The idea of an early August poll has been vaguely noted, but no-one seems to be taking it seriously. I believe they should.
The scenario goes like this. Contrary to the pack analysis of recent published opinion polls, John Howard knows he is in deep electoral do-do. Voters are not simply “parking” their support with Labor; they’ve looked the place over, exchanged contracts and are in the cooling off period. Forget the popular narrative that the PM needs as long as he can to claw back support; from here the mood for change will only solidify.
Only a big political bang can save him.
We need to look clinically at the NT intervention. A few outlying maddies aside, the big division is between people who believe it’s a political stunt but also a good idea, and those who can’t stand it. So far, the first camp is easily the fullest.
If there is a large political component, then certain things follow. Stunts have short shelf lives; after the first month or so this will drift off the front pages. Howard can’t keep the media frenzy going for four months, and even on page six it could go bad between now and October/November.
But if an election were called for early August the temperature could be maintained over the next month with pictures of PM pepping the troops, judicious use of intemperate language, some rescued children and so on.
An added bonus that would make a difference in a close election result is that electoral roll today is currently missing lots of names, and the AEC needs as long as it can get it up to date. This is exacerbated by the new law that will close the rolls when the writs are issued.
An early election would likely see tens of thousands, perhaps over a hundred thousand, young people – and a similar number who have moved house and dropped off – unable to vote.
There is no question the absence of these people would benefit the government. Not reason in itself to go early, but icing on the cake.
Of course, if Howard gets no traction from the Northern Territory intervention, then we’re back to the long haul.
But an August election remains an outside chance.