The campaign for the Federal seat of Gippsland is off and running at a funereal pace, which is apt considering the photo of the Nationals’ candidate, Darren Chester, on the roadside billboards along the Princes Highway makes him look like a humourless undertaker. Actually, the more one thinks about it, his image looks like a mug shot on a Wanted Poster.

Like him or not, Chester is a “hottie” — the favourite, that is, not a s-x symbol. He could continually put his foot in his mouth and still win thanks to the rural rump. Many in the Nationals believe if he is the best they have to offer, the future is not in safe hands.

The Liberal Party’s candidate, the photogenic Rowan Fitzgerald, oozes what he or his minders think is charm, but a voter could find more engagement reading headstones at the local cemetery than watching his television advertisements. The lad hasn’t been helped by Dr Brendan Nelson’s gushing forays into the electorate which have left some male Liberal Party diehards shaking their heads in disbelief despite their women’s interest in his coiffure.

That leaves the other Darren — Darren McCubbin, the ALP candidate. In terms of ability arguably the best political brain and public speaker. Darren’s brainiac minders believe attack is the best form of defence and the ALP’s initial advertisements were appallingly inane and irrelevant, citing the Nationals’ complicity in gutting the electrical generation industry and education under the long-departed Kennett state government. The local ABC Regional Radio presenter, Gerard Callinan, interviewed the state ALP secretary about this strategy and tellingly revealed how mind-numbingly stupid this approach was, and its devisers were.

At least with his theatrical background McCubbin will be entertaining compared to the dour earnestness of Chester and Fitzgerald at candidates’ public forums. The only consistency in the whole charade is the emphasis on cheesy family photos of the candidates with their partners and children. At least they are fecund.

Everyone is playing happy families, talking families, loving families, believing in family values, acknowledging working families’ difficulties.

But Darren Chester knows the Nationals’ faithful from Tubbut to Toongabbie will hop into the ute, throw the kelpie in the back, rock up to the local hall/primary school and do what they have always done — vote National.

It’s a lay down misere for former journalist and soon to be backbencher, Darren Chester.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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