Libs not running forces Wynne’s loss to Greens
The Victorian Liberals believe they have dealt a near unassailable blow to Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s re-election chances after deciding not to field a candidate in his marginal seat of Richmond.
Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger confirmed yesterday that the party would run in the seats of Brunswick, Melbourne and Northcote, but not in Richmond. It’s a direct hit on Mr Wynne, whose seat is under attack from the Greens and who would have relied upon Liberal preferences to win.
The decision came after weeks of deliberations in which the party toyed with the idea of leaving all four seats “dead” or without a candidate, in a bid to force Labor to square off against the Greens in a direct battle.
A former Melbourne lord mayor, Mr Wynne won the seat by fewer than 1500 votes in 2014, and was trailing Greens candidate Kathleen Maltzahn in the count before Liberal preferences pushed him into the winning spot.
Speaking to The Australian, Mr Kroger declared the Liberal Party was not a “preference machine” to help the re-election of the Andrews government. “(We) will not be complicit in assisting in the re-election of Richard Wynne,” he said. The party made the decision just hours before the Victorian Election Commission closed nominations at noon.
While the Liberals will now field candidates in Northcote, Brunswick and Melbourne, Mr Kroger said no final decisions on preferences had been made.
The Liberal Party scored 24 per cent in Melbourne, 21 per cent in Richmond, and slightly more than 16 per cent in both Northcote and Brunswick.
While Liberal strategists believe the move has assured the end of Mr Wynne’s almost 20-year tenure in the seat, Labor strategists have talked down the threat.
“Nothing changes,” a senior Labor strategist said. “We always anticipated the Liberals wouldn’t run, we’ve also based our strategy in the city on the reality that the Liberal Party would not stand in any of those seats.”
Within campaign ranks, there is a sense that Labor’s primary vote will hold up against the Greens, and that Premier Daniel Andrews is popular with inner-city voters.
Campaigning shortly before the decision about inner-city candidates was made public, Opposition Leader Matthew Guy made it clear the Liberals would not be helping Mr Wynne, even if it meant that some Liberal supporters living close to the inner city weren’t able to back a Liberal candidate come election day.