Moments of stupidity
The ALP on the Central Coast has never been able to attract decent candidates. Mousy librarians and showbiz-struck teachers have been the authentic face of the party in an area where Labor is the default vote and a halfway decent candidate with a bit of go could make the sort of career that inner-city aspirants have to bite and claw and scratch for. Your standard Labor candidate, with a law degree and a few years working as a staffer/union official, steers well clear of the joint. Well, with one exception.
When Barry Jones retired as Federal President of the ALP the cameras were invited in to his final meeting of the party executive. He shook hands with the men and kissed the women - when he came to Belinda Neal, she lunged forward but the old national treasure flinched and moved on. Now we realise that this is the default position for dealing with Richo's Revenge (Neal replaced Richardson as Senator for NSW), and something the voters of Robertson should have known. Which PR fool told someone whose job it is to represent tens of thousands of people that she "can't speak on behalf of anyone else"?
Swanning around like Lady Muck simply doesn't wash up the Coast. No Liberal is as up herself and so contemptuous of those without political or financial power. She had two goes at Jim Lloyd and he beat her twice, for no other reason than Lloyd is a nice person and Neal isn't. Having no judgment of people or situations is a significant disadvantage in politics (trust me on this, I hear you cry).
The smartest thing the Liberals could have done at the last election was for Lloyd to bag Howard publicly and win as a quasi-independent - and most importantly, beat Neal a third time. If Lloyd runs next time, the voters will gratefully take him back. In fact, anyone the Liberals run has a better-than-average chance. Even if Labor win another 20-30 seats at the next Federal election, Robertson and a seat in Tasmania will be the crumbs that fall to the Liberals from the Labor banquet. The most convincing campaign against Belinda Neal will win.
The Liberal operation on the Central Coast was built by Chris Hartcher three decades ago, bearing its first fruit with his election to State Parliament in 1988. It has a surprisingly large and committed membership, similar demographics in other parts of the country have a shallow Liberal presence or none. In the past ten years or so the Liberals have run Labor close on the four State and two Federal seats in that region (real Coasties consign everything north of Lake Munmorah to the Hunter). They're Howard battlers and working families, and they resent public sponging from single mums on the dole - someone who earns as much as ten Erina scrubbers and is ten times worse has no chance. We've all had hairy nights at Iguana Joe's, but most of us are big enough to walk away rather than screech like a Blackwall bogan. You'll never come through for the Coast if you do that in Canberra, or kick someone while they're down.
Della Bosca will not be able to marshal Labor troops to defend three Labor non-entities up the Coast, or persuade public servants to vote against themselves. If ever there was an extinct volcano, he has to be it. When the Central Coast Liberals get the right candidates and a solid campaign a year out, they will get up regardless of anything O'Farrell or Nelson might do.
It's too much to expect that the Coast is where the Liberal revival begins, but only just. I wouldn't go to them for a tax policy or greenhouse action, but a community of enthusiastic commuters has a lot to say about petrol (and public transport), interest rates and healthcare. If you can win the Coast, you can win the country.
Speaking of not winning the country, Nick D'Arcy should not be going to Beijing because he should have known that one outburst could undo thousands of hours of training. That's why this hapless Charlie (you'll need to be a Crikey supporter) is so pathetic. A long-term enabler of clowns like Wayne Carey or Gary Ablett getting way ahead of themselves, this writer trots out the same bleats for the undeserving (awww, he's had a bit of criticism poor lamb). A vote for D'Arcy is a vote for someone with no qualities beyond technical performance. If he went to Beijing and medalled, you know he'd be insufferable (if he lost, he'd blame everyone but himself) and there are better targets for endorsements with the focus and temperament that D'Arcy lacks.
D'Arcy and Neal have known privilege and cannot believe they can be called to account for it. Being able to handle your grog in social settings is a key part to being Australian, and those who can't arouse contempt. Neal-Della Bosca is the war on alcopops come back to bite Rudd and Iemma (a few alcopops are had at Iguana Joe's from time to time). D'Arcy shattered the Thorpe-O'Neill Team Nice approach to swimming like a Chinese baton on a Tibetan skull. They really believe they can tough out situations that require a quick bite of humble pie, and by ignoring that show no ability to represent anyone at anything.