Election now a true battle

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The shock resignation of NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell on Wednesday is at first glance a blessing for Opposition Leader John Robertson and the Labor Party.

Just three years after being batted into oblivion by the electorate, Labor is suddenly back in the picture and much of it comes down to a single bottle of wine.

A bloody expensive bottle of wine, but a bottle of wine nonetheless.

There seems no doubt that this whole saga has a few twists and turns yet to play out, but on face value, I do feel a little sorry for Mr O’Farrell.

I’ve met him probably four or five times and had a couple of long, one-on-one conversations and always felt he was a legitimate, hard working and sincere person.

When he became Premier three years ago it was on the back of a range of Labor Party scandals and dramas that the public had simply had enough of, and it seemed that Mr O’Farrell was, in some ways, the shining light.

It was never going to be easy and Mr O’Farrell certainly didn’t get it right all the time, but riding the wave of a first term government has always been one of the more difficult, perhaps underrated challenges in politics.

In the end, rules are rules and on Wednesday Mr O’Farrell realised the game was up.

Whether or not the line he’s sticking to about his memory lapse over the $3,000 bottle of wine is true or not will be a matter for the court of public opinion in the coming days and weeks.

The next big question will be who takes over as Premier and most in the know expect that person to be Mike Baird.

Some would say this gives the Liberals a clean slate and the honeymoon period will be enough to get them over the line at the election.

But did the slate really need cleaning?

I can’t see anyone winning out of this other than John Robertson and Labor, who will now feel they have a legitimate chance of winning next year’s election, a thought that would have had you sent to the nearest loony bin just a few short days ago.

Given Mr O’Farrell’s departure is not the result of a long-standing controversy and came so quickly, there’s no built-up public anger, which could benefit the Liberals during their re-build.

But it will also allow Mr Robertson to take a whole new platform to the election, one that could see him become Premier around this time next year.

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