18 July 2007

Nine scenarios for polling day



This site disdains endless nonsense about polls in the media, and blogs are the worst offenders in many ways. Endless wittering about hypothetical scenarios which never come off is a distraction from the actual decisions that governments take which affect people. How many real stories go untold because someone wants to go on about an imaginary "swing" among 1000 people in wherever with nothing better to do than talk to a pollster on the phone?

The last time I gave into this crap I gave the benefit of the doubt to Peter Debnam's NSW Liberals (scroll down, second-last post), and look where that got me! Read on if you do not value accuracy and credibility.

Swings can be ethereal and nebulous in practical, on-the-ground terms of which party will win which seat. It is, after all, early in the election campaign. Far more indicative of electoral success than general swings or popularity contests framed around the constructed image of a distant leader is work on the ground. Members who have worked hard on local issues and have a lot to show for it, including tangible achievements and a level of respect among those who hate their party, are formidable opponents to challengers. Candidates who are well organised and campaigning effectively have a strong chance of victory.

Conversely, it shouldn't be hard to beat members and candidates who have no community connections to speak of, who resent having to deal with the masses and their quotidian concerns, and who assume that they will be carried to victory by the party - unless the other major party has a candidate who is equally lazy or inept. Sitting MPs build up a loyal following of voters who'd never otherwise support that MP's party, and when they go that loyal following goes back to the party it came from.

Going by this list in one of the better politics blogs, let's see which candidates have a strong and effective presence in the community they'd seek to represent, and which are hacks who are up against it.

Scenario 1: Liberal MP hasn't built up any community loyalty, drifting in on the Howard government's tide of popularity and drifting out just as easily. Labor is bringing its machine to bear on these seats, it has good, hard-working candidates, and because it wants to win so badly and has a swing behind it, Labor should win these seats from the Coalition:

  • Bonner Q

  • Bowman Q

  • Eden-Monaro NSW

  • Boothby SA

  • Moreton Q

  • Corangamite V

  • Deakin V


Scenario 2: Sitting Coalition MP is a hard-working quiet achiever, Labor candidate is a hack. Labor can't believe they've lost these seats at all and can't believe they have to work to get them back (these seats will be in Scenario 7 below at the next election). People want to vote Labor but just can't vote for the particular candidate Labor has, for one short-sighted dumb-arse factional reason, preselected for these seats. With the right candidate next time these seats should go Labor as part of the inevitable second-term landslide:

  • Robertson NSW

  • Greenway NSW

  • Paterson NSW

  • Dickson Q

  • Hinkler Q


Scenario 3: No sitting Coalition MP running, Lib and ALP candidates (if preselected) are evenly matched, anyone's game but at this stage Labor must have the benefit of the doubt because any residual goodwill toward the Libs disappears with the incumbent:

  • Lindsay NSW

  • Makin SA

  • Grey SA

  • Fadden Q

  • Flynn Q


Scenario 4: Coalition set to win seat:

  • Calare NSW - but only because the seat has been radically redrawn and the popular MP has run away

  • If they win a seat in Perth it will be by accident, because both major party political machines in WA are hopeless


Scenario 5: Coalition chosen hack candidate who won't lose seat this time, but who will depress Liberal vote over time, antagonise colleagues in Opposition and make committed Coalition voters/party members despair:

  • Mitchell NSW

  • Cook NSW

  • Ryan Q

  • Whichever seat Josh Frydenberg wins after the inevitable byelections


Scenario 6: Coalition have held this seat forever but demographics have shifted. Won't vote Labor this time, but they may do so next time if Rudd does a half-decent job and the Labor candidate in 2009/10 is all right, as part of the inevitable second-term landslide:

  • Cowper NSW

  • Lyne NSW

  • Page NSW

  • Berowra NSW

  • Gilmore NSW

  • Dawson Q

  • Gippsland V

  • Dunkley V

  • Fisher Q

  • Wide Bay Q


Scenario 7: The Coalition MP does all the right things as far as representing the electorate and keeping in touch with community groups, but it doesn't matter because Labor have chosen a reasonable candidate and Da Swing Is On, Baby:

  • Wakefield SA

  • Dobell NSW

  • Hughes NSW

  • McEwen V

  • Bass T

  • Braddon T

  • Wentworth NSW


Scenario 8: Bennelong.

