Clover Moore watches the rainbow crossing being ripped up.

Clover Moore watches the rainbow crossing being ripped up. Photo: Ross Duncan

No one comes out of the saga of the rainbow crossing looking particularly statesmanlike. Not Barry O'Farrell or Duncan Gay. But not their spike-haired bete noire Clover Moore, either.

Certainly, O'Farrell and Gay, the Premier and Roads Minister, emerge looking like outrageous party-poopers. They probably won't mind.

The funny thing about any O'Farrell-versus-Moore stoush is that, in public relations terms at least, both sides tend to win.

If Gay says something mean about Moore's bike lanes, I doubt the talkback jeers are heard in Surry Hills.

If O'Farrell places a mean story about Moore's latest crazy scheme in Sydney's other little paper, they probably won't lose confidence in her in Darlinghurst.

They're talking to different people.

And as is the way with culture wars, the sharpest volleys tend to fly at cross-purposes.

But it is a bit of a problem when fights start having an impact on, you know, things in the real world.

If Moore and O'Farrell had more of a relationship, maybe something - or anything - might have happened in the past two years to complete the city's half-formed thatch of bike lanes. Nothing has.

And if Moore and Gay had much time for each other, maybe there would still be some form of rainbow at Oxford Street right now.

Maybe Gay would have felt comfortable talking the issue through, rather than piously lamenting the safety risk of multicoloured bitumen and sending in a crack road-cleaning squad in the dead of the night in a gesture that looked unnecessarily like Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

(If the rainbow crossing really was as dangerous as Gay and O'Farrell insisted, it raises the question of why these good-time boys allowed it in the first place.)

But the saga of the rainbow crossing also offers some insight into Moore's ability to get so deeply under the skin of O'Farrell and his ministers.

The fact is she's not just a good local politician, understanding of her constituents and a dervish in pursuit of their interests and enthusiasms. She's also a relentlessly opportunistic political operator.

Under the terms of the deal for the Mardi Gras rainbow crossing, which do seem a bit absurd, Moore and the City of Sydney were required to rip it up in a month.

She agreed to this.

But rather than do so, Moore kept on appealing. Gay told her to clean it up this week. She asked for another meeting. Gay didn't give it to her, so he sent in the cleaners.

Of course, Moore, with her reputation for turning up to the opening of an envelope, grabbed the chance to be photographed in lamentation as the rainbow bitumen was torn up behind her on Wednesday.

Another example of Moore's indefatigability in appearing on the side of her constituents relates to a second big issue in her electorate, which is how the planned eastern-suburbs tram line will make its way through Surry Hills.

Moore has put out material suggesting she was surprised when the O'Farrell government insisted the line be built above ground, rather than in an expensive tunnel that would have spared some apartments or maybe terrace houses.

Despite what Moore says, she well knows there was always a good chance the tram line she championed so forcefully would snake its way through the surface streets of Surry Hills, disturbing the life and amenity of some of her constituents.

But it would be uncomfortable to appear to take the side of government and its compulsory-acquisition laws against the interests of locals.

Moore, 68, is a phenomenon. And she's as gimlet-eyed for an easy headline as the rest of them.