Two years out, Labor keen to grab Gilmore

Nothing is ever assured in politics. In recent times we’ve seen Britain vote to leave the European Union, America vote to install Donald Trump and Western Australia vote to install Labor and walk away from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

Pretty well each one of these outcomes was unexpected. In WA’s case, it was all but certain Colin Barnett’s Liberal government would go but there was an expectation One Nation would perform way better than it did.

So what’s in store for Gilmore? Two years out from the next federal election, you’d be a mug to bet on an outcome. Given the way pollsters and pundits have been proved wrong, it really is a case of wait-and-see.

Labor is leaving nothing chance. Its decision to have a candidate bedded down two years out is a change in modus operandi. In elections past it has left preselections run very late, causing many to wonder if the party was serious about mounting a real challenge for the seat.

Having come within a whisker of taking the electorate at the last election, Labor seems to have the scent of blood. Its early endorsement of Fiona Phillips suggests the party is confident of ending a 21-year Liberal dominance of the seat.

That confidence is shared by some in the local Liberal Party. Not too long ago there was talk of a preselection to tip the accident-prone Ann Sudmalis out of contention. Talk around the traps was that Kiama MP Gareth Ward and NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance both had designs on the seat.

That chatter has now gone silent, with insiders saying the razor thin margin now makes Gilmore too risky a proposition for successful state politicians.

There’s also the inconvenient fact the federal Coalition government is looking increasingly ropy – that is, if you believe the polls. Experience shows you need to take opinion polls with a dose of salt.

Two years is a long time in politics – these days, with the relentless news cycle, it can be more like an eternity. It allows Mrs Sudmalis plenty of time to recover from some of the more injurious wounds she’s inflicted on herself.

Her rival, Fiona Phillips, is adamant the Gilmore race will be a marathon, not a sprint. We can expect to see more of the procession of ALP heavyweights we’ve had come through the electorate already. Expect more town hall style forums as well, as Mrs Phillips builds her local profile.