During the last hundred years the ALP has had limited electoral success at the level of local government in NSW. This exploratory papers suggests that a number of factors have influenced this record. Changes to the franchise have been important, as have party splits and lack of enthusiasm for the contest. However, the most important factor seems to have been the presence or absence of some pre-existing basis for community organisation, either in the union movement in rural centres, or in the urban networks of Catholic/Irish community. Consequently, it is not surprising that ALP politics at the municipal level has been closely associated with the NSW Right and has acquired a reputation for ‘tammany hall’ style petty corruption. Despite the limited regulatory powers at this level of government, there have been some rewards to the labour movement from Labor administrations.