WOULD Jeff McCloy ever return to local politics?
Well, the answer’s complicated.
Mr McCloy, the larger-than-life personality who dramatically won, and then lost, the city’s lord mayoralty between 2012 and 2014, has remained a highly visible figure in Newcastle’s political scene since he resigned in the heat of the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s inquiry into political donations made before the 2011 state election.
From interventions about the controversial light rail route, to challenging the ICAC in the High Court of Australia, Mr McCloy has lost none of his famously forthright nature.
But since the conclusion of ICAC’s Operation Spicer investigation, which found Mr McCloy “acted with the intention” of evading laws about the disclosure of political donations and the ban on donations from property developers, the question being asked in some circles is: would he ever run again?
The man himself says that he’s only an outside chance of putting his hand up in September, but don’t rule him out completely.
“Look when I walk down the street in Newcastle or I’m in the company of certain people, or really just anywhere in the community I almost get asked every day,” Mr McCloy told the Newcastle Herald.
“It’s difficult. I don’t think so, but it’s still this thought that crosses my mind every now and again because there is just so much unfinished business.
“I’ll leave it there, for now, I think.”
Watch this space, then.
If he was ever tempted back onto the public stage though, the well-resourced independent who managed to match the Labor machine at the 2012 election would pose a formidable challenge to the established parties.
The Liberal Party is still undecided about who their candidate might be, and the city’s current Lord Mayor, Nuatali Nelmes, has weathered a tough few months of negative publicity over her council expenses.
Mr McCloy declined to offer a commentary on the council’s direction since his resignation – saying he would “keep those thoughts private” – but did offer what appeared to be a veiled swipe at Cr Nelmes, saying that he “ran into staff from time to time” but that it was “best not to repeat things”.
Mr McCloy resigned in 2014 after he admitted to giving donations to three Liberal Party candidates who became MPs in the lead up to the 2012 election, famously telling the inquiry that at times he felt “like a walking ATM”.
Mr McCloy has previously tried to overturn the ban on developers donating to politicians in the High Court, and unsuccessfully challenged the ICAC’s conduct in the Supreme Court.