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Rogue Liberal warns powerbrokers: "You created this situation - you wear it"

Politics

UPDATED | Disendorsed Liberal veteran Duncan McFetridge has warned his former colleagues to be “careful how they handle” him as he today confirmed he would run as an independent at the March state election, declaring a Steven Marshall Government was “a long way from being a sure bet at this moment”.

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McFetridge today declared his hand, blaming his decision on Liberal “factional games” and warning the party’s powerbrokers that they “created this situation [and] they can wear it”.

He lost a preselection ballot in late March by a single vote, following a challenge by former federal MP Matt Williams and Holdfast mayor Stephen Patterson, who won the Liberal endorsement.

In an ominous broadside to his former party, McFetridge today said not only would he take on Patterson – whose nominal 7.7 per cent margin could not be taken for granted – but potentially back a minority Labor Government if he held the balance of power.

He said he’d be “interested to see what sort of reaction” his decision prompts from his former colleagues, adding he bears “no particular animosity to any of them”.

But, he warned, “they’re going to be careful how they handle yet another independent [because] in the past their track record has been abysmal”.

The reference to crossbenchers such as Geoff Brock, Bob Such, Peter Lewis, Rory McEwen and Karlene Maywald – who have all sided with Labor at various points despite conservative backgrounds – was pointed.

“If they want to reject my goodwill that will be up to them,” he told InDaily, adding that he was “a Liberal first and always have been” besides a brief stint in the Labor Party as a teenager to curry favour with his then-girlfriend.

“I just hope they’ve learnt from the past,” he said of the Liberals.

“I’m not the enemy.”

Nonetheless, his decision to run against Patterson in his bayside seat of Morphett will cause his former party headaches, prompting extra resources to be spent fortifying a seat that should otherwise be chalked up as an easy Liberal win.

“And they could have had that so easily had they been half smart, but no… the factional few pursued their games,” McFetridge said.

“They’ve created this situation – they can wear it.

“They could have had Morphett, but I’m not going to take any prisoners… I’m playing to win the seat of Morphett.”

McFetridge lost by a single vote on the second preselection ballot, after Williams and Patterson tied in the first round. Williams was then eliminated by a draw from a hat.

InDaily has spoken to Riverland-based executive member Henry Crawford, who said he was forced to miss the ballot after “a couple of work commitments caught me short”.

“I would have been there and I would have voted for Duncan [but] he was confident that he had the numbers,” he said.

McFetridge confirmed today he had been “supremely confident I had the numbers”, blaming a “shit sheet” factional opponents put out about him “blaming me for every loss in history and suggesting I was so old I needed a cut lunch and a compass just to find the place”.

“They’ve created this situation – the Liberal Party few, the executive ignored Steven Marshall and ignored shadow cabinet,” he said.

He also hit out at former party president Steve Murray, who recently stood aside to focus on running for the Hills seat of Davenport.

“He has a lot to answer for… as president the buck stops with him,” McFetridge said.

“I told him, I really spoke very frankly with him, about executive’s decision to spread out the preselections [over several months].”

InDaily has sought comment from Murray.

McFetridge noted he would have been able to spread his resources out to help Matt Cowdrey’s campaign in neighbouring Colton, which the Liberals are hoping to snare with the retirement of Labor incumbent Paul Caica.

“It’s incomprehensible why they would do this… why would you do something as dumb as this?” he said.

The 65-year old’s decision has taken many of his former colleagues by surprise. Several Liberals have recently told InDaily they believed his relationship with former colleagues had begun to thaw in recent weeks.

“I told Steven Marshall to his face I want to see a Steven Marshall Liberal Government,” McFetridge agreed.

“Whether they’re up to the task, I hope so… they’re better prepared than they’ve ever been.

“But they’re a long way from being a sure bet at this moment.”

Premier Jay Weatherill made light of the move today, alluding to his infamous minority government deal with Geoff Brock, nutted out over ham and pineapple pizza in the independent kingmaker’s Frome electorate.

“We reach out to any [independent] members of parliament that have been elected… we’ve seen that traditionally done over a ham and pineapple pizza,” he told reporters today.

“I understand Dr McFetridge prefers more meat on his pizza, but these are matters we’ll need to explore when we get the menu.”

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