Bennelong will go along with everyone else. Howard has the benefit of the doubt, but nobody wants a scenario where Howard is returned but the Libs go into Opposition, whereupon Howard resigns straight away and there's a byelection. If the rest of the country really wants a Labor government the people of Bennelong will probably go along with that, but otherwise Howard is back.

If there is a byelection, and the Libs win, Bennelong will probably go into Scenario 6 above. If Labor wins, it will go into Scenario 9 below.

Scenario 9: Every other seat not named above. Your local member (or someone of the same party) gets returned to do the same old same old, not very exciting for politics junkies but terribly important for the Functioning Of Our Democracy.

Which scenario are you facing?

6 comments:

  1. Peter Phelps19/7/07 11:07 am

    You are completely wrong on this one, Andrew.

    How can you possibly include Eden-Monaro in a catagory of seats which features:

    "Liberal MP hasn't built up any community loyalty..."

    Bullshit. Nairn has +95% name identity in the electorate and has strong popular support throughout the electorate.

    "...drifting in on the Howard government's tide of popularity and drifting out just as easily."

    Bullshit. Nairn held on in the 1998 GST election and has increased his margin ever since.

    "Labor is bringing its machine to bear on these seats..."

    True in the case of E-M.

    "...it has good, hard-working candidates..."

    Hilariously wrong. Kelly's been invisible since he got parachuted in by the machine men of Sussex Street. He can't even pronounce the name of the electorate correctly! This is a parochial electorate, and we notice these sorts of things.

    "...and because it wants to win so badly..."

    True.

    "... and has a swing behind it, Labor should win these seats from the Coalition"

    Not in Eden-Monaro, it won't.

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  2. Peter, in your position as Nairn's chief of staff you would say that, wouldn't you.

    In general terms we'll have to see whether we can push your man up to Scenario 2, but I doubt it. To address your points individually:

    "Nairn has +95% name identity in the electorate and has strong popular support throughout the electorate."

    Ivan Milat, Nicole Kidman and George Gregan probably have similar "name identity" in that electorate, but this does not testify to any achievement as a representative of that community that would compel voters to vote for them against the political tide. "Name identity" might impress gullible journalists but it's not that convincing really. One would hope that after 11 years, Nairn's support would be "strong" - but strong enough to get 50%+1 of the two-party-preferred vote on election day? Probably not.

    "Nairn held on in the 1998 GST election and has increased his margin ever since."

    People are well aware that a vote in Eden Monaro for the Labor candidate increases the likelihood that the Howard government is less likely to be returned, and any residual affection for good old Gary won't be enough.

    I think you're trying to imply that this election will continue some trend set by previous elections, and assuming that you know better I think that's dishonest. If my assumption is wrong, I don't know what I can do to convince you that some of the assumptions behind the (re-)election of the Howard government previously no longer apply: what proof would you accept?

    "Kelly's been invisible since he got parachuted in by the machine men of Sussex Street. He can't even pronounce the name of the electorate correctly! This is a parochial electorate, and we notice these sorts of things."

    * Kelly is not a union leader. I'm no fan of the Sussex Street machine either, but don't give them any credit not due to them. It would be churlish to point out that Gary Nairn was parachuted in from the Northern Territory, wouldn't it?
    * At the risk of teaching you to suck eggs, a large proportion of the Eden-Monaro electorate is people like yourself - federal public servants who've spent much of their lives outside the electorate, but unlike yourself aren't committed Liberals and who feel that the Howard government is antipathetic to the public service in a general sense. Can I recommend to you, if you would deign to engage in anything so impure, that you read Judith Brett's telling observations in The Monthly on the appeal of Kevin Rudd to public servants?
    * If Mike Kelly, Labor candidate for Eden-Monaro, had been out and about in an electorate which is comprised largely of small dispersed communities, would you give him his due?
    * Has Kelly served out his notice in resigning from the Army? If you claim that you don't know/care, I won't believe you.
    * Do you think that swinging voters are particularly focused in politics at this stage, such that on-the-ground handshakes-and-baby-kissing campaigning would make much of a difference anyway?

    Like Clancy of the Overflow at the mountain's summit, I think the task ahead of Nairn is impossible - but in this seat I'm sure you'd agree that "The man that holds his own is good enough". Don't tell me I'm wrong, prove it.

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  3. Peter Phelps19/7/07 2:28 pm

    Well, Andrew you were an opinionated prat in the YLs and it appears some things never change.

