If you were a political party that had been behind in the polls for what seems like an eternity, had trouble finding traction and had been outmanoeuvred on the issue management of the day for 10 months straight by your opposition – well things would be looking grim. You would probably find yourself in the position where the widespread expectations of loss would be fueling low levels of morale in the organisation, to the point where it would be delivering poor numbers of campaign volunteers to do the legwork at the coalface.  Such widespread expectations of loss would probably even result in some of your most dependable, local campaign donors suddenly finding better things to do with their money.  But most disturbing of all, if you happened to be such a political party, would be the lack of a simple narrative that your hand-fed chooks in the media could credibly use to counter such a disastrous cycle of events and perceptions, allowing the gloom to perpetuate. So if you were such a party – what would you do? One of the first things that most political parties do when faced with such a situation is to break out the kero and the matches and indulge in a bit of good old fashioned self-immolation and retribution – we’ve seen attempts at that sort of behaviour in the not too distant past.  But for us Crikey readers, a far more sophisticated demographic altogether; we would probably look to do something a little more constructive. One of the first things I’d do if I were such a political party is sacrifice a medium-sized advertising campaign and reallocate that money, in some appropriately deniable form, back into the membership and get them to place bets with bookmakers on marginal seats and those not so marginal seats that look to be in danger of falling. To reinforce the artificial reality, I would hand feed some selective, fabricated “internal” polling numbers to members of the Fourth Estate that I was confident would regurgitate those figures in toto to a wider public. In one simple, relatively low cost stroke not only would the results, if appropriately timed, targeted and executed to the thinner individual seat markets, suddenly provide a comeback narrative for the teachers’ pets in the gallery, replete with quotable internal polling backed by betting market prices, but it would also generate its own short term momentum including a window of opportunity which could be used to launch a large policy initiative; an initiative that could attempt to convert some of that simulated support into actual support. Such an artificial pump-priming of momentum would, of course, melt away like a spring frost if the policy initiative failed to deliver votes, and the betting markets would soon sweep away the impact of the cunning plan by the simple weight of money over time if the simulated support didn’t transmute into something more tangible. But if your goal was simply to generate some short term momentum from which to launch, say, a larger political campaign of some description – it wouldn’t be a bad plan. I wonder if any political party would ever have the balls to try it on?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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