When Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle donned the ceremonial robes last December he wasted no time spruiking plans to ban buskers and bogans from the CBD. And if a recent series of events inside city hall are any indication, it appears Doyle’s braggadocio may have rubbed off on his mid-30s fiancée Emma Page Campbell.

In a blow to the city’s old money matriarchy, Crikey can reveal that Ms Page Campbell has succeeded in her quest to reform the creaking Lady Mayoress’ fundraising committee, with her staunch feather-ruffling forcing the resignation of long-serving Vice Chair Julie Leeming.

Crikey understands that Ms Leeming’s decision to stand aside follows months of factional infighting after Ms Page Campbell arrived as Lady Mayoress last December. Under city council rules, the Lord Mayor’s partner is automatically deigned Lady Mayoress when her beau ascends to the throne.

The 15-member executive arm of the Committee raises funds for the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and is traditionally dominated by ageing dames with weekdays to burn. It predates the LMCF and has steadfastly retained its stuffy ambiance. However, it is believed Ms Page Campbell’s desire to drag the group into the 21st century didn’t play well with Ms Leeming, who during the John So era apparently exercised something close to absolute power. Former Lady Mayoress Wendy Cheng is believed to have been unwilling or unable to shake things up.

During her tenure, Ms Leeming is believed to have worked tirelessly to raise millions on behalf of the Committee.

But Ms Page Campbell, who recently announced her engagement to the 58-year-old Mr Doyle, has been champing at the bit to reform the committee’s ageing governance structures, with the current constitution dating to 1985.

Informed sources close to city hall told Crikey that Ms Page Campbell, who works as an in-house lawyer at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, had entered the Committee like a whirlwind.

“It’s been around for generations and is mostly full of ‘ladies who lunch’ or Toorak madams with lots of dosh and nothing to do. It really harks back to a bygone era. Campbell is not popular [maybe because] she has a job.”

Ms Leeming, a keen golfer who joined the Committee shortly after immigrating to Australia in 1995 with husband, former Pilkington Glass chief Roger Leeming, confirmed her resignation this morning but refused to comment on the record.

Ms Page Campbell told Crikey: “I will continue to work with the professional staff of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation to enhance the fundraising activities of the committee.

“The committee is working very well and contains many people of talent and expertise.”

Ms Leeming, who became an Australian citizen in 2004, remains a life member of the broader 60-member non-executive committee.

Peter Fray

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