Is Bronwyn Bishop being encouraged by her party to take her bat and helicopter and go home?

Over the weekend, The Australian reported that MediaReach polling of 877 residents in Bishop’s seat of Mackellar showed Bishop would only get 21% of the primary vote, with potential independent rival Dick Smith securing 54% of the vote if he were to run against her. The Oz report says the paper “obtained” the polling. A report using the same data stated the polling had been conducted for News Corp, but Crikey understands that is not the case.

We hear from our Anonymous Denizen of Mackellar that the polling was likely commissioned by someone within the Liberal Party as it was unlikely the Greens, Labor or Smith would conduct polling while the Liberal preselection process was still ongoing. Given that The Australian story quotes a “senior party source”, suggesting that the party wouldn’t risk the distraction of having to fight to keep a key safe seat, our source told Crikey that the polling and the commentary was less of a gentle push and more of a sharp-elbowed shove for Bishop to get out of the race. We hear the Liberals are concerned at the prospect of spending money fighting to keep what should otherwise be a blue-ribbon Liberal seat, rather than spending cash in marginal seats where it is needed more.

Bishop faces six preselection opponents, and locals will make their decision on April 16. Former Warringah councillor Jason Falinski and former Baird campaign director Walter Villatora are considered the favourites.

Rumours abound in Mackellar that Bishop might be considering withdrawing from the race for “the good of the party”, but our spy suggests that locals would need to see it to believe it:

“Mrs Bishop lives in a bubble surrounded by her own cheer squad who assure her she has the numbers. It’s a bit like the emperor’s new clothes. It’s also obvious to Bronny-watchers she suffers from that affliction so common amongst older politicians on the cusp of retirement: relevance deprivation syndrome. The big trouble for the party is that she still believes she’s relevant even though the poll results clearly show the majority of her electorate disagrees with her.”

The polling suggests there will be much more action in the seat of Mackellar before April 16. The timing also means that Bishop’s future will be known before Parliament resumes for the extra three sitting weeks starting April 18.

Another spy tells us Bishop was looking particularly chummy with Malcolm Turnbull at the Opera on the Harbour opening on the weekend, refusing to leave the Prime Minister’s side and turning into a bit of a third wheel for Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull. Pleading for her political life, perhaps?

There has also been dramatic movement in the Sportsbet odds for Bishop between February 16 and March 24. Bishop has dropped from odds of $1.83 down to $2.50, while Falinski has moved from $7.50 to $1.60 as the firm favourite. Villatora has dropped, however, down from $3.00 to $5.00.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey