Just like the fictional Genoa City, the backdrop for The Young and the Restless, the federal electorate Wentworth is full of glamour, wealth drama and romance. It’s also hosted a long running political soapie.

There was the bright young doctor, John Hewson, with his Ferrari and banker wife. His career went astray. He was replaced by the son of a sports champion, Andrew Thomson. His career disappointed, too. Along came a man who had married into the conservative aristocracy, Peter King. But King couldn’t compare with the glamour of the good looking, self-made multi-millionaire Malcolm Turnbull.

Wentworth has been a spectacular soapie, but now the soapie is silly. Like Chances, the plot lines are going awry.

There’s the bitter business colleague, Geoff Cousins, turning against his old friend. There’s the glamorous crusading young lawyer George Newhouse and his even more glamorous ex with the crusade of her own, Danielle Ecuyer. There is Greens skulduggery on the sidelines. And everything has got completely out of control in the last few days with the introduction into the mix of the ambitious, newly single, yummy mummy journo and her alternately flirtatious and forceful emails.

It’s time to burst the soap bubble.

Wentworth is a federation seat. It was first held by Free Trader Sir William McMillan and has never slipped into Labor hands. This means that the Liberals have taken it for granted – until Turnbull.

“He is the first local member here in Wentworth in my adult life who has worked for our votes, worked and actually done anything as a local member,” Crikey was told by a Newhouse supporter. “His energy is tremendous and he is a great local member.” A former minor party candidate praised Turnbull’s campaign energy.

It seems to be a very curious time in Wentworth. “Long term Liberals want Rudd as prime minister, but for Malcolm to lead the Liberals,” Crikey has been told. “It is truly weird here in Wentworth.”

It’s a curious conundrum. Many disaffected Wentworth Liberals who despise John Howard see Turnbull as the future of the party, but how do they cast their ballots? What if their votes let Howard win? Labor supporters who like Turnbull’s small l liberalism are equally confused.

A broad cross section of Wentworth voters believe the Liberals would be well served if Malcolm Turnbull became their leader once Howard is gone. “He would genuinely be transforming for the party if free to advance the things he wants to,” Crikey was told. “He would make Australia a better place.”

Malcolm Turnbull is a man of great personal charm. He is polished and accomplished, as is his wife Lucy, the former Sydney Lord Mayor. They make an attractive couple, a partnership of equals. All this counts in Wentworth.

And all this counts towards what Crikey has tagged “the fabulousness factor”.

Turnbull offers a moderate, reasoned voice in a party that desperately needs one. He shines amongst the mediocrity in the ministry. Of course he has an ego. Of course he’s played tough in his business dealings. His merits are still clear.

These merits transcend party politics. They still seem set to carry Turnbull over the line in Wentworth.

Turnbull opponents acknowledge his qualities and his potential. His star status appeals to voters who simply aren’t interested in politics.

Wentworth is full of drama. We saw twists and turns right up to the eve of polling day at the last election. We’ll probably see them again.

But it’s time to burst the soap bubble. The dramas are distraction from the central fact: Malcolm Turnbull is an outstanding candidate with outstanding potential.

It might be a close run thing, but Wentworth voters seem set to recognise this. Or so Crikey’s chats with people on the ground suggest.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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