I’ve always thought John Lennon’s reputation for bon mots was overstated. Still, you’ve got to admit he came out with a hell of a line at the 1963 Royal Variety Performance when he asked the audience “Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewellery.”

Thoroughly respectable Liberals on Sydney’s leafy North Shore want to make a noise about dirty deeds in the branches for pending preselections – so, yes, they’re rattling the jewellery.

In Davidson, Andrew Humpherson, is under assault from Australian Business Limited flak Paul Ritchie and former censor with the Office of Film & Literature Classification, Jonathon O’Dea.

Both O’Dea and Ritchie have stacked their respective branches – but a tad too soon. Support for the Humpherson member has seen a raft of new members flood the other branches within his conference. Humpherson is known to have the support of leader Peter Debnam and the vast majority of state council and state executive members. His position appears unassailable. Local observers believe Humpherson has sewn up at least 60% of branch of local preselectors as well.

O’Dea and Ritchie combined forces to oust Humpherson’s former experienced executive in a vital election year and install a new party member, Maureen Shelley, as president. Shelley just happens to have been O’Dea’s boss at the OFLC. Yet there have been persistent suggestions that Ritchie’s branch claimed more delegates than it was entitled to in what was a tied ballot. As result of jewellery-rattling, the state secretariat has decreed that a new meeting will be convened to elect a new executive.

Meanwhile, in Hornsby, former councillor Steve Russell is challenging sitting Liberal Judy Hopwood for the seat. There, the locals are rattling their jewellery as they fear he is unelectable, thanks to the row over Council’s handling of the Hornsby Quarry affair. A strongly worded open letter rallying the troops behind Hopwood has landed in the Crikey inbox.

Peter Fray

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