IN one way or another, the Hunter has been the centre of the NSW political universe for the past few months.
It started back in March when Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen bowed to huge pressure to step down after damaging allegations that he sexually assaulted a sex worker and sent her lewd messages while sitting in question time. Mr Johnsen denies the allegations.
What followed was a six-week by-election campaign which, ultimately, saw the Nationals' David Layzell record a comfortable victory. The Nationals beat Labor in the booths of Cessnock, Singleton and Muswellbrook, with the party's primary vote collapsing to 21 per cent, leading to the resignation of leader Jodi McKay.
On Friday, Chris Minns was unveiled as Labor's new leader, something that was set in motion when he resigned from his front bench position last week after a purported "dirt file" was circulated to the media by the office of NSW Labor deputy leader and Swansea MP Yasmin Catley.
Mr Minns assumed the leadership after former leader Michael Daley withdrew from the race in the "best interests of the party".
In the wake of the bruising Upper Hunter by-election defeat, Labor's candidate Jeff Drayton said the party had to do "some real soul searching as to how we will win these communities back".
Mr Drayton said "working class communities are hurting ... (but) they don't see Labor as the answer".
It was a sentiment echoed by federal MP Joel Fitzgibbon, with the Member for Hunter telling the Newcastle Herald he was considering his future because Labor had failed to reach voters with its message.
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington was furious about Ms McKay's resignation, blaming "foul forces" and "treachery" in caucus for white-anting her friend and political ally.
Mr Minns - who was publicly backed by Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp and Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery before Friday's announcement - has said this week that he has disagreed with the party's direction for the past two years.
The Kogarah MP believes Labor has been too "negative" during the pandemic and needs to more closely address voter concerns, rather than solely criticising the Coalition if it's to win government in 2023.
If it can do that, and stop its revolving door of leaders, it might just stand a chance.
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