Disgraced former Liberal MP and bizarre anti-Jewish conspiracy theorist Ken Aldred is leading the charge in Melbourne’s south-east suburbs against proposals for constitutional change in the Liberal party.
Despite being disendorsed last year as a federal Liberal candidate, Aldred continues to wield substantial power in the south-east where he is the President of the Holt federal electoral council.
Joining him on its executive – and believed to be factionally aligned with the anti-semite – are councillors from the notorious Casey council Lorraine Wreford, Mick Morland and Brian Hetherton.
Aldred and his gang have been haunting local branch meetings in recent times, rabble-rousing against the plan.Â Some suspect Ken Aldred was the author of the email sent to the party room and many branch members in the south-east that railed against the Liberal Futures Committee recommendations.
Kroger faction operatives – keen to support the reform plan – are worried that Aldred and his Baillieu faction aligned cronies are quite effectively complaining about the impact on the power of branches within the party.
The most recent meeting of the party Policy Assembly saw an amusing display of theatre relating to the reforms. Presided over by Tony Snell and “Old Man Winter” party president David Kemp, the gathering convened buzzing with talk of the changes and who would benefit and who get shafted.
The state party room was represented by upper house leader David Davis. Kroger aligned forces say that when confronted with a tough and direct question by former Costello staffer Kelly O’Dwyer about whether the state parliamentary party was supporting the reforms.
Her question – and others – were reputedly drafted and prompted by Senator Mitch Fifield, who was SMSing instructions to his minions throughout the meeting according to an eye-witness.
Mitch’s enthusiasm for ‘txt’ is such that some have come to suspect him of being the leak to SkyNews of yesterday’s leadership spill that saw the election of Malcolm Turnbull to the federal party leadership.
Davis’s response was just as intriguing as O’Dwyer/Fifield’s question. He wouldn’t answer the question about what the state party room response to the reforms was. His backers say there was good reason: there is no single party room response. There are many views. But his explanation of that seemed a little disingenuous, convoluted, lengthy and verbose to his critics who were seeking some insight from the principal Baillieu numbers man about which way he was leaning on the changes. He – like many other prominent party members – wasn’t giving much away.
The fact that Tony Snell was nodding along with the answer – so empty of meaning and full of platitudes – proved to some observers that this stage of the debate about constitutional change is just a phoney war. The real fight will begin when the actual amendments surface. And it will be a fight to death for many old party warriors, with the pragmatists and “Hollowmen” on one side and mostly geriatric blue rinse power-hungry jealous guards of fiefdom on the other.Â An irresistible case for change has been made, with facts like the zero members in the state seat of Kororoit providing compelling case studies of the problem, but it runs into the immovable object of those running party branches who will fight to the last man and the last scone to hang on to their branch.
Unlike Ken Aldred, they are at least motivated by doing good in the world, as they see it. His intervention – and the power he continues to wield – shows just how great the organisational challenges still faced by the Liberal party’s wealthiest and once most powerful division.