NSW Premier Morris Iemma has secured the privatization of the State’s electricity, his place in Labor history and his retirement plan for 2008. He can now leave the job as the premier who delivered a windfall legacy to the state coffers of around $10 to $15 billion and who succeeded in the sell-off which humiliated former premier Bob Carr in 1997.

The commentators who are suggesting the sale of the state-owned power retailers will bunker Iemma into the premiership until the next state election in 2011 are missing the plot. Iemma has been overwhelmed by the job. His decency, warmth and likeable bloke manner are wonderful traits but they don’t make a Labor premier in NSW.

When he resigns next year – as he will – he will be one of the few politicians who, upon quitting, can say sincerely that he wants to spend more time with his family. Carr didn’t have a family: the premiership was his life, his fulltime occupation. Iemma doesn’t share that focus or those political obsessions.

Since the March election, Iemma has lost his three senior media minders, Aemon Fitzpatrick, Ben Wilson and Todd Hayward. Another, Kirsten Andrews, is off to Canberra to join the new Rudd Government. Last week the premier misplaced his chief of staff, Mike Kaiser, who is returning to Queensland to work for Premier Anna Bligh. In Kaiser’s place comes Josh Murray from deputy premier John Watkins’ staff.

These departures and arrivals all signify an imminent changing of the guard from Iemma to Watkins who has become the State’s official premier in waiting. Over the past six months Watkins has been the APEC Minister during the meeting of world leaders in Sydney, the constant campaign minder for Maxine McKew during her successful assault on former prime minister John Howard’s seat of Bennelong, deputy premier during Iemma’s school holiday absences, occasional spruiker on police and legal matters and chief apologist on the various catastrophes on trains, buses and ferries.

Next year, as minister in charge of the Catholic World Youth Day, he will be stalking the Pope in photo opportunities and heading NSW delegations to take part in Rudd’s sweeping plans for infrastructure reform.

To the political cretins who say that Watkins, a member of the left faction, could “never” be made premier by a Labor caucus utterly dominated by the right-wing, the answer is: “Look at Queensland”.

A couple of months ago, Peter Beattie made way for the left’s Anna Bligh and none of the right-wing neanderthals raised a whimper. The same will be true in NSW where the right has no candidate capable of taking on the job or, more importantly, winning the next election.