The Prime Minister’s intervention in the Liberal campaign for Gilmore is likely to do more damage than good – and not just at the federal level. Seething local members are contemplating turning their backs on the party.
There is also a fear the chaos at the federal level, with high-profile resignations and the widely perceived problem attracting women, will damage the Liberal brand during the March state election.
Several facts weigh heavily against the efficacy of Mr Morrison’s captain’s call.
Warren Mundine is a former Labor Party president. He is not yet a member of the Liberal Party. He does not live in Gilmore. His links to failed Prime Minister Tony Abbott have not endeared him to the local Indigenous community, members of which took to social media on Tuesday saying they would never support Mundine.
Perhaps more importantly, the intervention has fuelled a sense the party takes Gilmore for granted. If one lesson should have been learned from the disappointing result in the seat in 2013 when Ann Sudmalis was elected it was this: Gilmore voters detest being taken for granted. A protege of former Gilmore MP and one-time local powerbroker Joanna Gash, Mrs Sudmalis won on a reduced margin, bucking the national trend which installed the Abbott government during a landslide. The margin in Gilmore has shrunk ever since. Voters with long memories will recall that Mrs Gash was also parachuted into the seat in 1995.
Perversely, there has been been a lame attempt to spin the captain’s call to install a candidate who is not a party member – indeed, was a senior powerbroker in the Labor Party – into a positive. The thinking is that Mr Mundine’s lack of history with the Liberal Party will somehow work in his favour. That speaks volumes about the party’s self-perception right now.
With just five months to right the ship – not just in Gilmore but across the entire country – things are not looking promising for the Coalition.
Knifing prime ministers has gone down like a lead balloon. Installing outsiders over the wishes of local party members is unlikely to win brownie points either.
Nor is the dreadful treatment meted out to a local man who followed the established preselection process, won fair and square only to be smacked down by the current PM.
It simply plays into the perception the party has lost the plot and is headed for electoral oblivion.