Labor staffer Stefanie Jones, who claims Clements assaulted her
The enforced resignation of New South Wales Labor Party general secretary Jamie Clements is another victory for the “hard Left” faction over the traditional Right who have governed party headquarters in Sussex Street.
Clements was set to lead this year’s federal election campaign in NSW, where Opposition Leader Bill Shorten needs an acutely managed marginal-seats campaign to win back Labor “heartland” seats.
The party also faces a state conference next month as well as the Herculean task of making gains on Premier Mike Baird’s high-flying Coalition at the state election in March 2019.
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The Clements’ car crash has been a long time coming. The sexual harassment allegations originally appeared in The Daily Telegraph on June 25 last year.
It simmered for another seven months with occasional references to the drawn-out AVO court procedures. Clements’ opponents struck during the Christmas-New Year when party leader Luke Foley, a former ALP assistant general secretary, was on holidays. The Daily Telegraph provided the context with a blaring front-page headline: “A PARTY OF FILTH” and then Facebook and Twitter did the rest.
Almost 12 months ago, the party’s factions disposed of then-party leader John “Robbo” Robertson and replaced him with Foley.
The new leadership partnership of Clements (Sussex Street) and Foley (Macquarie Street) wasn’t compatible, and it soon became clear that the two factional strongmen had divergent agendas.
Clements backed the return of Noreen Hay in the safe Wollongong seat while Foley favoured a change of candidate. While Foley’s preoccupation was building his own profile, Clements favoured renovating the tarnished image of the state party.
Past general secretaries received rich rewards for their service to the party: Graham Richardson, Stephen Loosley and Mark Arbib received Senate seats and John Della Bosca and Eric Roozendaal slotted into the NSW upper house and various cabinets.
Clements could expect no less, but that option is now cactus. He reportedly sought a big pay-out, but Crikey has been told it amounts to one year of his salary i.e. about $200,000.
While Clements remained in office, Foley always felt the party’s Right wing was stalking his leadership. And as his popularity plummeted in the opinion polls, rumours of his overthrow persisted, with the name of Kogarah MP Chris Minns often mentioned.
Clements’ association with Minns goes back a long way. He is the godfather of Minns’ older son, Joe, and two share political agendas.
Foley’s “hardline” faction sees the removal of Clements as an insurance policy to protect their leader’s back.
His successor will be Right wing assistant secretary Kaila Murnain, a 29-year-old former staffer with premier Kristina Keneally and current shadow treasurer Michael Daley.
Although personally well liked, Murnain faces a huge responsibility to enliven NSW voters to vote for Shorten when polls show that many have become converts to Malcolm Turnbull and Mike Baird.
But when the fundamental task is rescuing Foley, Shorten’s campaign becomes a secondary matter.