An automatic consequence of Latho’s resignation from Parliament will be a by-election for his seat of Werriwa. One Labor member is quoted in the SMH as saying:
“There’s a real prospect in the current climate that we’ll lose that seat,” one MP, who asked not to be named, said. “It’s an unfair legacy for whoever becomes leader. This could be a Wills [lost by Labor after Bob Hawke quit] or a Cunningham [lost after Steve Martin quit].”
Nevertheless, there’s already interest in contesting the seat:
Members said there were “a couple of high-profile candidates” in consideration for Werriwa. “At any Labor Party funeral it’s always a hot topic at the wake,” said one MP.
A bungled preselection in Cunningham early in Simon’s reign led to the seat’s loss to the Greens, and some early loss of authority and legitimacy for Crean. There are two important things about the preselection in Werriwa. First, as any number of observers (including Peter Beattie) noted, poor candidate quality was a factor in the last election loss. Safe seats are too often given to hacks. Who can remember any contribution made by the current Member for Blaxland? Secondly, a by-election will probably lead to a candidate being selected by the NSW executive rather than through a plebiscite. This raises the stakes for the new Leader to insist that a quality candidate be selected, rather than someone who’s done the hard yards in the NSW Right machine.
Latham held Werriwa with a margin of 9.3%, attracting a swing of 0.8% over 2001. It’ll still be a difficult campaign for Labor so it’s important the party get it right.