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"She’s tired of the back-room manoeuvres": Bedford backs off, but still considering independence

Local

A factional deal has seen the Labor Party avoid a divisive showdown in Florey but it is still bracing for a decision from maverick backbencher Frances Bedford about whether she will stand as an independent at next year’s state election.

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The party confirmed today there would be no ballot next week after Bedford withdrew from the contest for the north-eastern suburbs seat that she has held for 20 years.

Rival right-winger Jack Snelling had been promised Florey – which has absorbed large sections of his current seat of Playford under a proposed boundary redistribution – under a factional shake-up that would also see former state secretary Michael Brown handed Playford.

But Bedford had refused to budge, setting up a showdown that she was expected to lose decisively, given it was largely decided by a vote of factional delegates.

Bedford is considered a factional fringe-dweller, garnering most of her support from a minor gaggle of Industrial Left unions.

InDaily understands Bedford was convinced to stand down from the contest after a last-minute renegotiation of a deal by the party’s influential Progressive Left Union and Sub-Branches [PLUS] faction, whose management has recently been the subject of internal griping.

That deal is expected to see a federal seat – possibly in the Senate – previously promised to the Australian Workers Union instead go to a member of the Industrial Left.

Internal dissatisfaction between the unions recently boiled over when Maritime Union secretary Jamie Newlyn challenged a factional stitch-up that handed AWU official Justin Hanson a casual vacancy in the Legislative Council.

The revised deal has avoided a ballot next week, after a separate vote to settle the party’s candidacy in beachside Colton was seen off by the withdrawal of Penny Wong staffer Anton van Bavel, leaving local teacher Angela Vaughan to contest the seat. There will still be a special conference to rubber-stamp the order of candidates in the Legislative Council.

But insiders are still unsure about Bedford’s intentions, after InDaily last month revealed she was considering running as an independent candidate.

It’s understood she has continued to attend several community functions in recent weeks, both within the existing Florey and in parts of Playford yet to be integrated into the seat.

“She’s tired of the back-room manoeuvres that lock out good candidates and ignore what the community wants to see in the Labor team,” one source said.

Some insiders argue that Bedford was always going to withdraw from the contest with Snelling to avoid being humiliated in a one-sided contest – which would challenge her “narrative” of being hard-done-by by the factional machine. But another said: “I don’t think it’s as simple as it looks.”

“I suspect that she’s weighing up her future, with regards to not being in the party any more and what that means… her office has been very frosty with people,” the source said.

But another Labor insider said the party’s dominant Right faction could intervene to cruel any deal done by the Left if Bedford runs against Snelling at the state election.

“If she runs as an independent, the Right would make sure all the deals were called off,” the source said.

Bedford didn’t return calls today, but told InDaily last month she hoped “sanity will prevail, and they see there’s a whole pile of reasons to keep me in the tent”.

Premier Jay Weatherill, a member of the PLUS Left, said in a statement Bedford “has indicated to me that she has withdrawn her nomination from the seat of Florey”.

“She remains a valued member of our team,” he pointedly added.

The Supreme Court will tomorrow reveal its ruling on Labor’s challenge to the proposed boundary redistribution.

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