It beggars belief, Malcolm Farr said on Sundayâ€™s The Insiders, for Senator Nick Minchin, the free settlerâ€™s State most robust Tory, to claim that the Liberals ran the Mayo by-election â€˜under difficult circumstancesâ€™.
â€˜What difficult circumstances?â€™ Farr snorted as he went on to say describe the Liberalâ€™s campaign as incompetent.
Farr was correct when he said the elusive cricket bat wielding voters of Mayo lining up to send a bloody message to Rudd did not eventuate as the Liberals had predicted. Instead the voters of Adelaide Hills delivered a 10 per cent swing against the Federal Opposition. Not exactly the Bass by-election of 1974.
The result could have been a loss to the Liberals if the Greens only had an ounce of campaign organisational capacity to shift another two per cent of the 2PP vote.
Farr, nevertheless, was too harsh on Minchin. The SA Liberals were campaigning under difficult circumstance: a dud candidate. This was indicated by the dearth of Briggsâ€™ achievements in the Mayo campaign material and official website. Sure the portraits of his family were lovely but pictures without content are just pictures and punters smell the insincerity.
There was nothing to commend the endorsed Liberal candidate as an accessible yeoman who knows the local community. Briggsâ€™ greatest career achievements were as a adviser who championed Workchoices in the PMâ€™s office and an accompanying communications campaign â€“ gifts that keep on giving as far as Deputy PM and Workplace Relations Minister, Julia Gillard, is concerned.
Briggs will now return to Federal Parliament – albeit as a humble backbencher and not as a precious, self important insider. Most people predict that Briggs will throw himself straight into leadership intrigue. Unaligned factionally, Jamie will be hawking his vote for rapid elevation, many will say beyond his maturity and ability.
Nelson and Turnbull will predictably open their arms to Briggs. If Costello takes up the mantle as Opposition Leader, the reception may not be as warm.
Costello endorsed Bob Day, a multimillionaire property developer, as a preselection candidate for Mayo. The endorsement partly reflects Dayâ€™s long history in fundraising for Party; it also partly reflects Briggsâ€™ alleged intrigue to stymie Costelloâ€™s bid for PM in 2006.
Bob Day took umbrage toward Jamieâ€™s successful preselection result, claiming but not citing irregularities. Day threw his towel in with Family First which is well organised in South Australia.
Bob Day scored a respectable 11 per cent of the primary vote last Saturday. Family First preferences went to the anti-Christian anti-humanist Greens â€“ an unprecedented decision in that partyâ€™s short history â€“ before they went to Briggs. Family First must have felt strongly about Jamie!
Costello will not be embarrassed by his decision to back Day who was also close to Minchin. If he wants the leadership, Costello will not need Briggsâ€™ party room vote.
Jamie now has to ensure Mayo will move out of the marginal seat column by becoming relevant to his immediate constituency. Envious and ambitious eyes will be watching closely.