Edward Mandla
IN THE MEDIA
Former Liberal mayoral candidate Edward Mandla leaves 'party of lobbyists'

Published On: 29/07/2016

The Liberal Party is a "party of lobbyists in search of a policy" according to a long-standing party official and City of Sydney councillor who has defected to a rival ticket.

Edward Mandla, the party's candidate for lord mayor at the last City of Sydney elections, quit the party this week and declared it has "lost its way" under the influence of faceless lobbyists.

Cr Mandla will instead run as the second candidate on independent councillor Angela Vithoulkas' "Sydney Matters" ticket in the September council elections.

His comments about the culture of access and influence in the state party will spotlight tensions in an organisation riven with factional animosity.

"This is all about a bunch of faceless men that are so powerful, some that you have heard of and some in very senior roles you have never heard of," Cr Mandla told Fairfax Media about his decision to quit the party.

As a Liberal politician, he said, "you are always beholden to somebody".

"You are like a sleeper," he said. "One day you'll get a phone call ... the underlying thing always is that there's a preselection coming on."

Cr Vithoulkas and Cr Mandla will contest the September elections as candidates for mayor and councillor. In the first election to be held under controversial laws that will give businesses a more powerful vote, they will face off against incumbent lord mayor Clover Moore, Liberal candidate Christine Forster and a Labor candidate to be chosen this week.

"What we've got is two experienced serving councillors who have always had as their top priority serving the community and not party politics," Cr Vithoulkas said.

Cr Mandla's comments about the state party are a rare instance of a politician putting their name to criticisms about the level of influence of lobbyists and unelected officials.

The president of the party's Sydney City Branch since 2009, Cr Mandla said he had also become upset over animosity in the inner city party towards Premier Mike Baird.

"His only crime is his door is firmly shut to lobbyists and firmly shut to factions," Cr Mandla said of Mr Baird.

Cr Mandla was expected to contest Liberal preselection for September's poll, but elected not to last year. That meant Cr Forster, who has had a tense relationship with Cr Mandla, had a clear run at the ticket.

"It's been a difficult four years working with someone who isn't a team player," Cr Mandla said of Cr Forster, the sister of former prime minister Tony Abbott.

The September council elections are expected to be unusually closely fought, with the influence of the business voting laws uncertain. Cr Moore has added a number of high-profile candidates to her ticket, including doctor Kerryn Phelps and architect Philip Thallis.

Cr Mandla said he was prepared to quit council this week, but changed his mind after talking with Cr Vithoulkas on Monday.

Cr Vithoulkas, who owns and runs a cafe on George Street, listed a better use of technology, improved relationships with business, and a more responsive organisation as areas on which her ticket would focus.

"We are going to get out of the Town Hall bunker and we are going to change the way people think of Town Hall," Cr Vithoulkas said.

They also stressed free wi-fi in the city. "It's not beyond our capability, it is just beyond the want of Town Hall," Cr Vithoulkas said.

Former Liberal mayoral candidate Edward Mandla leaves 'party of lobbyists'

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