Angela Priestley, editor of The Power Index,  writes:

We’re providing a new profile from The Power Index for Crikey subscribers to read every day. Over the next fortnight, we’re covering the Top Ten Most Powerful Political Fixers, rolling out a new entrant from the list as we count down to number one, today it’s Michael Photios clocking in at Number Nine.

Stick around for the rest of our lists across the year — each fortnight we’ll kick off a new list drawn from our categories of Media, Culture, Business, Law & Order and our major metropolitan cities.

Then there are the contenders — those names that didn’t quite make the cut. Today Paul Barry profiles Peta Credlin. Heard of her? Possibly not. But you will.

Credlin’s been the chief-of-staff or senior adviser to three successful Liberal leaders. She’s continually by Tony Abbott’s side — meaning she’s up-to-date with all the necessary Liberal Party contacts across the country — and is said to be one of the toughest players in Canberra.

And while she didn’t make the Top 10, we’re tipping Credlin as the future trailblazer to end the stranglehold the men have held on pulling the strings of politics.

Paul Barry writes:

Contender — Peta Credlin:

She’s a relative unknown, but Peta Credlin has been cracking the whip in the Liberal Party for three successive leaders. And while she doesn’t make the Top 10, she’s certainly one to watch.

A Catholic, like Tony Abbott whose office she runs, Credlin has been chief-of-staff or senior adviser to the past three Liberal leaders, and you’d better believe she has got what it takes.

“She is effective, strong, articulate, engaged, presentable, smart and hard-working,” says a senior NSW Liberal.

“She’s tough, she’s a player, she makes demands, she gives directions, she bawls people out,” says a respected Victorian Liberal powerbroker, who ranks her as the Libs’ second most-powerful player, above Nick Minchin, Christopher Pyne and the other two Liberals in The Power Index Top 10.

We have left Credlin off our Political Fixers, despite the fact she’s important and powerful enough to be near the top, but only because she doesn’t quite fit our definition.

The chances are you’ve never heard Credlin’s name before, but if you’re mad enough to watch parliamentary question time, you may have seen her in the advisers’ box. She’s tall and 40-ish, with a long face and big hair.

A decade ago, she was using her legal skills as a junior adviser to Communications Minister Richard Alston. Then, after a spell with Racing Victoria, she was pulled into Helen Coonan’s office in 2005 to manage two issues that were important to the Howard government: the sale of Telstra and changes to the media-ownership laws.

Abrupt and demanding, she annoyed some people with her style, which showed little care for others’ egos and even less tolerance of fools. Yet she was given the task of managing difficult negotiations with National and Liberal backbenchers on media law changes and handled the job well.

Even back then, Credlin was plugged in at the highest levels of the Liberal Party via her husband, Brian Loughnane, who had been federal director since 2003, so she knew John Howard and Peter Costello socially. She was also well connected to the party machine. And she had talent to boot.

After the 2007 election, Credlin was parachuted into new leader Brendan Nelson’s office. Then, when he was dumped, she moved in with Malcolm Turnbull — whom she had previously disparaged to colleagues — as chief-of-staff. And when Turnbull was forced out, she worked with Tony Abbott. In her spare time she picked up a legal practising certificate and won the ACT Law Society Prize.

*Read the rest here.

Meanwhile… here’s today’s latest profile from our Top 10 Political Fixers.

Top 10 political fixers #9 — Michael Photios:

Bouncy is the best word to describe Michael Photios, the Liberals’ powerful king maker in NSW. But lively, likeable, and irrepressible would also do the trick.

Remember Tigger from Winnie the Pooh?

The garrulous Greek was once a salesman in the family business, which leads the world in the sale of feather boas and sequins, but he now devotes his energy to selling himself. And he does a wonderful job.

If you believe Michael Photios, he is by far the most powerful political fixer in the NSW Liberal Party: a brilliant strategist who has achieved dominance for the Left by splitting the Right and scattering his enemies. Not only does he tell heroic and amusing tales of his exploits, he is more than happy to share his secrets. “Charm, manage, lead,” he proclaims. “Secure and reward talent and you will succeed. At the same time, exploit your enemies’ divisions.”

But the strange thing is, it appears to be true. One former enemy, now an admirer, tells The Power Index, “Photios is very clever; he understands people, and he won most of the recent preselection battles, which is why the majority of Liberals in state parliament are now left of centre”.

“We go from success in the morning to success in the afternoon when we roll out preselections,” Photios chirps cheerfully. And a quick parliamentary roll-call backs up this boast, with at least a dozen new NSW MPs indebted to Photios for their seats on the green leather.

Photios’s faction — once known as “The Group” — was set up in the 1980s to counter ethnic branch-stacking by the religious Right. And since 2008 it has been firmly back on top, after almost a decade in which zealotry ruled the roost. Photios masterminded the fightback by making a deal with the self-styled “Sensible Right”, which left David Clarke and his Opus Dei mates out on their own.

*Read the rest here.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey