Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Werri-What the?

Apparently the Libs are yet to confirm whether or not they will run a candidate for Mark Latham's recently-vacated seat of Werriwa, centred around Green Valley/Casula. Far be it for me to tell the Libs how to organise their candidates - nor indeed to offer them any encouragement or support - but I would have thought they'd have had lined up someone months ago when the not-remote possibility of Latham's total exit from politics first arose.

The west of Sydney, it's a changin'. Of the five seats neighbouring Werriwa, three (Lindsay, Hughes and MacArthur) are safe Liberal, and while the other two, Fowler and Prospect, are safe Labor, Prospect suffered a 5.7% swing against Labor on top of the 4% swing it suffered in 2001. Based on these trends alone, a seat that was once Labor by a 17% margin in 1998 - more Labor than Tanya Plibersek's Sydney seat - could be marginally Liberal by 2010.

History also shows that voters are ruthlessly fickle when they believe their elected representative has deserted them. When John Moore retired mid-way through his term, a Liberal seat of 9% went to Labor in a by-election (then back to Liberal by 2001). When Labor frontbencher Stephen Martin resigned in 2002, the Wollongong-based seat of Cunningham went to the Greens in their first and (to date) only ever House of Reps seat.

I would have thought the shifting voter patterns combined with Latham's spitting-the-dummy exit would have made the Libs decision to run a candidate for Werriwa a foregone conclusion. Methinks that, as always, there's more going on behind closed doors than we mere mortal public will ever know...


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