City Hub

Is it over for Clover?

source: City of Sydney Council

As another year comes to an end, baubles and lights go up on trees across the city, but the whispers among the political inner circles are less festive. Everyone is asking the same question: Will this be Clover Moore’s last term as Lord Mayor of Sydney?

In September of this year the Shooters and Fishers Party pushed their business vote legislation through the NSW parliament. The reforms make business voting in local elections compulsory and give each business up to two votes; the apparent motive behind the move is the assumption that business owners are more likely to vote conservatively – and not for the progressive Clover Moore.

“The Liberal Party, with the help of the Shooters, is targeting the city, because they think they will get control of city government if they give the big end of town extra votes,” Ms Moore told 400 followers at a rally against the legislation in September.

Ms Moore expressed similar frustration towards the first ‘get Clover laws’ in 2012 when then Premier Barry O’Farrel passed legislation to mandate that an MP couldn’t also have a local council position. Clover Moore stood down from the State seat she had held for 24 years and endorsed Independent Alex Greenwhich who won the by-election by a landslide.

With changes to the local electorate under way, political insiders are speculating on Clover Moore’s future. Some beieve that there will be a backlash against the major political parties in favour of Clover Moore, as occurred when the state government forced the amalagamation of the City of Sydney in 2004 and again in 2012 when Greenwich defeated the Liberals with Clover’s endorsement. Others speculate that Clover Moore would lose votes next time around regardless of how business votes. They point out that Clover’s popular vote has dimished at every election and that she currently holds the balance of power by only one casting vote. Were she to be elected as Lord Mayor with a fractured Council, she would no longer be able to rule in a presidential manner. Some wonder whether Clover would want the job under these circumstances.

Of equal concern for the Lord Mayor is the fact that half of her ‘independent team’ has indicated that the current term will be their last on Council.

Both Cr John Mant, and the Deputy Lord Mayor Robyn Kemmis are said to be retiring from politics and only Councillors Jenny Green and Robert Kok are expected to run again.

The Lord Mayor celebrated her 69th birthday in October, a fact that surprises most punters. If she were to serve another term she would celebrate her 75th birthday while still holding the position of Lord Mayor.

Clover Moore’s office would not comment on her political future. While it is possible that she hasn’t decided yet, others, including some within council have suggested that she is too savvy for that. Many speculate that the Lord Mayor has already set the wheels in motion for a smooth transition to another Independent candidate, quite possibly Alex Greenwich. The strength of their political alliance is well known,  but the possibility of Alex making a run for the Mayoralty has been shot down bluntly by his office.

“Alex has no intention of running for Lord Mayor. If he is elected as Member for Sydney in March 2015, he is committed to seeing out the full term,” a spokesperson for Mr Greenwhich told City Hub.

The other candidate tipped to take over is the independent Councillor Angela Vithouklas.

Vithouklas campaigned directly against the Lord Mayor in the previous council elections but has since established a less confrontational relationship with Clover Moore.

In August this year Cr Vithoulkas was appointed by the Lord Mayor as the chair of the newly established small business committee and there have been no signs of vitriol between the two in recent council meetings.

Cr Vithoulkas told City Hub that she would “definitely be contesting the position of Lord Mayor in the 2016 council elections,” and said that she has “absolutely no idea” whether Clover Moore will do the same.

“I am an independent and I will run under my own ticket,” Cr Vithoulkas said to suggestions she might join Clover Moore’s independent team.

Cr Vithoulkas is a small business owner which bodes well for her with a significant increase in the business vote at the next election

The business voting reforms also make the conditions ripe for a Liberal Party Lord Mayor. Both serving Liberal councillors, Christine Forster and Edward Mandla are vying for preselection and other high profile candidates are likely to emerge.

“If my circumstances don’t change – and I don’t see them changing – I will certainly be putting my hand up for the Liberal Party preselection,” Cr Forster told City Hub.

Cr Mandla was the catalyst behind the business voting reforms and has always been clear on his aspirations for the office.

“2016 is certainly when I’m aiming to be Lord Mayor, there’s no doubt about that,” Cr Mandla told the ABC’s Radio National in September.

All Clover Moore has to do is see out the remainder of her current term to become the longest standing Lord Mayor of Sydney, overtaking Frank Sartor’s record which falls just shy of 12 years.

Perhaps it is the words of the famous New York Mayor, Ed Koch after being defeated after 12 years in the office which resonate most this council Christmas:

“I was defeated because of longevity…”Mr. Koch wrote in New York magazine. “People get tired of you. So they decided to throw me out. And so help me God, as the numbers were coming in, I said to myself, ‘I’m free at last.’”


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