almost all politicians to some extent. Sometimes stacks behave like
real people. Crean, with his high profile and long experience, worked
the electorate tirelessly, and it paid off. As The Australian
says, “It is the first time in any internal ballot that a significant
number of Cambodian preselectors have turned against [local powerbroker
Hong] Lim”.

But Crean’s victory will resonate not just in the murky depths of the
Victorian ALP. It’s also a powerful message for Kim Beazley, whose
failure to support Crean has again fuelled leadership speculation.
Crean this morning told Channel 9: “I have given him lots of loyalty in this exercise – I was asking for no more than that.”

Labor is not badly placed in the opinion polls, but Beazley’s personal
ratings are poor and not improving. He has the same problem that Crean
himself had three years ago: as long as the leader is floundering, MPs
fear that the party’s support will drain away come election time. Maybe
it’s time to try something else?

Phillip Adams this morning leaves no doubt
about where he stands: Howard’s success, he says, is “Not so much a
result of the PM’s alleged political genius as of Labor’s gift of the
gaffe, its proven ability to make disastrous decisions. One of which it
has made twice. Beazley. … He’s spent the best part of 10 years
proving that his appetite for power isn’t as great as his appetite for
food.”

Cruel, but not unjust. Beazley has had more than enough chances, and
he’s made nothing of them. A Rudd-Gillard leadership ticket is looking
like a good bet.

Peter Fray

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