This morning’s Agereports from a new Morgan poll
on voting intentions in Victoria, commenting that Liberal MPs
“privately conceded they were disappointed” and that the Bracks
government still “had a lead of landslide proportions”.

Morgan
puts Labor on 57.5% of the two-party-preferred vote, unchanged since
the 2002 election. Prior to Robert Doyle’s resignation at the beginning
of May, however, Morgan’s polls had for several months consistently
shown a swing to Labor, so it could be said that from the Liberals’
point of view there is some improvement. But it is certainly not on the
scale that backers of new leader Ted Baillieu had hoped.

The Morgan result is consistent with other indicators; Newspoll, published at the end of June, showed much the same, a 57-43 split. It has the Victorian Liberals worried.

The Age
says that as a result of the poor polling “Senior Victorian Liberals
have been forced to rally publicly behind Ted Baillieu”, thus hinting
at the fact that internal relations within the party remain tense at
best. There appears to be genuine puzzlement at the fact that Baillieu
and his supporters are not doing more to build bridges with their
factional opponents.

The Victorian Liberals already know what
happens when the parliamentary leadership and the organisational wing
fight an election while they’re at each other’s throats. That’s what
happened in 2002. Now the positions are reversed – the Kroger-Costello
group has taken over the organisation, while Baillieu has displaced
Doyle – but otherwise not much has changed. Each blames the other for
the party’s poor standing, and, just as in 2002, there is plenty of
blame to go around.

The Baillieu forces are evidently hoping
that defeat will again produce a cleanout of the organisation, this
time in their favour. They must somehow be counting on avoiding the
other consequence of defeat: a lame duck leader, subject to constant
white-anting, who ends up being replaced too late for it to have any
effect.

Could the Liberals really repeat this whole cycle again?
They did in New South Wales. There is still time to mend fences before
the election, but it is looking less likely every day.

Peter Fray

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