    Let's go through these:

    "Peter, in your position as Nairn's chief of staff you would say that, wouldn't you."

    Fair enough - if we're going to play the man rather than the ball, then I'm happy to join in.

    "name identity"

    Name identity counts for a great deal in an election, as any State Director will tell you. With 1 in 8 voters going into any particular polling booth around Australia with no idea who they are going to vote for, name recognition is absolutely vital for getting the votes of people who have opted out of political discourse. Just think about the name recognition factor in Local Government elections, and the incumbency rates therein.

    "but this does not testify to any achievement as a representative of that community that would compel voters to vote for them against the political tide"

    But you don't actually live in E-M so how can you possibly make this assessment of Nairn? When did you last drink in the Wyndham Pub? Did you listen to the $10m water pipeline announcements on ABC Bega radio? Were you there when the Cooma-Monaro Expressed credited Nairn with saving the Snowy?

    "One would hope that after 11 years, Nairn's support would be 'strong' - but strong enough to get 50%+1 of the two-party-preferred vote on election day? Probably not."

    But your argument is exactly DISPROVED by the 1998 Election where there were significant swings to Labor in safe Labor and safe Liberal seats, but not in the Liberal Marginals (at least the ones where the MPs worked their butts off).

    "People are well aware that a vote in Eden Monaro for the Labor candidate increases the likelihood that the Howard government is less likely to be returned, and any residual affection for good old Gary won't be enough."

    That is only accurate if you accept that voters don't care about the personal relationship that they have with their local MPs - which has a degree of truth about it in Metro electorate, but is completely wrong in rural and regional electorates, where the personal tradition is much stronger.

    "I think you're trying to imply that this election will continue some trend set by previous elections, and assuming that you know better."

    Those who don't learn for history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.

    "* Kelly is not a union leader."

    And he's not a soldier either. He's a lawyer in a khaki uniform - or at least he was.

    "It would be churlish to point out that Gary Nairn was parachuted in from the Northern Territory, wouldn't it?"

    Not only churlish but inaccurate. Gary had been coming to the electorate each year for 15 years beforehand (he has a holiday house in the snow) and moved to Queanbeyan to expand his surveying business, NOT to seek preselection. He was living here for about 2 years before people suggested he might like to run for the seat. Moreover, he won a contested presleection, where locals voted for HIM out of a large field of candidates - something that Colonel Klink didn't face because he could not have won a real ALP preselection.

    "At the risk of teaching you to suck eggs, a large proportion of the Eden-Monaro electorate is people like yourself - federal public servants who've spent much of their lives outside the electorate"

    That's just not true. Look up your ABS demographic stats for Eden-Monaro. Even in the most proximate area to Canberra, Queanbeyan Council, those in private sector employment far, far outweigh public sector employees.

    "The appeal of Kevin Rudd to public servants..."

    If that were to be serialised in the local newspapers, then we'll win the electorate for sure!

    "Labor candidate for Eden-Monaro, had been out and about in an electorate which is comprised largely of small dispersed communities..."

    I'm sure he is out there - being led around by the nose by Labor and Union minders, trying desperately to find some sort of connection with an electorate he's never lived in, doesn't know anything about, and can't even pronounce correctly!

    "Has Kelly served out his notice in resigning from the Army?"

    Yes, he has, but that didn't stop him appearing on 7.30 Report in his dress uniform to bag the Howard Government. Very stupid move. Whatever the Forces think of the Government, they don't like people politicising the uniform. We had a flood of calls from servicemen on just this issue after he appeared. But, more importantly, this guy has no idea about the electorate - if you asked him: "Which is further North, Bega or Eden?", he wouldn't have a clue.

    "Do you think that swinging voters are particularly focused in politics at this stage, such that on-the-ground handshakes-and-baby-kissing campaigning would make much of a difference anyway?"

    No I don't think they are particularly focussed at this stage of the cycle. But you totally fail to comprehend the peculiar mechanics of campaigning in rural and regional electorates, as opposed to campaigning in Paddington. I am a Sydney boy myself - it is simply chalk in cheese in terms of expectations on personal contact and direct access to MPs. That is one of the reasons that Kel Watt lost - he just couldn't hack the continual PERSONAL campaigning required to win a seat.

    Nairn will retain Eden-Monaro. And if you don't believe me, ask your old mate Andrew Constance about how well Gary is doing in this part of the world!

