(Images: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

James McGrath and Amanda Stoker are chalk and cheese. And while both call the Queensland Liberal-National Party their political home, their differences were on show during the party’s weekend Senate ticket vote.

Senator McGrath took the coveted first prize and, with the Nationals’ Matt Canavan being promised the second spot, assistant minister and Morrison favourite Amanda Stoker is left in third position.

That’s not a bad placing, and if you had a spare $5 it would be a fairly safe bet that she will also be elected, and that her career in Canberra, where she’s shown she’s not afraid to speak out and even happily court controversy, will continue.

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Stoker, outside Queensland, was seen as the frontrunner before Saturday. Her star has been on the rise since nabbing a casual Senate vacancy a couple of years ago and her recent promotion by Scott Morrison to assistant attorney-general and assistant minister for women affirmed that position.

Outspoken on issues such as abortion, she had the support of the state’s Christian right but also those rank-and-file Queensland party members who relish that she’s not afraid to stand up and prosecute an unpopular argument she believes in.

Last year, she even took on former state LNP leader Deb Frecklington — the first woman to hold that post — claiming she was playing the “gender card” by speaking out against bullying by the party’s backroom.

So, the weekend’s vote — which saw McGrath win strongly by 212 votes to 101 — is not a repudiation of Stoker’s views, nor a snub to Scott Morrison or a slap down to the state’s religious right. It’s not the party shunning females in the top spot either, despite some noise around that.

It is sound politics: McGrath increases the odds in Scott Morrison’s favour. Here’s why.

The LNP holds every federal electorate — except one — north of the Brisbane River. Just imagine that, in a state as big as Queensland.

It holds all but seven of the state’s 30 seats. And LNP members’ IQ don’t need to be too high to understand the compulsion to keep those seats at the next election.

If Scott Morrison fails in Queensland, he’s out. He knows that, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese knows that — and that’s what was on the mind of many of those voting on Saturday.

James McGrath doesn’t quite look the part, like Amanda Stoker. It’s unlikely you’d see Stoker’s shirt hanging out, just as it’s unlikely for McGrath to tuck his in. With a prosecutor’s mind, Stoker would always be on time. McGrath might misplace his watch.

She’s clinical and precise and well-researched, and believes members should have put her in the number-one spot so she could continue to deliver for them.

McGrath is a scrapper, who helped bring down Tony Abbott. A fighter, who managed to have Campbell Newman elected Queensland premier from outside Parliament. A campaigner, who held a leading role in Boris Johnson’s UK mayoral campaign. Precision is less important than winning.

And that’s what LNP members wanted on the weekend. It was as simple as that.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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