Some furniture saved

Sunday, 25 November 2007 

[The first of two posts looking at the respective parties after the election]

For a party that had just lost its leader and completed a rout from every government in the country for the first time ever, the Liberals were in a remarkably sanguine mood last night. This is without even taking into account the exuberance of the Member for Higgins who was so excited that he told his lot that he would even end up with a swing towards him (unlikely).

Liberals were clearly expecting worse. Polls in the run up to the election were indicating a meltdown in their heartland. So the Liberals’ campaign was more aiming to save the party than the government, with tax cuts combined with scares of union power and wall-to-wall Labor governments targeting its core supporters. It was helped by a Labor campaign that was never really able to counter the scare campaigns and indeed helped in making it seem as though there was an IR issue. Liberal tactics largely appeared to have worked, at least in blue ribbon metropolitan seats across the country where swings were generally below state average.

Liberal relief of at least hanging on to its metropolitan core (although there was less success in semi-urban and rural seats) will probably have several effects in the short to medium term. Firstly, the tearing up of the Howard legacy may not be as savage in the near term and the humiliation of losing his seat will probably be seen as punishment enough. Secondly, Costello’s close association with Howard’s campaign in the final months might not be the kiss of death it could have been and his short-term leadership prospects look better.

However, like the Treasurer’s assessment of his own performance in Higgins, any relief that things are not that bad and that the Liberals now have a base to make a comeback is delusional. The coalition has just suffered the worst 2PP result and probably the third worst seat result in its history and now have no access to power above the Lord Mayoralty in Brisbane. Furthermore, they won’t really know why they are in this state. Up till now they had comforted themselves on their poor performance at the state level with the myth that people don’t like voting for the same government in state and federal, which has now been exposed. Without any means to grasp the policy vacuum behind their predicament, internal debate is likely to eventually focus on personalities, either the past leader or the new one.

Finally, their ability to save their heartland was helped by a Labor party that during the campaign still had one foot in the past and so restricted on how far it could make inroads into the Liberals’ heartland. However, as Rudd indicated in his victory speech, that is the first thing that is about to change.

[Labor tomorrow]

P.S. It seems the prediction of the result was not far off. Big deal.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Sunday, 25 November 2007.

Filed under Key posts, State of the parties

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