Given that Morris Iemma launched the Sussex Street gang’s election campaign yesterday with the slogan “More to do but we’re heading in the right direction”, one can only imagine how excruciating the other entries on the shortlist must have been.

“We know you know we’re not very good but the other mob might be worse” probably came close.

“Morris Iemma is nice despite being a NSW Labor stalwart so vote for him anyway” cuts to the heart of the matter.

“I never even met Bob Carr and I’m certainly not carrying his baby” could run well as the caption on the Iemma posters.

But if Labor was game to try something radical, ie, truth in political advertising, the missed opportunity remains: “If you don’t vote Labor, Peter Debnam will become Premier.”

The whole official campaign launch (after using taxpayers’ money to run pro-Labor ads and pay tunnel builders to postpone traffic jams) was probably summed up by the news reports of the Iemma v Debnam Stateline debate that concluded, “there was no clear winner”. Put another way, they were both losers.

The Iemma launch sans Labor Party also copped a unanimous verdict in the fishwrappers:

Jennifer Hewett in the AFR: “It’s the political version of the virgin birth. This one features the virtuous Saint Morris who miraculously sprang to life 18 months ago to save NSW from its terrible fate.”

Anne Davies in the SMH: “It appears there’s a new political party in NSW. Its livery is lavender and yellow, and its leader is a family man named Morris Iemma, with four children and a telegenic wife called Santina. The Iemma Party was formed just 18 months ago. Its platform is family, faith and community.”

Joe Hildebrand in the Terror: “Premier Morris Iemma has pinned his election hopes on distancing himself from Labor’s decade in power – and his own ministers – as well as a desperate move to kill off the water debate.”

But the insight of the weekend came from Miranda Devine in the Sun-Herald.

It is very brave, as Sir Humphrey might say, of NSW Opposition Leader Peter Debnam to turn the March election into a referendum on whether people will drink recycled water. Or “recycled sewage”, as Premier Morris Iemma so delicately puts it. Why, when the Labor Government is so vulnerable on so many issues, would Debnam risk everything on such a perilous point?

Yep, however unbelievable the virgin-birth-Iemma-Party might be, they still have Peter Debnam working for them.

Peter Fray

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