Liberal lament

Mayo’s by-election has been run and won, with voters clearly demonstrating their will to reappoint Centre Alliance candidate Rebekha Sharkie as their representative in Canberra.
In a result that is all but disastrous for the Liberal Party, Ms Sharkie has extended her two party preferred lead in the once blue-ribbon Liberal seat and is now the favorite to hold the electorate for the long-haul.
Liberal candidate Georgina Downer appeared to be a very capable person with a list of star qualities including a political upbringing, high-end Government connections, an impressive academic record and experience as a foreign diplomat and lawyer.
Her family has a long history in the Hills and her father, Alexander Downer, enjoyed the significant support of Mayo voters for 24 years.
Mayo slipped from the Liberals’ grasp at the 2016 general election as the result of a deeply unpopular Liberal candidate brought in to replace Mr Downer.
That election was a ‘perfect storm’ with the Nick Xenophon factor – to which Ms Sharkie was attached – shining brightly.
It would have been reasonable to assume that in the current political landscape – without Jamie Briggs or Nick Xenophon – most protest voting conservatives would have returned to the fold.
Not so. Despite Ms Downer’s impressive qualifications she barely managed to match the level of support given to Mr Briggs.
Ms Sharkie’s hard-working, approachable reputation made her a tough opponent and Ms Downer had plenty of lead in her saddlebags from the start.
She was burdened by the fact that she had not lived in SA for 20 years, had previously stood for preselection in a safe Liberal seat in Melbourne, was a member of the ‘Downer dynasty’ and was employed by the right-leaning IPA.
Regardless of the merit of these perceptions, the same residents who elected three Liberal MPs at the March State election failed to follow their earlier conservative leanings on Saturday.
The approaching general Federal election may be fought on national rather than local matters – which could change people’s voting habits.
But the Party must be disappointed that its star candidate failed to reverse the polls, only just managing to maintain the low point set in 2016.