Montefiore: Making a Lord Mayor

Sir Monty’s decision to finance a Lord Mayoral candidate in the November Town Hall poll is not as audacious as his choice of candidate.

The position falls vacant in just over four months. Lots of secret ‘strategy meetings’ already. Success will provide social entrée into a financial cornucopia overflowing with Sir Monty’s Holy Grail — Old Adelaide Money — whose owners frequent Town Hall’s tea rooms as if its land title might be one of theirs.

Although most of Adelaide’s Lord Mayoral candidates have traditionally assured the Rottweilers of the Media that deciding to run is a decision not taken lightly, in fact it’s one that can be taken very lightly indeed. One of the great benefits of running in local government is that there is no preselection hurdle. Anyone on the city roll can run as a Lord Mayoral candidate (with a few minor exceptions like bankruptcy) by simply walking into Town Hall by a specified deadline, and handing over a piece of paper to a person who will take delight in accepting it. There are no silly questions such as whether one has ever been an elected member, can recite the Local Government Act 1999 verbatim or ever chaired a meeting and stared down a rising revolt on points of order.

Town Hall staff also are far too discreet to ask whether one has the potential of surviving snake bite, or whether one could capture a startled greased piglet in the dark (the common metaphor for achieving consensus among councillors). Once a nomination is accepted, there follow several glorious weeks during which a candidate joins a number of others in a spree of crowds, and is treated with acclaim, photographed and paraded about, not only at public events, but also within the hallowed confines of Town Hall’s corridors. This is not because its masters are particularly respectful, but simply that, against all odds, you just might win. It is a wonder that more city folk don’t take advantage of this.

Who ought to be the city’s next Lord Mayor? Sir Monty recently briefed a firm of election analysts to research the odds of winning high office in Adelaide’s throbbing metropolis, where the Rundle Mall pigeons coo, the Grenfell Street taxi drivers snooze and the Hindley Street drunks snore. A multi-constituency survey followed. Results came in a sealed envelope to Sir Monty’s club.

The recommendation was strong, and blunt. Sir Monty’s stooge must be a black, lesbian, Scientologist dwarf who walks with a limp and uses English only as a second language. No-one should be surprised. Previous Lord Mayors going back to 2003 have been traditionally very white, religiously predictable human beings, the product of Anglo schooling, and creatures of habit who tended to speak in tongues usually reserved for economics conventions. But the report predicted that the next winner would be the one (as the marketing team would later stress) who would present the greatest point of difference. A black, lesbian, Scientologist dwarf who walks with a limp has never led this city but the analysts predict it’s time. The basis of Scientology holds that people have hidden abilities that have not yet been fully realised. Perfect!

In daring to run she also would carry into the local government mounting yard that greatest of political advantages — chutzpah. This is the magic ingredient that voters hunger for, but that no eastern suburbs upbringing or string of degrees can deliver. As the report stressed, Adelaide is obsessed with equal opportunity culture, and captivated by the exciting potential of affirmative action, with a feminine touch.

Sir Monty has now begun Phase 2, and a hired wordsmith has taken lodgings adjacent to the bar. The ‘English as a second language’ feature will be pressed to advantage. Pledges will be packaged into simple, repetitive messages. Sir Monty’s team have come up with a suite of enticing ‘position statements’, none of which has ever been used before and each of which they have now copyrighted. Improved performance. Integrity counts. Cleaner, greener, leaner. Newer, more, better for longer. Better than best. Real change. Shop often. More jobs. Universal happiness. What’s not to like there?

This person doesn’t know how lucky she is going to be, mused Sir Monty, as he bargained with the analyst firm over the invoice and managed a 30 per cent discount on the promise that his candidate when Lord Mayor will hire the firm to run her PR team on an ever-expanding budget between 2018 and 2022.

Now all the firm has to do is overcome Adelaide’s fundamental challenge. No, it’s not about attracting sufficient primary votes from a traditionally lacklustre 35 per cent city voter turnout. It’s about finding that candidate to confirm that the drive for affirmative action, that endures deep in Adelaide’s soul, can be delivered.

The media will probe. How black and short are you? Really. Is that a limp or just a painful arch? How deep is your chutzpah? And would it be okay to have your hair dyed green for a couple of pre-poll weeks in November? Green’s one of Town Hall’s strategic plan objectives. Might mop up a few additional second preferences… They made a big difference at the last poll.

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