The Liberal Party has a long and unfortunate history of failing to
preselect high profile candidates including Alan Jones, Graeme Samuel and Malcolm
Turnbull – the first time at least.

Indeed, as Christian Kerr pointed out yesterday, the NSW division is
sending a terrible message by giving a quality candidate in Federal Sex
Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward a hostile
reception in the race to run for the Liberals in the state seat of
Epping.

The Victorian division is also no stranger to rejecting good candidates. Who
can forget the way the lamentable Lana McLean won a preselection
against Helen Kroger when Jeff Kennett bailed out of Burwood in 1999?
Kroger, the outgoing Liberal President in Victoria, is now headed to Canberra as a senator.

Similarly, current Victorian state director Julian Sheezel is another
who tried and failed to win a state seat and Nick Minchin’s senior
adviser Michael Brennan, a highly regarded political operative, was
rejected by the preselectors of Doncaster two weeks ago, although Mary
Wooldridge, the sister of Michael, was also a good candidate.

Which brings us to the Warrandyte preselection
on Sunday, when Ted
Baillieu’s great mate Peter Clarke goes up against four rivals led by
Ryan Smith, the preferred candidate of outgoing deputy leader Phil
Honeywood.

Clarke is a former leader of the Property Council in Victoria and mayor
of Heidelberg who is
copping all sorts of unfair flak from the Costello-Kroger faction.
Sure, Clarke has been associated with Primelife but a couple of
consulting jobs does not make someone Ted Sent’s business partner.

I wrongly said on Monday that Clarke ran for Melbourne City Council with
that big drinking embarrassment Fiona Snedden, when in fact his running
mate was Emily Tang as you can see here.
This was a bum steer from camp Costello which seems to put factional
allegiances ahead of candidate quality in deciding who they back.

If the preselectors of Warrandyte know what is best for the Liberals,
they’ll back Clarke but don’t be surprised if the local NIMBYs in this
green wedge electorate reject the property development man for a less
impressive local.

Peter Fray

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