They let the sound-system rip early at the Greens Northcote victory party last Saturday night, and it went late.  

By 8pm, at cavernous pine-planky wine bar Vinorium, candidate Lidia Thorpe had spoken, state leader Samantha Ratnam had spoken, and then, from afar, the ABC’s Antony Green had spoken — and called it for his namesakes, on a 12% swing. It was all over.

They started with Replica. Pretty soon it was Heaven Is A Place On Earth.

Eighties, man. Some of these people had been waiting for victory for a long long time.

They weren’t just celebrating a victory based on hard work, local issues and grassroots campaigning; some of them were celebrating that the party went in hard, uncompromising.

For weeks, the debate had gone back and forth as to how negative to go. Greens don’t like doing that. And they’ve lost dead-cert seats because of it before, with older, perhaps redder activists fuming.

Not this time. In the last week, a leaflet went round Northcote, detailing the full story on Labor candidate Clare Burns, sharehouse renter and vegan.

And, as the leaflet made clear, also part of the Labor right-wing machine in the area, aligned with MP Adem Somyurek, opposed to legal abortion, among other peccadilloes.

Good on ’em for doing it. 

There were also some more prosaic reasons. Hard work, doorknocking local issues where Labor had shown its corporate character: public housing sell-off, crap public transport, ramming through the Alphington paper mill development.

But there was also the Greens’ determination to win it.

Meanwhile, the mood at Labor’s Saturday night party was (haha) sombre. It was just a few blocks up High Street at the Thornbury Theatre, looking like the Italian wedding from hell. (Not inappropriate: Clare Burns is Batman MP David Feeney’s god-daughter.)

The Animal Justice Party dinner was at Lentil As Anything, on the opposite side of the street. The party preferenced Labor again. Turkeys eaten by the Greens.

Everyone was shocked at Labor: they had no idea this sort of loss was coming.

They should have. Lacklustre campaign, heavy on paid ads, thin on the ground, and in the midst, a Herald Sun coded racist smear against Thorpe going bankrupt years ago to clear an abusive partner’s debts. In a byelection caused by the death of Fiona Richardson, sheer genius from someone.

As to demographic drift? Yes, of course, but the Right thinks that means Green-voting areas are full of trans unicyclists who holiday in North Korea.

But Greens voters, apart from students, and leftish older Labor voters, are the professional/knowledge classes, living in those concrete apartments going up all along High Street.

Public servants, HR people, analysts, consultants, lawyers of a certain type, content producers. Bike-riders, tram-users, Nova-goers, Netflix-watchers.

They are the new middle class.

And they see the Greens as their natural and obvious representatives. They align not just with what they think, but how they think; that politics, policy and administration is the management of complex systems, applying rationality and best practice.

Put up a Labor Right-faction candidate here, you may as well put up someone who believes in the divine right of kings.

So why do it? Because of Victoria’s Stability Pact, and territorial claims, and the usual: the Labor Right would rather lose government than lose a seat to the Socialist Left.

And the Left are willing to wear it — for what? So that the Right can sell off the Port of Melbourne, and the Left can proudly introduce gender-neutral traffic lights?

What a deal.

And what now? Labor will sook about how they’re the real people’s representatives. If the Left doesn’t ensure real candidates get up, they’ll serve up Brunswick and Richmond on a plate. And then some.

For the Greens, a lot of challenges ahead but last Saturday night in one bar, oooh heaven …

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey