The Democrats have lost their best chance at retaining a presence in Canberra with Natasha Stott-Despoja’s declaration that she will not contest the next election – but all may not be lost.

West Australian Senator Andrew Murray has already announced his retirement. Leader Lyn Allison has made little impact. Queenslander Andrew Bartlett may be able to draw a glimmer of hope from the fractious nature of the local Greens, but it’s impossible to disagree with the comments of Stott-Despoja’s home state premier, Mike Rann, that the South Australian Senator is the party’s “most bankable and potent asset”. Electoral asset, anyway.

Stott-Despoja was a hometown favourite – and, even better, a hometown media favourite.

South Australian No Pokies state MP Nick Xenophon has privately remarked on just how many votes a favourable editorial in the Adelaide Sunday Mail in the lead-up to the March election was worth to him.

Stott-Despoja – as an independent or a standard bearer for the faltering Dems – would have almost certainly been guaranteed support as an articulate voice in Canberra by Adelaide’s parochial media. Even despite the party’s polling, her chances were good.

With her gone, however, it is virtually impossible to imagine the Democrats holding her seat – particularly given the idiot antics of the sole state Democrat MP, Sandra Kanck.

Yet all may not be lost for the Democrats. The Australian carries these comments today:

Senator Murray said it was difficult to gauge the party’s future.

“People are always writing about the death of the Democrats, particularly people who want it to happen, and others have joined in. However, there’s still huge numbers of Australians attached to the secular liberal-democratic philosophy.”

The week before last, we asked readers for their own five-point plan on how to save the Democrats. Ironically, we were going to write them up today.

A very interesting tension emerged between people who want a protest party and a party of the centre – a party that would act as a check on governments, but not necessarily an insurmountable block.

The Queensland Greens have personnel problems. They polled below their national average in the Senate in Queensland in 2004.

If Andrew Bartlett can get a good enough showing – and convince the majors that they’d be better off with him in parliament than another Green and win some preferences, the Australian Democrats may not yet be dead.