News National Scott Morrison emerges with renewed vigour after a close shave in the NSW election

Scott Morrison emerges with renewed vigour after a close shave in the NSW election

Scott Morrison was buoyed by the NSW election result. Photo: AAP
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Scott Morrison took to the stage on Saturday night to celebrate Gladys Berejiklian’s victory before Labor leader Michael Daley had even conceded defeat.

Sporting a new haircut that looked distinctly like he had taken to his head with an electric razor, he offered a prediction that only someone with underdog status could get away with.

The Prime Minister told the crowd he would be back on stage in May to claim victory in the federal election.

“Liberal governments deliver a strong economy that deliver the essential services that Australians rely on, and that is what the good people of New South Wales have rightly backed tonight,” he said.
“And in two months from now, we’ll be back here celebrating another Liberal-National government return to office for the same reasons. Have a great night!”

For any other Prime Minister this would be hubris. For Mr Morrison it was just another sign that while he might not win the next election, he hasn’t given up trying.

Labor’s Tanya Plibersek was quick to sink in the boot, noting that the PM had been rarely seen or heard during the campaign.

“I saw Scott Morrison last night standing up to take credit for the win in New South Wales, which is pretty extraordinary given that he wasn’t allowed out of witness protection until hours after the booths had closed last night,” she said.

So what does the NSW election result tell us about the prospects of Labor’s would-be prime minister Bill Shorten at the next election?

Labor campaigners have long believed that NSW does not provide as much of a target-rich environment to pick up seats compared with Victoria and Queensland, but there’s still enough in the result to boost the morale of the Liberal Party.

The ALP’s target seats in NSW are well known and include Gilmore, Banks, Robertson and Reid.

While it would be unwise to assume that the state results can neatly transfer into the federal arena, the results on paper raise a question mark over whether Robertson and Reid are still in the Labor gain pile.

Reid, in Sydney’s inner west, remains a special case. It is a seat for which the Liberal Party doesn’t even have a candidate, despite knowing since the start of the year that Craig Laundy was quitting politics.

That saga has dragged out for months while the PM has tried and failed to find a star recruit.

Stan Grant was reportedly being courted by the Liberal Party to stand in Reid.

There was even a flurry of speculation on Saturday night that ABC journalist Stan Grant could be tapped to run, before voters awoke to the news in The Sun-Herald that Mr Grant had turned down the PM on Friday.

He’s not the first to do so. Mr Morrison has already been turned down by former NSW deputy police commissioner Nick Kaldas.

Meanwhile, campaigners for Labor candidate Sam Crosby haven’t seen any Liberal campaigners in the seat for months and an election will be called within weeks.

There are still fears the NSW ALP branch could implode over Michael Daley’s leadership after the election defeat, with Chris Minns likely to enter the contest.

Talks on Monday are likely to delay that showdown until after the federal election.

“The biggest danger for the Labor Party right now isn’t the election result, it’s the ability of the ALP to become completely self-obsessed at the worst possible moment and descend into a circular firing squad,” a Labor source said.

Mr Shorten will be working to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Then there’s the Nationals leader Michael McCormack, who received the kiss of death on morning television on Sunday – formal endorsement from the Liberal Party.
“In relation to personality conflicts, well, let me make it very clear – Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg, Arthur Sinodinos, for what it’s worth, and all of the other members of the Liberal-National Coalition back Michael McCormack as the leader to go into the election. He’s earned his spurs and is fighting hard in there,” Senator Sinodinos said.

If there’s one thing Nationals MPs hate it’s being lectured by the Liberals on who their leader should be.

Mr McCormack will survive until the federal election, but he’s unlikely to survive the year.

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