After 10 years and 37 consecutive defeats in contested elections, Australia’s most unsuccessful candidate has finally broken through.

Yes, believe it or not folks, but 4205 voters in the Heidi ward of Manningham City Council put a one next to candidate Stephen Mayne during the postal ballot conducted during the second half of November.

When you’ve had more than $200 billion worth of stock voted against you in 31 public company board tilts, you get used to losing.

The complete history of defeats also throws up single digit results such as 1.98% against Peter Costello last year, 1.33% in the 2006 Victorian election, 4.3% when running for Melbourne Lord Mayor in 2001 and 6.73% contesting the Burwood by-election when Jeff Kennett quit Parliament after his shock defeat in 1999.

Higgins last year was the first time I’d even finished in the front half of a field, so to be coming second in the Manningham primaries behind the incumbent Liberal mayor Geoff Gough in a 10-horse field was a very strange feeling.

There was then enough preference leakage to secure the last of three spots requiring the 25% quota. Check out the full results here. We can argue about what the donkey vote was worth but an 18.78% primary vote was much more than most expected.

So, what does it all mean?

With a process now underway that could see an appointment to the Centro Retail board, life it set to change in a pretty major way. The professional independent outsider is set to step inside the tent, fully realising that it is a whole lot easier criticising from afar than actually wrestling with issues from a position of responsibility.

774 ABC Melbourne’s Ali Moore certainly liked that line. Have a listen to our chat at 9.15am this morning.

Naturally, old enemies never forget and 3AW’s Neil Mitchell was quick out of the blocks this morning to claim the council tilt was simply to cause trouble.

Truth be known, I haven’t caused a drop of trouble since the better half, Paula Piccinini, was elected to the RACV board in 2006 and the aim at Manningham will be to constructively push for change in a collegiate fashion.

The first and most obvious reform is to make the election of mayor next Monday a far more transparent process. Rather than huddling in private after all sorts of caucusing and deal making, why not conduct it in public, require candidates to give a speech and then allow other councillors and members of the public to ask questions before then having an open vote in the chamber?

Given voters got to directly choose Robert Doyle as Melbourne’s next Lord Mayor, surely Victoria’s other 76 councils should consider a better mayoral selection process.

Click here for a fuller account about how this all came to pass and send through any suggestions on policy and local government procedure to [email protected].

Peter Fray

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