Former Liberal Party president John Valder seems determined to go down in the history books as a wrecker – an inconsistent wrecker at that.
After providing $20,000 seed funding for the Not Happy John campaign in the Prime Minister’s seat of Bennelong at the last election, Valder is turning his attentions to the other side of the harbour. He’s writing a letter to Wentworth constituents endorsing Labor candidate George Newhouse and attacking the Howard government.
Valder says he’s getting involved again because of “serious disillusionment” with the Howard Government, and because of a personal connection to Newhouse.
But if he is seriously disillusioned with the Howard government, why isn’t he trying to fix a bead on the boss fella again? Why is he targeting an MP who was only elected in 2004?
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Newhouse has pushed causes that are close to Valder’s heart – most notably justice for Vivien Solon Alvarez. Yet John Howard is the man whose policies, whose incompetent ministers and whose heavy handed bureaucrats caused her misery, not Malcolm Turnbull.
Wentworth, of course, is a tempting target. It is a federation seat and never been held by the ALP.
Its margin, after the last redistribution, is just 2.5%, compared to 4.2% in Bennelong. But, as the Crikey Guide to the 2007 Federal Election explains, the Liberal vote in Wentworth is probably understated because of the presence of deselected MP Peter King in the 2004 contest. Malcolm Turnbull is seen as a face of the future.
This is in stark contrast with Bennelong. John Howard became its MP 30 years before Malcolm Turnbull joined the Parliament. Boundary and demographic changes have made it more marginal. There is a high profile Labor candidate in Maxine McKew. Even more worrying for Howard, however, is the expectation that he will not serve a full term.
As the Crikey Guide says, “Whatever the overall election outcome, Howard has set some awkward questions for the electors of Bennelong… [M]any of them will reason if John Howard is re-elected there will be a by-election before 2010. Bennelong voters may decide to save the time and the money and vote Howard out now.”
Why isn’t Valder putting his resources back into Bennelong? If he doesn’t like the current state of the Liberal Party and the policies of the Howard Government, then surely he should be targeting its leader.
Valder is not just a former federal president of the Liberal Party. He is also a former president of the NSW divisions.
He must be aware of the way John Howard has acquiesced to the takeover of the division by the ultra-right ‘Taliban’ faction – and how its members now defy him, as demonstrated by the saga of the Cook preselection.
He must also be aware of the very different stances Malcolm Turnbull has taken on issues to both the PM and the religious right.
He also must be aware that he is a wrecker – an inconsistent wrecker at that.
What looked like principal in 2004 now appears to be pure spite.