Thursday, September 04, 2008

POLITICS: Watkins walks ...

What a time for my State MP John Watkins to retire. You’d think he would take advantage of the Labor ascendancy in our local area.

Watkins is virtually invincible in Ryde. He won the seat in 1999 even when it was a notionally Liberal seat. The man Watkins first defeated in the seat of Gladesville in the 1995 State Election, Ivan Petch, has never forgiven the Liberals for dropping him in the last preselection. Petch delivered crucial preferences to Watkins in each subsequent state election, and will probably go on doing so. Even now, Petch is dividing the Liberal vote on Ryde Council. Watkins now has a 14.8% margin, making his seat very safe.

Just last November, the locals had given John W Howard the kind of electoral kick Prime Ministerial nightmares are made of. As Member for Ryde, Watkins has the benefit of a friendly Federal Member for Bennelong, an ALP-friendly Ryde Council and a divided Liberal opposition.

The Sydney Morning Herald claims Watkins’ departure was caused by his assessment that a member of the Left faction had never been Premier of the Premier State. That excuse never stopped Anna Bligh in the Sunshine State, even if she has copped flack from her own faction at times.

Watkins should feel like he is sitting in the box seat. Why is he suddenly walking? The answer is quite simple. John Watkins knows that Iemma is on the nose big time. And so is NSW Labor. If someone as clean-skinned as Watkins cannot defeat the NSW Libs, who can?

Without O’Farrell’s opposition to electricity privatisation, grassroots ALP voters would have been hung out to dry by the Iemmafia. With Watkins gone and no real alternative to a weak Iemma, the NSW Libs need only keep their factional warfare under control to win the next State Election. And they also need to win back Ryde.

Still, one should never underestimate the ability of NSW Liberals to politically shoot themselves in the foot.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf