Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Testing times for Clive

I don't think anyone expected Clive Palmer to do as well in the September 2013 federal election as he did. His party's stakes rose to unanticipated heights following polling day and we should not have been surprised when everything started to come unstuck in the new year. There have been seven defections from the party since then. On top of that Palmer's nickel business has been hit hard by the slump in commodities prices - it's a global market and so this is something that is completely out of the control of any individual proprietor - which is probably even more regretted by the man himself, than his electoral problems.

Two of the most visible defections - Senator Glenn Lazarus in Queensland and Senator Jacquie Lambie in Tasmania - have presented their own unique challenges as well because it looks as though those two now-independents are going to establish political parties of their own in advance of the federal election to be held later this year. Palmer's template has also been snaffled by South Australia's Nick Xenophon, who has already announced he'll be fronting candidates for the election in a range of seats under the banner of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT). A snappy label to be sure and the man himself has his own personal brand to ride on, one grounded in a stubborn righteousness that might play better in the community that Clive's mere offering of vague difference.

But despite all the controversies and setbacks, Clive still has a strong profile and a strong recognition in the community, assets which should help him as he moves into election mode again this year. For no doubt he will run again. He won his own seat of Fairfax last time and he can win it this time if he plays his cards right with those tricky Sunshine Coast voters.

In the final analysis Clive has achieved some pretty impressive things and I think a lot of people have been surprised that he's still got skin in the game after so many public reverses. He launched out on his own on the back of nothing more than his odd media presence, and turned that into something reasonably credible at the polls. The defections have hurt him badly, and it will be a challenge for him to find suitable candidates to run next time, people who he can not only trust but who can trust him. How many of them stick around and how many jump ship to turn independent is a question for the prognosticators. I'm not game enough to try to intuit what will happen next year, once the election fervour has subsided and people wake up to normal life. We'll see. One thing you can be sure of is that Clive will be in our faces coming down the straight toward polling day. He's always good for a few laughs.

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