Yesterday, Peter Costello told former Howard staffer Arthur Sinodinos that he should stand for public office in 2010, saying that “it would be a fitting tribute to his old boss if Sinodinos could nominate and win Bennelong back for the Liberal Party”.
As a close observer of the 2007 poll (and author of The Battle for Bennelong, once described as “the bible of the political underdog”) I’m happy to offer Arthur some free advice:
- Keep the funny surname. According to the 2006 Census figures, 41.6% of Bennelong’s residents speak a language other than English at home, twice the national average. Almost 60% of them were born overseas or have parents who were born overseas (national average; 40%).
- Move into the electorate. Maxine got huge kudos by moving from Cremorne to Epping, in contrast with the Wollstonecraft-based Howards. Buy one of the lovely Federation houses in Eastwood.
- Don’t do preference deals with lunatic-fringe minor parties. In 2007 the Libs horse-traded with the Christian Democratic Party, the Call to Australia Party and reportedly, the Exclusive Brethren. This is the sort of behaviour that lumbers us with “unrepresentative swill” like Senator Steve Field-nong. The only good thing about the EB is that they don’t vote, probably because they can’t read. (But hang on a minute, neither can Stev… oh never mind).
- Be very nice to your wife. It was often observed that Mrs Howard only appeared at electorate events which featured a news camera. (Closely followed by the phrase “Hyacinth Bucket”.)
- Keep Jackie Kelly’s husband away from the printer.
- Join a registered club. If you are allergic to multi-patterned carpet and poker machines, get over it. The good folks of Bennelong eat, drink, recreate and discuss current events in their local club. It’s due to the décor at the Epping Club (“Sydney’s Only Five Star Club!”) that I can no longer wear green.
- Buy a thermos. The only drinkable coffee is at Vespas in Gladesville and the Italian deli in Cox’s Road, Ryde. In between is a barren, Arabica-free desert which can reduce grown men and women to twitchy, teeth-grinding hysteria…
- Make friends with Eastwood’s Justin Li. I have a substantial bet on the fact that the erudite 27-year-old lawyer will be our first Asian-born Prime Minister. Currently learning the ropes on the NSW Ethnic Communities Council and Ryde Council, he is the only person under 30 I can be bothered talking to.
- Buy some walking shoes. Maxine and her 900 volunteers collectively lost about 1000 kilos by door knocking the 58 square km of Bennelong. By the end of the campaign, their purple t-shirts were hanging on them like curtains. As campaign manager Michael Butterworth kept muttering, “There are no votes in the office”.
- Take the plunge. Human beings are endlessly fascinating and during the campaign I had about ten extraordinary, enlightening, amusing encounters every day. Electioneering is the most fun you can have with your clothes on; do it.