You can only sit back and scratch your head as the NSW Liberals go at it again. After losing an election when the people of NSW just wanted any excuse to vote out a tired and bungling Labor Government thanks to a singularly inept campaign presided over by an uninspiring leader, the revolving doors to the Liberal leadership are spinning again.
Deputy Leader Barry O’Farrell has finally worked up the courage to challenge for the top job after many false starts and looks set to don the guernsey.
Yet O’Farrell’s expected elevation will not stop the leadership speculation destining the Liberals to further years in the wilderness. Sources say his fellow moderates do not trust him, and it is doubtful the right will accept the legitimacy of an O’Farrell leadership. The sniping – and outright internecine warfare – will continue to rip the party apart.
O’Farrell has long been the subject of allegations of disloyalty to successive leaders, including the Libs’ best shot at government, John Brogden. Rumours ran rampant at the time of Brogden’s fall that O’Farrell withdrew from the leadership contest because a note left by the falling star accused him of gross disloyalty. In addition, some NSW Libs still recite a story that says some dubious material was once found in his desk while party state director.
And there’s more dirt. Other Liberals point to his lacklustre performance as a campaigner. He was State Director at the time the Libs last lost office, they say, and has had a leading role in each subsequent campaign all of which have been notable for taking the Party even further backwards until now. There have been accusations of laziness and a low media profile.
Many in the Party are worried that once in it will be impossible to move O’Farrell out of the top job when brighter hopes such as Pru Goward or Mike Baird – who got a tick from the Parrot this morning – are blooded. Many believe that while the blame for the underwhelming campaign should rightfully be laid at the feet of Peter Debnam, Party President Geoff Selig and State Director Graham Jaeschke it would be better to leave Debnam in as leader pro tem until a better hope is groomed and Debnam replaced.
Meanwhile Jillian Skinner and Brad Hazzard have thrown in their hats for the deputy’s job. Our sources say Hazzard will not be acceptable to the moderates while Skinner is considered too old. Greg Appin is mentioned as a dark horse for the deputy’s job. Greg Pearce is expected to challenge the Right’s Mike Gallacher for Leader of the Upper House despite Gallacher’s performance at running a strategy of supporting independents in the Hunter region using Labor tactics against Labor. This was done with Debnam’s full knowledge and consent but hidden from head office so the tactic would not be typically mismanaged.