Op­po­si­tion plan­ning spokesman Michael Da­ley is cer­tain to be the next NSW La­bor leader as party chiefs try to force the freshly ousted leader Luke Fo­ley out of par­lia­ment, with the next state elec­tion to be held in less than five months.

Mr Da­ley, who is deputy leader of the NSW La­bor Party, has the over­whelm­ing sup­port of the right fac­tion and is widely re­garded as the only vi­able suc­ces­sor to Mr Fo­ley.

Penny Sharpe, the op­po­si­tion spokes­woman for en­vi­ron­ment and her­itage, ap­pears to be the favourite to take over Mr Da­ley’s role as deputy leader, how­ever, La­bor spokes­woman for in­no­va­tion Yas­min Cat­ley is also in the mix.

Se­nior La­bor sources said last night there was only one other con­tender for the leader’s job — op­po­si­tion wa­ter spokesman Chris Minns — but in­sid­ers say he is not the pre­ferred can­di­date of La­bor head of­fice and “the unions loathe him”.

La­bor in­sid­ers say they are keen to in­stall Mr Da­ley as soon as pos­si­ble given the dam­ag­ing fall­out over a bomb­shell al­le­ga­tion by ABC jour­nal­ist Ash­leigh Raper yes­ter­day, in which she de­tailed an in­ci­dent that al­legedly oc­curred al­most two years ago at the 2016 NSW par­lia­men­tary Christ­mas party.

Mr Fo­ley’s threat to sue for defama­tion over Raper’s claim he put his hands in­side her un­der­pants has in­censed La­bor chiefs as it en­sures the “stench will con­tinue” all the way up to the March elec­tion. “The La­bor Party is con­cerned about the mes­sage this sends to women,” a se­nior La­bor source said last night. “There are also ru­mours head of­fice have funded Mr Fo­ley’s le­gal ad­vice, which is ab­so­lutely not true.”

Mr Fo­ley has flagged that he in­tends to re­main on the back­bench and run for his west­ern Syd­ney seat of Auburn at the elec­tion next March. A cri­sis meet­ing was called last night to con­sider whether he should be forced to ap­pear be­fore the party’s can­di­date re­view panel in an at­tempt to have him dis­endorsed as “un­fit”.

It is un­clear what im­pact Mr Fo­ley’s res­ig­na­tion will have on La­bor’s chances at the elec­tion, as Mr Da­ley’s pro­file is not known to many vot­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to polling con­ducted in June, the four key mar­ginal seats of Up­per Hunter, Holswor- thy, Pen­rith and Seven Hills were set to be com­fort­ably held by the govern­ment.

La­bor would need to win some of those seats in or­der to gain the seven re­quired to end the govern­ment’s ma­jor­ity.

But a Newspoll in March found the Lib­eral-Na­tion­als Coali­tion in NSW was even with La­bor on a two-party-pre­ferred ba­sis.

Mr Fo­ley had slowly chipped away at the govern­ment’s lead, with that poll show­ing the coali­tion’s pop­u­lar­ity over the op­po­si­tion had suf­fered a 4.3 per cent swing since the pre­vi­ous state elec­tion in March 2015.




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