Owing to other distractions, I have yet to remark on the fact that February 3 has been set as the date for the by-election in Peel, the Western Australian state seat left vacant after the embarrassment surrounding Small Business Minister Norm Marlborough. It so happens that Peel is entirely located within the federal electorate of Brand, held for Labor by one Kim Beazley. If Beazley has his eye on a quick exit from the political stage which few would begrudge him under the circumstances the irritation of a by-election would be greatly reduced were it to coincide with the state poll. This would also offer dividends for a state Labor Party that would not be looking forward to the Peel by-election, given the difficulties that have recently bedevilled the Carpenter government. Simultaneous by-elections would muddy the state-federal waters and allow state Labor to benefit from the honeymoon period that awaits the new federal leadership team, potentially limiting the extent of the swing. There may be difficulties with this scenario that I am missing for one thing, the timing of a by-election in Brand would be dictated by the Howard government rather than Labor (though a politically inspired decision to hold it on a separate date would not win them any friends). Nonetheless, the coincidence of the Peel by-election presumably shortens the odds on Beazley calling it a day sooner rather than later.