Image for Chardonnay Socialists, tradies desert Labor. Eric’s in control ...Duh!

MY MATE — I’ll call him the Gym Rat because he works out every day — has voted Labor all his life.

So fanatically Labor that years ago when I put my election pamphlets on the reception desk of a gym I just happened to own, he threatened to quit his membership and take 10 others with him.

Imagine my surprise when between dumb-bell sets last week Gym Rat told me he was voting Liberal for the first time in his life.

Why?

‘‘Labor stinks like rotten eggs, mate, and I can’t stand Bartlett’s smarmy look,’’ he said.

Now the Gym Rat is quite well off; a chardonnay socialist laced with a smidgin of scotch and soda capitalism.

But next day some fiercely unionised tradies fixing up the changerooms voiced similar sentiments, spiced with obscenities.

Admittedly, my unsolicited little gym sample is no Newspoll, but it’s convinced me that blue and white collar workers alike are deserting Labor in droves.

And let’s face it. The Bartlett Government doesn’t deserve to be re-elected.

After promising much, Premier David Bartlett has failed to deliver; he’s spent most of his term undoing bad policy in an attempt to appease voters; or in the case of education sticking to a policy he should’ve shelved.

Pigheaded or populist; smacking of desperation; showering the electorate with cascades of cash to make up for lack of vision.

So what’s the alternative? Liberal leader Will Hodgman has been instructed to make himself a small target because governments lose elections, oppositions don’t win.

The time Mr Hodgman has put into media training is paying off nicely: unlike Mr Bartlett, he looks relaxed and trustworthy with his open face and boyish good looks; the sort of bloke middle-aged mums want to cuddle.

The danger for Mr Hodgman is that he doesn’t appear too lightweight; certainly he didn’t show much willpower dealing with the female candidate catfight at the Taste of Tasmania.

His inaction allowed the fiasco to turn into a Liberal factional brawl, fanned by the state’s leading publicity hound, Marti Zucco.

Mr Hodgman went into a panic; wrongly calling Liberal members and accusing them of leaking to the media, which only made the difficult situation worse.

The most amusing part of the debacle was the apparent shockhorror revelation that the state Libs are in the grip of Senator Eric Abetz and the religious right.

Duh! The senator, with the dripping tap voice, has been controlling the Liberal Party in Tasmania for the past 20 years, as if you didn’t know.

Nobody does anything without Eric’s permission.

Even me. When I wanted to challenge Sue Napier for the Liberal leadership I had to go down on bended knee first to ask the senator if he approved. (Unfortunately, he gave me the nod.)

He anoints state directors, presidents and candidates. Even federal leaders. Did you notice who was at Tony Abbott’s side in Canberra when he took over? Eric, of course.

And who got promoted in the shadow ministry? Eric, of course.

Rest assured, the good senator will manipulate young Will as well.

I haven’t forgotten Greens leader Nick McKim: defiant as always in his open-necked shirt to underline the differences with his conservative pinstriped opponents.

Articulate and adroit, a great parliamentary performer, and certainly the most believable Green in a long time.

But, please, don’t believe him when he says a minority government will be good for Tasmania.

The Greens have no real policies; only wedge issues. Then again policies

don’t win elections anyway.

MY TIP: Liberal 11 seats; Labor 10; Greens 4.

Bob Cheek was leader of the Tasmanian Liberal opposition from August, 2001, until July, 2002. He was elected to the House of Assembly in 1996 and lost his seat at the 2002 election. This article appeared first in The Examiner.

Bob Cheek’s collected works on Tasmanian Times are: HERE