THE simmering tension between the Coalition partners could erupt in Indi with former Nationals MP Ken Jasper accompanying independent candidate Cathy McGowan on the campaign trail at the Wangaratta football derby on Sunday.
Ms McGowan is looming as the biggest threat to Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella with claims already made elements of the National Party are assisting in bringing the incumbent down on September 7.
Mr Jasper is an Ovens and Murray Football-Netball League board member.
He admitted yesterday he took Ms McGowan on a meet-and-greet at the Magpies-Hawks clash at Norm Minns Oval.
“People can interpret what happened on Sunday how they like,” Mr Jasper said.
“I think she is a very good candidate and she came to me to get some advice in the early part.
“I am not on her committee and I am not involved directly in her campaign at all.
“But I know the lady and her family well.”
It is the first public evidence of disgruntled Nationals helping out Ms McGowan.
The Nationals are upset with the Liberals’ decision to stand a candidate in the seat of Mallee and speculation is rife Liberal and Labor will preference each other ahead of the Nationals.
John Forrest held the seat of Mallee for the Nationals for 20 years and his retirement has led to the Nationals and Liberals each fielding candidates as per a Coalition agreement.
Mrs Mirabella recently spent time in Mallee campaigning for Liberal candidate Chris Crewther.
Her office was aware of Mr Jasper helping Ms McGowan when contacted yesterday.
“There is only one candidate that is part of Tony Abbott’s team,” Mrs Mirabella said.
Mr Jasper remains guarded about his link to the McGowan campaign.
“It is clear she is getting a lot of momentum across the electorate,” he said.
“She has got a lot of people supporting her.
“The momentum is coming from within Indi.”