VETERAN National Party identity Ken Jasper has returned to the fold to backthe party’s Indi candidate, Marty Corboy.

Mr Jasper’s homecoming was confirmed when he attended a Nationals’ fundraiser last week coinciding with the visit to the electorate by party leaders, Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash.

His endorsement of independent Cathy McGowanand subsequent snub of Coalition contender Sophie Mirabella was a pivotal moment of the 2013campaign.

Torn apart: Cathy McGowan and Ken Jasper at 2013 election celebrations. He is now backing the Nationals in Indi. Digital image: JAMIE HORNE

After trailing Mrs Mirabella inthe primary vote count, Ms McGowan charged home to win by just 439 votes on preferences with many Nationals’ supporters following the lead of Mr Jasper.

The move has cutdeep divisions between the two Coalition parties in Indi which have intensified with the Nationals able to field a candidate and party leader, Mr Joyce, publicly declaring Mr Corboy was the Coalition’s best chance of reclaiming the seat.

Mr Jasper confirmed heattendedthe Nationals’ fundraiser and would elaborate on his return to National Party ranks later in the campaign.

“I am a National so I am supporting Marty in the election,” Mr Jasper said.

“There was no Nationals’ candidate at the last election so it was a different ball game.

“My conscienceis absolutely clear in my attitude towards the last election.

“My attitude to this election will also be clear.”

Mr Jasper’s support is a blow to Ms McGowan’s re-election chances with her hold on the seat just 0.3 per cent.

“Indi is now a marginal seat,” she said.

“In the past 12 months the spotlight has been on the North East, with ministers visiting regularly and our taxes coming into Indi through funding and grants for important infrastructure and services.

“Ken Jasper has been a long-time family friend and I acknowledge his contribution to our communities.”

The latest Sportsbet odds has Ms McGowan a $1.15 favourite with Mr Corboy a $6 chance ahead of the Coalition contender, Mrs Mirabella at $11.

Mr Corboy was tight-lipped about Mr Jasper’s return to the Nationals in Indi.

“I can confirmhis attendance at the Nationals’ event the other night,” Mr Corboy said.

“It was great to see him and he is looking well.”

Mr Jasper has been under pressure in recent weeks from long-time party supporters to backMr Corboy.

“Heclearly supported Cathythree years ago and it is fantastic he has seen the light and understands the best outcome for Indi is a Nationals’win over anindependent,” onemember said.

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