What to do about Tony Windsor?
The Nationals proved they did not know how to deal with Tony Windsor in 1991 and 2001, and in 2012 they appear to be working vigorously to entrench the trend.
It’s not certain Mr Windsor, 61, will contest the election scheduled for late next year, but the Nationals are operating on the basis that he will, and in desperation have gone outside their own ranks to compete with him.
Richard Torbay, a former ALP member who currently is an independent state MP will become a National to contest Mr Windsor’s seat of New England. Cop that Barnaby.
But while he is keen to stand for the party in the federal poll, he is not so keen on being a Nationals state MP in the meantime and will retain some of the freedoms of being unaligned. He will be on board eventually, but not just yet.
This odd marriage of political convenience is one of many signs that Windsor has angered and prodded his political foes into befuddlement. They don’t know how to handle him.
Tony Windsor is a figure of ridicule and, in some overly excitable quarters, of hatred. This is for the simple reason that he has supported Labor’s minority federal government. When as an Independent he supported a minority NSW Coalition government he was not considered so evil.
But backing Julia Gillard has been a clear sign for some of his foes, and for some journalists who have never met him, that he is morally, ethically and intellectually flawed.
There is the usual claim that Mr Windsor is acting contrary to the wishes of his electorate. That might be proved so at the next election.
But the assessment ignores the fact that Tony Windsor has contested and won three state election and four federal elections. This is either a fantastic fluke or proof that he does have at least an inkling of what is best for the folk of New England.
And it could be that the locals have not so much been terrifically impressed by Mr Windsor, as resolutely unimpressed by the Nationals for the past 21 years. The voters elected Mr Windsor and not the party’s state candidate in 1991, and did so against in 2001 when he replaced the Nationals’ one term successor to Ian Sinclair, last of the Country/Nationals giants who had retired from New England in 1998.
So what to do about Tony Windsor in 2013?
It could be that because Mr Windsor was a Nat who turned independent, the party’s deep thinkers have decided that if they get someone to follow the reverse course they will have victory.
But if that is the motivation it would be superficial thinking of the type which has surrounded opponents of Mr Windsor for the past 21 years.
Back in 1991 he was set to get National pre-selection for the state seat of Tamworth but was denied it by a last-minute controversy over allegations of a drink-driving offence. Robbed of his expectation, Mr Windsor decided to run as an independent.
It was a tough campaign. Liberal Premier Nick Greiner and Nationals leader Wal Murray set up a team to help the Nationals’ candidate but Windsor won. It was a deep embarrassment. And he kept on winning.
Yesterday there were allegations and counter allegations that Richard Torbay had in 2009 been prepared to join the ALP. He has strongly denied this but Labor secretary in NSW Sam Dastyari has not withdrawn it.
But it seems obvious that somebody at some stage thought it might be a good idea were he to sit with Labor.
This could readily be seen as an endorsement of Mr Torbay’s talents. The Nationals also think he has the makings of a fine federal member and indeed Mr Torbay might win New England next election.
If he did win, it probably would be in spite of being a member of the National Party.
Follow Malcolm on Twitter: @farrm51
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