Amidst all the excitement following the execution of the arrogant, self serving and reprehensibly inept State Labor government, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s own nail biting return to office as the Member for Sydney has barely been reported. When the last votes were counted and the final results for the State election were posted on the Electoral Commission’s official site, Clover Moore only won 54 more first preference votes than her Liberal Party opponent Adrian Bartels. As the President of the local business partnership in Kings Cross and Potts Point, Bartels has stood up for the very late night pubs and clubs that Clover has campaigned tirelessly to curtail. While she has campaigned on behalf of a highly mobilized minority of cranky baby boomers seeking a good night’s sleep in the heart of Sydney’s historic red light district, Bartels has championed a thriving 24 hour economy to rival Hong Kong, New York or Amsterdam. An openly gay, civil libertarian, Bartels launched his campaign at the Arq Nightclub, a 24 hour night club on Taylor Square in the heart of Sydney’s highly visible, gay district, where late night gay bars have clustered to the delight of international visitors who have wanted anything but a good night’s sleep. Moore’s white glove campaign to clean up Sydney of graffiti, street posters free distribution newspapers, café tables, signage in any form and every last vestige of late night drinking has put her at odds with the vast majority of city residents who want to live with the action is. Barry O’Farrell’s decision to select an openly gay candidate in the seat of Sydney helped reposition the party in the hearts and minds of inner city voters, who (perhaps rightly) feared that the election of a conservative government would lead to the resurgence of the religious right. In the inner city seat of Coogee, to its credit, the Liberal party elected an openly gay Member to the State Parliament, Bruce Notley-Smith, the former Mayor of Randwick, who defeated the Labor Party incumbent, Paul Pearce.
After preferences were distributed in Sydney, Moore suffered a 13 point swing against her. Clover’s previous two thirds majority victory of 2007 was whittled away to a razor thin 53% win. Like the other matriarchs of Sydney politics with whom Moore has closely identified herself of late: the former Premier Kristina Kennealy from South Sydney and the former Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt of Newtown, Moore suffered a stinging setback and her once safe Independent seat has become marginal. Luckily for Clover, she did not go the way of the former Education Minister Verity Firth, who lost the Labor heartland of Glebe and Balmain. After every last postal vote was counted for close to a week, Firth conceded defeat to the first Green Party member in the NSW Parliament, Leichhardt Council Mayor Jamie Parker, who will sit next to Clover Moore in the State Parliament.
Whether or not Moore can learn the lessons of this year’s election results is anyone’s guess. Four years ago her two thirds popular vote in the State election translated to majority control of City Council. Six of the current ten Councillors who now enact local government decisions at the City of Sydney were elected on her coat tails. Since then her team has fractured over palace intrigues around who would be Deputy Lord Mayor and over serious policy disputes about Moore’s Ill advised decision to support her ally Kristina Kennealy by sitting on the board of Barrangaroo Authority while it sold off publicly owned Sydney Harbour Foreshore land to developers.2012 is just around the corner. If Clover Moore attracts the same popular vote next time as she did this time around, she will serve as Lord Mayor without a majority over a fractured and unruly City council, if she even decides to stand again. As the State of NSW prepares to swallow the bitter pill of Liberal party reforms and a resoundingly elected conservative government starts to slash and burn a bloated, self-serving bureaucracy, it is a good time to avert our gaze and think about local city governance. Can Clover Moore, ever the astute politician shift course and embrace a vibrant and diverse local economy that is brash, crass and cashed up rather than use her ever expanding army of local government bureaucrats to police a very tired nanna state? Your guess is as good as mine.