Some scattered thoughts on the Victorian election:
• Hats off to Peter Brent of Mumble. His pre-campaign post of October 21 was outstanding in its prescience, and his post-mortem from yesterday said it all in 278 words. I am particularly keen on the idea that the late swing to the Coalition was not so much a reaction to campaign events as something that was always going to happen when minds became focused. This happened uncommonly late in the piece due to the national politics fatigue which has inspired Possum to write off the significance of any federal polling conducted before the new year.
• This is not to say that Labor didn’t make errors, and that the attack ads on Ted Baillieu’s real estate undertakings weren’t among them. Indeed, it may even have been enough to push them over the edge. The Roy Morgan Reactor “worm” responses to various party ads are instructive: the Baillieu Knight Frank ad was easily the most poorly received. The Liberals’ positive ads also went down a lot better than Labor’s, another symptom of the inherent difficulties faced by an ageing government. I suspect the Liberals did very well out of the message that voters should avoid signing on for 15 years of Labor government, which doubtless tapped into awareness of the situation north of the border.
• The debacle for the Greens ran deeper than a simple failure to win lower seats which might be blamed on Liberal preferences. Their 10.6 per cent primary vote was 2.1 per cent lower than at the federal election, and they seem likely to lose one of their three seats in the upper house. My guess is that extravagant claims for their place in a new paradigm lost them support they would normally get from voters who are indifferent to them ideologically, but simply seeking somewhere to park a protest vote. Compounding this was the Liberals’ preference decision, which as well as being damaging in purely instrumental terms reinforced perceptions of a party with a hard ideological edge. It would also have had many questioning their competence, and there was no figure in the state party of Bob Brown’s authority to help negate the idea.
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• The election provided a further blow to new paradigm talk by producing the state or federal election result since 1993 in which no independent or minor party candidates won election to the lower house. The defeat of the Assembly’s sole independent, Craig Ingram in Gippsland East, would be troubling news for Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, with Ingram citing locals’ desire to avoid a repeat of the federal election aftermath as a reason for the fatal 14.1 per cent drop in his primary vote.
• Here’s a colour-coded map giving an idea of the swings recorded across Victoria. Labor-versus-Coalition figures in Mildura, Gippsland East and the four inner-city seats have been obtained by using preference flows from the last election. Apart from Labor’s relatively strong performance in the north and north-west of the state, nothing particularly stands out. Sophomore surges are evident in Ferntree Gully, Kilsyth, Hastings, Evelyn and especially Morwell, which Labor were surprised to lose in 2006 and are now locked out by an impressive 15 per cent margin for Nationals member Russell Northe. This is part of an ongoing story of Labor decay in the Latrobe Valley which has been evident at state and federal level over the past five years in particular. Retiring member effects explain the slight swing to Labor in Murray Valley, and perhaps also the heavy swing against them in Essendon. I wouldn’t read too much into the swing to Labor in Mildura, where comparisons are complicated by the fact that there was a sitting independent last time, which may have corrupted my preference calculation.