The donkey vote and a high profile last night gave former Victorian Liberal Party leader Robert Doyle the keys to the liquor cabinet at the Melbourne Town Hall for the next four years.

After distribution of preferences, Doyle beat former councillor Catherine Ng by 31,348 votes to 26,614. Only 62 per cent of the City of Melbourne’s 100,000 voters bothered to take part in this compulsory postal election – and nearly 5 per cent of those votes were informal.

The final preference allocation of the Labor Party’s unofficial candidate, Peter McMullin, actually tipped the Liberal Doyle into the Lord Mayor’s chains of office and big possum coat at the expense of Ng.

There he gets to sit in the big chair, play with an annual budget of some $300 million a year and to introduce some of his key policies which include removing bad buskers from the city’s streets and reintroducing cars to Swanson Street for the first time in 17 years.

But this was always McMullin’s election to lose and he did so in spectacular fashion. The heir to the Spotless fortune was odds-on favourite with the bookies to win this election but his campaign blundered from one catastrophe to the next led by his strategists who including three of the most odious political operatives ever invented by the Victorian ALP.

They ran an appalling campaign that continually vilified other candidates, reneged on agreed preference deals and reputedly intimated electoral officials at the Victorian Electoral Commission. This last alleged offence caused McMullin to issue a statement on Saturday repudiating their actions and asking them to cooperate with the VEC.

In some of the nastiest political invective this correspondent has ever seen, Lord Mayor candidate Ng was referred to as a heavy drinking, possibly psychotic, vile woman who was also an ugly lady boy, a wicked witch and – for good measure – suffered from bad breath. What was McMullin thinking when he let these people anywhere near his campaign office?

In the end, this filthy dirty campaign backfired on him and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put McMullin together again. In one of the most expensive campaigns ever in the history of Melbourne, McMullin polled just 7,267 first preference votes: which works out at about a $100 for each vote.

He would have been better off giving that money to help get the bad buskers out of Bourke Street.

Peter Fray

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