The Liberal member for Indi, Sophie Mirabella, is staring down the barrel of what could be her final 72 hours as a federal MP, launching a last-ditch anti-branding strategy as shock polling points to a looming win for rural independent Cathy McGowan.
Brand-new Liberal corflutes erected in Mirabella’s seat of Indi in the last few days strangely fail to feature her name or image, instead hammering home Liberal Party talking points about “stopping the boats”:
Previous corflutes, that have become markedly scarcer, featured Mirabella’s glowing visage:
Letterbox leaflets distributed in Benalla have also focused on the Liberal Party’s record, with no mention of the achievements of the sitting member:
While older drops had the former Melbourne University Liberal Club president out and about in the community:
A Liberal source on the ground confirmed the generic touch was a recent addition but argued that every campaign was a mix of candidate-specific and party branding. Mirabella has been spotted personally handing out this new leaflet to passing voters, suggesting McGowan could prop-up another Labor-Greens government.
The increasingly unpopular MP, first elected 12 years ago with preference help from the Nationals, has seen her primary vote plummet by 10 percentage points in the last three elections to 52% by 2010. A Border Mail online poll published this morning put McGowan’s support at a commanding 65%. A massive 69% rated Mirabella’s performance as “very poor”, compared to widespread satisfaction with Liberal colleague Sussan Ley in the adjacent New South Wales division of Farrer.
And internal party polling also indicates Mirabella could see her 9% margin eroded for good, prompting a frenzied campaign effort from Young Liberals bussed in from Melbourne and the extraordinary intervention of former federal treasurer Peter Costello. Many in Indi are unimpressed with Mirabella’s record as their representative, with anger snowballing after a campaign letter was distributed trumpeting her record in establishing local cancer and mental health centres. In fact, prominent locals at the centre of the claims — and the Labor MPs they lobbied — promptly dismissed her involvement as minimal.
Elsewhere, the battle for Indi has taken a nastier turn. Crikey revealed earlier today that conservative Democratic Labour Party members had distributed disturbing images featuring young children distraught at the prospect of same-s-x marriage. The flyers urge that voters place McGowan, Labor’s Robyn Walsh and the Greens’ Jenny O’Connor last. The Beechworth local that authorised the cards, Jim McCormack, has written letters to the Border Mail supporting Mirabella.
Crikey first revealed the strong possibility of a surprise McGowan win on August 7. A spokesperson for Mirabella’s office declined to comment this afternoon.