SAVING PRIVATE McFEELY: Liberal party campaign director Tony Nutt spent six hours in marathon talks with resigned Richmond candidate to turn him

nutttorescue Victorian party director Tony Nutt is being given the credit for the astonishing change of mind made by Liberal candidate Tom McFeely after he quit the party and his candidacy yesterday morning only to back on track by late evening.

VEXNEWS exclusively revealed McFeely’s decision to quit yesterday. We are now in a position to provide a detailed update.

Sources familiar with the matter have told VEXNEWS that the party boss responded to a call from McFeely in the early evening and swopped upon him, attending the McFeely residence for some six hours of marathon talks.

Whatever Nutt said to McFeely is a closely guarded secret but the conclusion of the talks was that the high-profile gay community leader was back on deck and ready to sail.

VEXNEWS understand that the Liberal hierarchy was so keen to smooth over the troubled waters that Nutt even proposed that state party leader Ted Baillieu drop over for a near-midnight courtesy visit where he would reiterate Nutt’s lavish apologies for any misunderstandings that may have arisen in the course of the campaign. McFeely was gracious enough to indicate that generous gesture wasn’t necessary.

Yesterday, we reported that various clumsy acts by Nutt’s staff at 104 Exhibition Street had led to a number of spats between the star candidate and the party machine.

There was more to it though, insiders say, with McFeely feeling concerned that he was being treated like a dill by the party in circumstances where he was doing them a huge favour in running and has been a generous financial backer of the party.

McFeely had run for preselection for the second position on the Liberal ticket for the Metropolitan North province in the Legislative Council, a much prospective opportunity than running as a Liberal in the lefty seat of Richmond.

Despite promises from a number of people including local party official Stuart McCraith and others of strong support, when it came to a vote, insiders say, McFeely was knifed in favour of a more “socially conservative” candidate in the form of Craig Ondarchie.

Party officials are believed to be very relieved to have McFeely back in the cart and are amazed Tony Nutt was able to get it done. Insiders say McFeely is realistic about his chances in Richmond – partly why he was so insulted at being second-guessed in the first place – but looks forward to a strong showing that will improve his profile in the party.

Meanwhile, there continues to serious dispute within the Liberal party over Ted Baillieu’s almost certain plan to enter into a preference deal with the extreme-left Greens party that promises death taxes, massive hikes in electricity prices and the closure of the Melbourne zoo.

Essentially the battle-lines within the party on the issue are between federally focused Liberals who believe Baillieu needs to harden up and not have any association with the extreme-left party and state-focused Liberals who just want to get a decent result and don’t want feuding. Some expressed shock that state campaign spokesman David Davis has weighed in defending the Greens over allegations one of their candidates takes money from the coal industry and has profited from mining-related property development.

Baillieu is believed to have asked Michael O’Brien to monster dissidents – from his own Costello/Kroger faction – who have been speaking publicly in opposition to the leader’s plan to help the extreme-left party in return for not much.

O’Brien in full flight can be quite an intimidating sight, insiders say, and his principal role in the campaign is to silence critics of Baillieu’s proposed plan with the Greens.

It’s not worked that well so far though with senior figures Senator Helen Kroger and party strategists Tony Barry and Ian Hanke all condemning the preference hand-out as unprincipled, Liberal brand-damaging and bad for the country. The former PM John Howard has said much the same. One source, far too sympathetic to Red Ted than he should, told VEXNEWS that Howard’s pronouncement all but guaranteed that Baillieu would preference the Greens. He doesn’t like Howard’s style apparently, never forgiving him for knifing Peacock all those years ago and perhaps envying his considerable electoral success.

What’s regarded by well-placed insiders as essentially certain at this point is that the Liberals will go to the Greens ahead of Labor despite the ongoing public dispute over the issue. Less clear is whether the Greens will offer anything meaningful in return. While definitely useful tactically to the party, many Liberals are still unconvinced that the party can benefit from associating itself with the left fringe of politics which promises policies that are an anathema to party supporters and donors.

Some are counting the days – hoping Baillieu loses – and planning to revive the state party by clearing out the long-serving deadwood the current leadership has desperately fought to retain in order to preserve Baillieu’s hold on the leadership.



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3 responses to “SAVING PRIVATE McFEELY: Liberal party campaign director Tony Nutt spent six hours in marathon talks with resigned Richmond candidate to turn him

  1. Pisstopher Chryne

    I’ve had Tony’s nutts in my mouth before. Guess what he, I and McFeely have in common?

  2. Curious - Stonnington

    Let’s look at facts. As this is perhaps the last opportunity for TED to become Premier; he is hell-bent on giving GREENS preferences, irrespective of the opposition of just about every party member state-wide. He doesn’t care a hoot about giving them probable Lower House seats and greater presence IF it opens up the chance of him leading either a Minority Govt. or even a COALITION/GREENS one. He doesn’t care either about what the ‘rank and file’ think; or even the huge risk of alienating “thinking Coalition” voters in provincial and country seats everywhere. Looking after himself seems to be his only real prioity.

    I have just heard him say on 3AW with Tom Elliott that his number one priority is to remove or shackle JOHN BRUMBY. And when asked point-blank by a caller, he reiterated that. He didn’t answer the question directly, leaving the question of his preferred preferance allocation obvious. It is a pity that the likes of Dennis Napthine, Terry Mulder and Peter Ryan, all very senior Coalition figures, seem to be ignored.

    Ah well; some things never change. Or people too for that matter. he did it four years ago; now “come hell or high water”; he is going to do it again.

  3. Fiona Pickett

    The only decent thing the Liberals can do is preference the Greens. It is lemming like and saves us the trouble of hunting them down and shooting them.

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