EDITORIAL |Sophie takes responsibility
SOPHIE Mirabella has pleaded with Liberal Party members to give her a second chance, conceding she “got it wrong” in Indi.
The former North East MP makes the admission in a preselection campaign letter, in which she says she regrets being caught in “the Canberra bubble” and not spending enough time in her electorate.
Mrs Mirabella argues she remains the party’s best chance of winning back Indi from the “ineffective independent” Cathy McGowan, who she accuses of having run a campaign “masquerading as conservative” with Labor and Greens’ support.
But the fight to win back Indi will not be easy, she warns, and will be impossible if the Liberals run a regular centralised campaign instead of a localised effort.
The letter, leaked to The Border Mail, is the first time Mrs Mirabella’s thoughts on her 2013 election loss have been made public.
Indi became a seat to watch when Ms McGowan’s grassroots campaign toppled the Liberal incumbent by fewer than 400 votes after Mrs Mirabella had held Indi for 12 years.
The letter, with its apparent contrition, has been sent to local Liberal members ahead of next weekend’s preselection conference in Benalla, where Mrs Mirabella will face off against Melbourne-based anaesthetist Andrew Walpole and Wodonga businessman Kevin Ekendahl.
Mrs Mirabella writes that she devoted
considerable time to her shadow cabinet
duties in her role as opposition spokeswoman for industry and science, as well as being “a team player” in campaigning in other electorates to ensure a Coalition victory.
“Clearly, I got the balance wrong and needed to spend more time here in Indi,” the letter reads.
“This is something I take full responsibility for.
“My time out of the Canberra bubble has provided me with a renewed perspective... The North East is where my home and heart is.”
She writes that, as an outspoken proponent of Liberal values, she was in the firing line of political opponents who “threw their resources behind an independent campaign... firmly backed by Labor and the Greens”.
But the “humbling” loss changed her, she says, leading her to reconnect with the local branch and a “fresh plan” for the electorate.
“We clearly require our candidate to have a high profile in our community... have local media knowledge, skills and ability to strongly demonstrate how ineffective the incumbent independent has been,” the letter reads.
“We need to be able to contrast Ms McGowan’s lack of achievement with someone who already has a strong track record of delivering for our local community.
“However, one thing is certain — we will not win if a regular centralised campaign is run from miles away.”
More than 200 party members and delegates will vote in Sunday week’s preselection contest; two-thirds of the vote will come from locals and the remaining third from party delegates from across the state, as well as from Liberal state headquarters.
A divide has already been reported within the party, with Mr Ekendahl winning the endorsement of Victorian Liberals president Michael Kroger.
Mrs Mirabella says she has used her contacts to approach “my former Ministerial colleagues on (residents’) behalf and solving local problems”.