The president of the NSW Liberal Party, Nick Campbell, resigned last night amid growing criticism of his role within the Party.

Campbell, a key ally of Federal MP Alex Hawke, has been engaged in an extended battle with forces aligned with Liberal powerbroker David Clarke over the last two years. In February, Clarke defeated an attempt by Campbell and Hawke to unseat him in NSW Upper House preselections.

Last week, Hawke and Campbell suffered another blow when the Party’s disputes panel found that Hawke had wrongfully prevented a number of Clarke loyalists from joining the party’s Baulkham Hills branch at a fiery meeting last September. Police had complained about having their time wasted when Hawke called them to break up the meeting.

Federal leader Tony Abbott — a longstanding ally of Clarke’s —  is said by party sources to have been concerned about Campbell’s focus on factional warfare rather than the looming Federal and NSW elections, but his role in Campbell’s resignation is not yet clear.

Clarke supporters say Campbell has tried to exclude a number of members in an effort to regain control of the Baulkham Hills branch, where a State preselection was to be held this weekend. Campbell’s tactics included demanding members come in and sign statutory declarations validating their membership, establishing a “Party Affairs Committee” to conduct an investigation of the branch, and proposing a ballot to use special powers to exclude the disputed members.

Meantime, issues critical to the party’s success at the forthcoming Federal election — which could be called within weeks — appear to have been left unresolved. In a replay of the Liberal National Party’s antics in winnable seats in Queensland that must have Abbott tearing his hair out, pre-selections in three winnable seats — Dobell, Parramatta and Lindsay, where a big swing against Labor is tipped — have yet to be finalised.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey