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Banished Bedford quits Labor, with warning to "faceless men"

Politics

UPDATED | Ousted Labor maverick Frances Bedford has today sensationally quit the party with a stinging rebuke to the “faceless men” who engineered her demise, in a move that will likely see her contest her seat of Florey as an independent.

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Bedford was ousted in a preselection challenge by Health Minister and right-wing powerbroker Jack Snelling, who shifted from neighbouring Playford after a boundary redistribution moved around 17,000 of his electors into Florey, which also went from a 2.6 per cent margin to a safe 9.2.

Facing overwhelming rejection in a succession of party ballots, Bedford withdrew from the contest earlier this month but, as InDaily revealed, has been considering her options as an independent candidate.

Bedford this afternoon confirmed to parliament she would resign from the ALP “in all conscience and on matters of principle”, lamenting that Snelling’s “hostile takeover, under the guise and cover of the boundary redistribution, removes an acknowledged hard-working local sitting MP – primarily because the seat is no longer marginal”.

Bedford is a left-winger but is not a member of the influential Progressive Left Union and Sub-Branches faction that comprises the minority shareholder in Labor’s factional duopoly.

“As someone who has chosen to remain factionally unaligned, any influence on the centrally-controlled decision-making has been taken from me, and I say to the faceless men who have taken this course of action that it is the voters – not you – who will choose the next Member for Florey,” Bedford said in a statement sent to InDaily.

“I bear no ill-will to anyone in the [parliamentary Labor] caucus, however this is a warning to them all that things have irrevocably changed.

In all conscience and on matters of principle I will be resigning from the ALP

“Without true democratic processes, it will be impossible for candidates to act for constituents and not be beholden to factional deals, and the community will not engage in the contest of ideas [with] a robust party and parliamentary champions.”

Bedford’s likely candidacy will turn the battle for Florey on its head, with Snelling forced to fight for his political life on several fronts – particularly with influential Senator Nick Xenophon previously indicating he would do anything he could to publicly support Bedford if she ran.

The electorate is also served by the Modbury Hospital (although the facility itself is now in Tom Kenyon’s ultra-marginal Newland) where changes under Snelling’s contentious Transforming Health measures have been felt most acutely, with the hospital’s emergency department downgraded and overnight admissions now transferred to the Lyell McEwin.

No longer hamstrung by party loyalty, Bedford is likely to make health a key part of her narrative, having already broken ranks in calling for universal ambulance cover to be incorporated into Transforming Health.

“I have had the honour to represent the Florey electorate, with many boundary changes, since 1997,” she said today.

“Until [the election] next March, I will continue to energetically represent the interests if the electors of Florey and promote their values and right to a ‘fair go’ and the policy issues of importance to them – fundamental things like jobs, affordable reliable energy, access to health and education services and bold new initiatives like universal ambulance cover.”

Her references to jobs, health and energy – three issues that have troubled Labor in recent years – as well as her rhetorical dig at the party’s ‘faceless men’, a phrase that has dogged the factionally-run party since the days of Arthur Calwell, suggests Bedford intends to inflict serious damage on her former party in the lead-up to the election.

Premier Jay Weatherill said he was “disappointed and saddened by Ms Bedford’s decision to resign from the ALP”.

“We’re as concerned as she is about the redistribution, which has been a challenging outcome for the Labor Party,” he said in a statement.

“We have asked her to reconsider her decision.”

Although she is unlikely to vote against Labor measures in parliament, Bedford’s move technically means the Weatherill Government loses the parliamentary majority it won at the 2014 Fisher by-election, and again has to rely on the votes of independents for political survival – a fact that wasn’t lost on the Opposition.

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