The West Australian reports the latest Westpoll survey of 400 voters has the state Liberals leading 56-44 on two-party preferred, up from 55-45 in early December. A question on preferred Labor leader predictably has Alannah MacTiernan in front with 26 per cent, ahead of Mark McGowan on 16 per cent, Michelle Roberts and incumbent Eric Ripper on 12 per cent and deputy leader Roger Cook (who entered parliament at the September election) on 2 per cent. Colin Barnett leads Eric Ripper as preferred premier 57 per cent to 13 per cent. The West’s Robert Taylor writes:

The problem Eric Ripper and Alannah MacTiernan have within Labor is that they both come from a Centre faction that no longer exists. Without factional backers, the more likely long-term scenario is that the next Labor premier will either be the Left’s Roger Cook or the Right’s Ben Wyatt. The problem Labor has is that neither of the two is ready to assume the leadership, and it must find someone capable of leading the party into an election, be it a by-election or general contest, at a moment’s notice, such is the knife-edge situation in the State Parliament …

After the election loss, (Ripper) was seen as more acceptable to the two factions, who were not impressed with Ms MacTiernan’s efforts to reform the factional system. But with the Ray report into the party’s election failings criticising its factional warfare, Ms MacTiernan’s reformist zeal might win her some favour at the national level. Few political observers believe Mr Ripper will lead Labor to the next election if the Barnett Government goes its full four-year term. It therefore comes down to a matter of when Mr Ripper will step down or be pushed aside in favour of the next leader, and whether that leader will be Ms MacTiernan or one of the new generation.

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