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Battle for New England: Tony Windsor versus Barnaby Joyce Creative Commons/Adam Carr,Bidgee

Tony Windsor, who successfully held the New England seat in New South Wales for 12 years, is set to return to Australia’s political game of thrones as an Independent, announcing on Thursday he would be challenging Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce as a New England candidate for the next election.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Windsor said he knew it would be a difficult comeback, but maintained that he was “serious” about returning.

“We’ll mount a full-scale grassroots campaign and I’m fully aware that it will be a David and Goliath event,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to that.”

Windsor was a popular and successful Independent MP who played a key role in supporting a Gillard minority Labor government. He bowed out of federal politics at the 2013 elections over health reasons.

During Thursday’s press conference, Windsor explained he was coming out of retirement because he saw “things stalling…[and] being removed” in and from the electorate. Some of the concerns he highlighted included mining on the Liverpool Plains and climate change, the future of the National Broadband Network, and Labor’s Gonski school education funding reforms.

“In my political life I have never seen a set of issues that are within the electorate … and major national issues in themselves,” he said.

“We are at a crossroads in regional Australia.”

The former Nationals MP, who ran -- and won -- as an Independent candidate for Tamworth after the party decided to endorse someone else during the 1991 NSW state elections, added his decision to move back into politics was inspired by Australian of the Year, David Morrison.

“David Morrison said, ‘The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

“Well, I’m not prepared to walk past and see that happening, and not attempt to do something about it.”

“I’m not prepared to see regional people, people in the electorate of New England, treated as second-class citizens with their education of their kids, the Gonski, with their telecommunications, that the cities will eventually get in terms of fibre to the premise because of scale, in relation to climate change, the mitigation, the drought, all of those things; renewable energy areas,” he added.

Meanwhile, Barnaby Joyce has said Windsor should have made his intentions about running for a seat clearer “from the start,” and that not doing so sooner was an “indication of a circus”.

“This whole idea of, ‘I’m halfway there, I can’t quite get there, I will go on a holiday and come back and talk to you about it, I will run it past my wife, I’m almost there’,” Joyce said.

“I mean, give me a break. If you want something, go out and grab it. Make your intentions clear.”

He also pointed out that Windsor had never written to Environment Minister Greg Hunt about the Shenhua Watermark coal mine on the Liverpool Plains, after Windsor accused Joyce of “doing absolutely nothing” to protect the Murray-Darling Basin.

Social Media ramps up battle between Windsor and Joyce

Although Opposition Leader Bill Shorten understandably threw his weight behind Windsor, the successful Independent also seems to have the support of Twitter users: