The election of Liberal Robert Doyle is being toasted by anti-Greens party forces in Melbourneâ€™s inner-city as a highly amusing development.
The latte sippers of Melbourne will now live in a municipality governed by a Liberal well to the right of Ted Baillieu (most are of course). Baillieu’s spiritual leader Jeff Kennett thinks Doyle is too pushy and once verbally thumped him for his presumption and membership in a rival faction:
“He is very ambitious, he’s always put his ambition ahead of his commitment to the party in my opinion,” he said.”In fact, it was one of the reasons why I didn’t elevate him to the ministry in 1996.”
Kennett went on to infer that Doyle was not a “man of honour.” Jeff is nothing if not unsubtle.
Narrowly beating highly regarded Labor moderate Peter McMullin, Doyleâ€™s victory is considered a slap in the face for the extreme Greens Partyâ€™s agenda in Melbourne.
Some former Doyle supporters on Spring Street tell us they believe it could also spell trouble for both Premier John Brumby and Liberal leader Ted Baillieu, if Doyle is able to become as popular a Lord Mayor as his predecessor John So, it could very well provide Doyle with an opportunity to re-enter state politics, if Baillieu loses in 2010.
His feisty plans to re-open Swanston Street to traffic like the good old days when my mum used to drive up there in her purple V8 Holden Premier and his outspoken support of a tunnel to take road traffic out of the inner-city and put it underground will be seen as mainstream for a 3AW audience but are considered by even conservative inner-city residents as being rather radical.
VEXNEWS â€“as always â€“ is anticipating the carnage with some glee if Doyle attempts to implement his policies in a council predominantly â€“ but not exclusively â€“ dominated by free-spending, left-wing and unaccountable bureaucrats who will recoil with horror at some of Doyleâ€™s plans and attempt to bend him to their will. Theyâ€™ll probably succeed at the end of the day. They always seem to do so, leading one to wonder whether it might be best for the council officers to be elected too. The jobs pay more, so there’d be plenty of interest.
Greens party activists and their comrades from the Socialist Left of Labor are furious about Doyleâ€™s election and according to some reports were questioning their strategy of personally attacking Peter McMullin.
â€œAdam Bandt was reacting emotionally to being criticised by McMullinâ€™s attack machine and has now brought onto Melbourneâ€™s inner-city someone whose support base is in the right of the Liberal Party.â€
â€œThe Greens party polled very strongly and weâ€™re pleased with how our brand is going in the inner-city but Bandt has probably not done himself any favours internally with the way heâ€™s run the campaign. He hasn’t impressed,” a Greens party insider told VEXNEWS on Sunday on strict condition of anonymity.
STRONG SHOWING FROM MCMULLIN
Itâ€™s well worth noting too the impressive candidacy Peter McMullin, who emerged from a bruising campaign as clearly the strongest candidate in terms of his understanding of the issues. By contrast, Doyle in a Herald Sun online blog, expressed his concern when asked about the closure of the “council’s Southbank childcare centre.” Someone – quite possibly from VEXNEWS – might have been pulling his leg to test his knowledge of detail. There isn’t a council Southbank childcare centre. In fact there’s not much evidence of the council in Southbank at all except when it comes time to pay rates.
McMullin – a former Deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne – would have been a fine Lord Mayor and was probably uniquely able to balance the needs of residents and business and to work co-operatively with the state government while not getting steam-rollered. Originally slated to run as John Soâ€™s Deputy when So was planning to run again, he quickly pulled together an excellent campaign and managed to dominate the agenda throughout.
CATHERINE NG WAS SET TO WIN UNTIL SHE DROVE BY THE GRASSY KNOLL
Melbourne will be forever in McMullinâ€™s debt for preventing Catherine Ngâ€™s election. The random and quite possibly psychotic TAFE worker and former Planning Committee Chair who managed to raise $200,000 from unidentified sources for her lacklustre campaign would have been the greatest disaster ever faced in the Town Hall.
Alcohol fuelled, stream of consciousness emails, staff bullying, inconsistent planning decisions that made many suspicious and a cunning streak a mile wide all served to make her Melbourneâ€™s most hated councillor.
Without McMullin taking a stick to her with brilliantly effective mailings highlighting her dismal attendance record at council (we suspect an enduring legacy will be very high attendance records from now on), most observers believe she could well have won, even with Doyleâ€™s strong showing. Her preferences could not have been more favourable and she had the best kind of dummy candidate one can have, one who isnâ€™t fully conscious of the presence of the ventriloquist, in the form of human headline Gary Singer.
In the end though, Doyle won a branding/popularity contest because he is a very well known figure who had millions of dollars of statewide branding from the Liberal Party a few short years ago.
The election was a Seinfeld election, in many ways, because it was about nothing. Journalists like Ian Royall at the Hun, Kate Leahy at the Aged were, by all reports, only interested in stories about conflict between the candidates, not about policy proposals. VEXNEWS loves a fight so we were no doubt part of the problem.
In that climate it stands to reason that the most prominent bloke won. The fact he did so running what seemed like a disengaged, half interested campaign on the surface is a credit to Doyle in many ways. His reputation among the Big End of Town, the cityâ€™s business owners, property owners and investors is clearly strong. Many thought he deserved a go too after doing some very hard yards for four years as Liberal leader.
IT’S ALL DOWNHILL AFTER VICTORY
Now though Doyle faces an incredible challenge. He has to answer for a bureaucracy that probably is the complete reverse of his own political outlook. When it writes up bizarre reports talking up turning St Kilda Road into a hippy commune and vegetable patch for mung bean eating locavores, heâ€™ll have to explain it. When a nameless arts bureaucrats funds obscene or anti-semitic artwork, heâ€™ll be sent out to spin. When the council bureaucracy simultaneously complains about the lack of low-cost housing while knocking back planning applications that could keep costs down by adding to stock, heâ€™ll have to do his best to represent the councilâ€™s occasionally incoherent muddle-headed thinking.
Itâ€™s a job that he might imagine he can do part-time, with his senior government appointments and other roles. Heâ€™s clearly a very able man but heâ€™s going to learn the hard way that to ride the Melbourne City Council tiger without ending up inside heâ€™ll be needing to concentrate 24-7.
If he doesn’t, he’ll end up as road-kill on Swanston Street.
After all, he replaces one of the shrewdest and best politicians weâ€™ve ever seen. A Ronald Reagan without the political baggage, John So.
If he can keep out of trouble as So mostly did and manage to avoid blame for the bureaucracyâ€™s inevitable and frequent mistakes and minimise the wrath coming from noisy inner-city residents groups, he’ll be doing very well indeed.
Doyle will be rightly thrilled with winning after a bad result as Liberal leader in 2002 that demoralised his party and was mostly due to the lost of momentum from the Robert Dean enrolment scandal. But probably even sweeter will be the prospect that suddenly he’s back in town politically, with Ted Baillieu anxiously looking over his shoulder at the state’s most senior Liberal office-holder.
As some car rear-vision mirrors suggest “Objects in your mirror can be larger than they appear.” We can only he finds a way to run Red Ted, the worst state Liberal leader since chair-sniffing Troy Buswell, off the road.