On the available evidence it is now probable that John Robertson will one day be Premier of New South Wales. Robertson is not unlike Bob Carr or Mike Rann in the circumstances in which he came to his party’s leadership. All three were elected leaders after Liberal governments had just cruised to enormous victories. Yet these landslide wins are often curses in disguise, large sprawling backbenches invariably contain malcontents who resent not being invited to serve in the ministry. Then there is the unsustainable size of the majority. If the Liberals were to win the 2015 with 54% of the two party preferred vote-a landslide by any measure-they would still lose a good dozen seats in the process. And as their impending doom neared, the MPs holding these vulnerable seats will begin to lose faith in the ability of party headquarters to protect their majorities and will take matters into their own hands. Some may participate in embarrassing stunts in an attempt to raise their personal profile, others may go maverick, all of them will place downward pressure on their party’s statewide vote.
By contrast the opposition has few MPs to spare. Those lucky enough to have survived the great route of 2011 are now very busy exercising their new responsibilities and with the Labor vote having bottomed out at the previous election none of them are now at risk of losing their seats. Robertson now leads a small, disciplined and focused caucus of about 20 or so MPs whose morale could only increase from 2011 levels.
Under these circumstances we could have expected a good swing to Robertson in 2015 which would place the Labor opposition within striking distance for the subsequent election. Robertson would be credited with having taken his party from the brink of the abyss to within an inch of victory. The sense that one more heave could be all they need to get over the line will only serve to increase the discipline within the ranks as the opposition embark upon a clinical campaign to regain the soils of government. It’s a pattern we’ve seen before and under such circumstances the Labor opposition must surely be considered a good chance of being back in government before 2020, but obviously there is much more to these circumstances.
Barry O’Farrell was a highly effective politician. As Premier he oozed gravitas and made Robertson (and Kenneally) look like callow teenagers begging to be taken seriously. Mike Baird on the other hands while talented in his own right has a very different skill set to the Member for Ku-ring-gai. Baird fits the image of a lean and hungry treasurer, always up for a challenge. He probably has an exciting reform agenda for which he’s just itching to fight. In many ways these are admirable traits but they don’t radiate sturdiness and reliability which are must haves for any leader to be electable. And now there are rumours that the right faction is preparing for a revolt to be lead by Pru Goward, if this happens then the 2015 election begins to look high contestable. Yes, Premier Robertson is beginning to look quite probable.