A by-election with something for everyone

IS there anything the upcoming Orange state by-election isn’t going to reveal?

Depending on who you listen to, the November poll is going to make clear the depth of public distaste for the Mike Baird government, the depth of public support for a revitalised Luke Foley government, the anger about former state member Andrew Gee’s move to federal politics or the future of the National Party itself.

It is going to act as a poll on support – or the lack of it – for the NSW Government’s council mergers and greyhound racing ban, though how the size of the swing will be divided up between those two contentious policy decisions is unclear.

This week the by-election also became a judgement on deputy premier Troy Grant.

A poor result, some said, would lead to Mr Grant’s resignation as NSW Nationals leader, though the ex-country cop and Member for Dubbo said that would not be the case.

That’s a lot of importance being placed on one poll – and it explains why Mr Foley has been a frequent visitor to the electorate in recent months, also dropping in on a greyhound meeting at Bathurst in September to stoke the anger about the racing ban.

A cynic might suggest that the NSW Labor leader might have struggled to find the Central Tablelands on a map only a few months go, but he is certainly familiar with the region now.

He might admit, privately, that a win in the seat is a big ask considering its history, but a big swing will give him something solid with which he can whack the Baird government and will put the wind up various Coalition members who don’t have a big electoral buffer to protect them.

The problem with all the speculation about what this coming by-election will reveal is that those most insistent on their interpretation are usually those with the most at stake.

Like foreign players getting involved in a domestic disturbance, all the outside influences seeking to impose themselves on this by-election are forgetting something simple: this election is about local people – their future, their problems, their concerns and their ambitions.

Will each side of politics try to twist the by-election results to suit its own narrative?

Of course. It has ever been thus.

Will the by-election reveal something about the state of politics in NSW?

Of course. What it reveals, though, will depend on who is talking.

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