March 30, 2004 | Jeff Wall

Is the electorate more “tolerant” than we think?

THE media has given virtually no coverage (bar this) to one of the more extraordinary results in the weekend’s council elections in New South Wales and Queensland – the re- election of the Mayor of Maitland, NSW, Peter Blackmore.
Mr Blackmore is the former Liberal MP for Maitland who lost his seat the 1989 State Election. He has since served as the Mayor of Maitland City Council.
About two years ago he made national headlines when he was charged with serious sexual offences involving at least one under age girl. The NSW daily press, and of course, the Hunter Valley media, gave the matter wide coverage.
Late last year he was cleared of all the charges – a fact which received extensive local, but limited state-wide, coverage.
Notwithstanding the fact he has been cleared, one would have thought, given the nature of politics today, and the focus on child sex abuse, Mr Blackmore would have struggled to gain re-election as Mayor.
Nothing could be further from reality. In last Saturday’s poll, he secured over 16,000 votes, compared with his Labor opponent’s 8,600 and the 5,100 received by the Greens candidate.
That gave Mr Blackmore, in what is essentially a Labor voting community, 54 per cent of the primary vote!
Now it is possible Mr Blackmore attracted a sympathy vote, given that he was cleared after a long legal process. But it is also possible the voters of Maitland ignored the matter and voted entirely on his record as Mayor.
I have seem some extraordinary election results in my time, but the 2004 Maitland mayoral result is more extraordinary than most.

Posted by Jeff Wall at 2:02 pm | Comments Off on Is the electorate more “tolerant” than we think? |
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