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April 2, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Political Porn With Hamish – Unconventional Leadership: Staying Out Of The House

Two weekends ago, the Liberal National Party (LNP) ended 14 years of Labor (ALP) rule with a landslide victory. With 44 seats switching from red to blue, the Campbell Newman-led LNP finished the night on 78 seats, with Labor on just seven.

Newman, who resigned as Lord Mayor of Brisbane to become LNP leader, led his party to election victory despite never have sat in Queensland’s Parliament. Non-Parliamentary leaders are a rarity in Australia, with 1898 the last example, according to the ABC.

Much of the early polling showed a comfortable election victory for the LNP, shifting the media’s focus to the seat of Ashgrove.

Ashgrove, which was held by former ALP Minister Kate Jones, was chosen as the electorate Newman would contest. This was despite the 7.1 per cent swing to the LNP required for Newman to be elected and thus become state Premier; unlike New Zealand, Queensland uses optional preferential voting, meaning there is no party list for a leader to fall back on, should one fail to win his or her seat.

Hamish is generally wrong. Tell him why on Twitter: @mishviews

Further, Ashgrove had been held by the ALP since 1986, making the move high- risk; failure for Newman to win would have seen a new government elected without a Premier-apparent. The move, however, was also well thought out. LNP insiders manufactured a ballot to install Newman as leader, after polling showed he was the only conservative politician to match the popularity of Anna Bligh, the departing Queensland Premier, during the Queensland floods. In both his 2004 and 2008 Mayoral elections, Newman carried the vote amongst voters in Ashgrove. On the night, Newman got home with a 13 per cent swing, exceeding the 7.1 per cent required.

Unlike Queensland, non-Parliamentary leaders have not experienced the same level success in New Zealand. Last year, Don Brash’s leadership of ACT saw the party be reduced from five MPs to just one. Upon his appointment, Brash boldly claimed that ACT could capture 10-15 per cent of the party vote. Party sources have indicated that ACT’s membership doubled within a few months of his appointment.

Brash failed to gain traction and resorted to political sideshows such “one law for all” and the decriminalisation of cannabis. That being said, I do feel that ACT’s party vote was suppressed due to polling indicating National’s Paul Goldsmith would win Epsom, resulting in voters not having confidence to vote ACT as a “party alternative.” Brash was also not helped by high profile candidate Don Nicholson being AWOL on the campaign.

The Greens have had some success with a non-Parliamentary (co-)leader. Russel Norman served as the party’s male co-leader from 2006 to 2008, entering Parliament upon Nandor Tanczos’ resignation. At the 2008 general election, the party won 3 extra seats.

A fortnight ago, a by-election was held in riding of Toronto—Danforth, a Canadian federal electoral district. The by-election was forced due to the death of the then leader of the NDP and Official Opposition, Jack Layton.

Layton, a former Toronto city councillor, was elected the party’s leader in 2003 as a non-Parliamentary leader until his election in Toronto—Danforth a year later. Like Newman, Layton did not select a “safe seat” to run in. Although left-leaning, the Liberal’s Dennis Mills had held the seat since 1988.

Despite limited success initially, Layton led the NDP to 103 seats at the 2011 election, up on the 37 won in 2008. Much of this was due to Layton’s personal popularity, with the NDP’s focus on Layton leading to commentators labelling the party’s campaign as “presidential”. Sadly, only a matter of months after his election as Leader of the Official Opposition, Layton died, following a battle with cancer. Layton’s final act was to write a “letter to Canadians”, which he finished with, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Leaders outside the House have shown mixed results. It could be a move we may see more often in New Zealand, should Labour shift to its members electing the party leader, now that Newman has shown the way.

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