A win’s a win in Eden-Monaro

A messy and unedifying campaign – gaffes, sabotage and dirty tricks. And a pretty ordinary result in the Eden-Monaro by-election.

At the time of writing the Electoral Office has not yet declared it – – there are still some pre-polls and postals to be sorted. But it is clear that unless an unlikely number of Liberals voted early and/or often, Labor is across the line in Eden Monaro.

Not comfortably – the seat will still be marginal, as it was under two terms of the popular Labor retiree Mike Kelly. But a win’s a win whether by a nose or by the length of the straight. Even in  field of 14 they do not pay for a place.

And in fact almost all of the other candidates swung their preferences to Labor’s Kristy McBain, so although Labor’s primary vote went back by about 3 percent, the final outcome hardly budged. Very small by-election, not many interested.

This confounded the pundits, who had over-hyped the event something fierce. The inevitable Dennis Shanahan declared on the very day of polling that the contest would reverberate all the way to the next election, that it would show once and for all whether the noble and fearless leadership of Scott Morrison would finally vanquish the pusillanimous and negative Anthony Albanese,

But of course it did nothing of the kind. If it showed anything (and it obviously did not show much) it demonstrated that Morrison’s soaring popularity has not substantially changed voting patterns, and that Labor has still not cut through – the punters are not happy with either side, and will need a lot of convincing before they are ready to give either of them a real mandate, whether for change or for steady as she goes.

So Eden-Monaro will be forgotten very quickly – consigned to history long before Dennis Shanahan can be. And quite apart from the real concerns of coronavirus and China the government now has another problem to confront. Mathias Corman is ready to hang up his big black boots.

The Cormanator has been a fixture of the government since its inception – the Finance Minister for every Liberal Prime Minister, regardless of ideological bent or basic competence. He has been a reliable mediator in a fractious Senate and, just as vitally, has acted as a spokesman for the conservative cause, rasping out the talking points with robotic efficiency.

He has never been lovable – the fact that his Belgian accent reverberated in the manner of a baddie in an old war movie could be off-putting,  His depiction of Bill Shorten as a “a girly man”  grated. His gloating cigarsmoking at the 2014 election was not forgiven. And in the end Malcolm Turnbull branded him as a traitor.

But he will be missed, both as minister and fixer. Such officers are hard to replace and ScoMo is not exactly overwhelmed with talent on his backbench – or his front bench, for that matter. Another bloody reshuffle will be needed while the economic crisis over how to deal with the ending of JobKeeper and JobKeeper is looming to its uncomfortable climax.

And rumours of another possible resignation, as the strangely absent Immigration Minister David Coleman is said to be pondering his future. It’s almost enough to make a leader wish that he was back in marketing.  Or that he is.

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Mungo MacCallum is a veteran political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy.

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