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  4. Peter, let me start by thanking you for according my 'umble site such prominence as to post on it. If I were a ministerial chief of staff in a close election campaign I'd be too busy for this.

    When I outed you as Gary Nairn's chief of staff, I did so to illustrate that you have both some perspectives and some biases that your fellow Wyndham-pub-drinking, ABC-Bega-radio-listening locals don't have. This isn't playing-the-man, it's making sure that the man has his jersey on so that he is identifiable to players, referees and spectators alike, in the greater interests of the game.

    You've learnt Andrew Parker's trick of starting with an insult, as though this might add some force that your arguments otherwise lack. Good luck with that in the future: where would blogs be without opinionated prats like you and me, eh?

    "Name identity counts for a great deal in an election"

    It's important, but it's not nearly so important as you imply (and hope). I spent 14 years as a member of the Liberal Party across two states and in different communities. Standing outside hunderds of different polling booths across NSW, the ACT and South Australia, I found that sometimes people wanted to vote for an individual candidate, while sometimes people wanted to vote for a party and were only interested in the name as a representative of the party. Name recognition is important, but not nearly as important as you seek to imply. If locals-only was some ironclad axiom, parties would never "parachute in" candidates as they do, e.g. Sussan Ley or Sophie Mirabella.

    I had to laugh when I saw your comment about State Directors - as a Chief of Staff to a former Special Minister of State I bet you had to deal with State Directors all the time! Insofar as these often dim and remote figures have any experience with on-the-ground politics it's by talking to, or having been, people like I used to be. I don't think much of the current crop of State Directors - apart from Barry O'Farrell, the ones I dealt with in NSW were barely worth the price of their food. Peter, either of us would make a great State Director if we were prepared to sink to such a level.

    "We had a flood of calls from servicemen on just this issue after he appeared."

    Many of them voting for Nairn, or handing out how-to-votes? No?

    "Those who don't learn for history are doomed to repeat its mistakes."

    It's a mistake to interpret the past four elections as the start of a Thousand Year Liberal Reich, or even a Liberal victory at this election (either generally or specifically in Eden-Monaro). A cliche is no substitute for a sober assessment of the situation before you.

    "If that (The appeal of Kevin Rudd to public servants) were to be serialised in the local newspapers, then we'll win the electorate for sure!"

    What are you waiting for? Get out a press release right now! Try not to do party-political business from a government office though. See, always switched on, always thinking ...

    "Nairn will retain Eden-Monaro. And if you don't believe me ..."

    The bottom line is, I won't believe you until after the election results are tallied. It's touching that you're working so closely with Andrew Constance (if you were as close to him as you need to be, you wouldn't even drag his name into this - let alone fail to appreciate who his friends are).

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  5. Peter Phelps7/8/07 1:51 pm

    Menzies was right - it is better to lose a friend than a repartee.

    "If I were a ministerial chief of staff in a close election campaign I'd be too busy for this."

    Mistakes uncorrected take on the facade of truth.

    "Name recognition is important, but not nearly as important as you seek to imply..."

    Man, you should have worked on a Macquarie Fields booth at the by-election. Your scepticism would have been dented.

    "It's a mistake to interpret the past four elections as the start of a Thousand Year Liberal Reich..."

    I didn't say that. I said that your assessment of Eden-Monaro missed a significant number of key points, and the historical parallel of 1998: good marginal seat campaigns can defeat a generalised voting trend.

    "Try not to do party-political business from a government office though."

    Why not? The use of entitlements by MPs to support their own re-election (including staff) has always been held to be within entitlements. You just cannot support other candidates.

    "It's touching that you're working so closely with Andrew Constance..."

    You miss my point. I just assumed that - seeing you don't believe me - you might like to seek a second opinion from another Liberal on the ground in the electorate, before you race off to pronounce the patient deceased.

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  6. You regurgitate several points that were ignored rather than missed, but as you know repeating nonsense can give it a patina of truth. Or, to turn your own bit of projectionism back:

    "Mistakes uncorrected take on the facade of truth."

    You haven't corrected any mistakes. You have tried to imply that wisps of wishful thinking have the solidity of concrete, which I find amusing.

    "Man, you should have worked on a Macquarie Fields booth at the by-election. Your scepticism would have been dented."

    The Liberals didn't win either the state or federal byelections in Macquarie Fields, QED.

    "the historical parallel of 1998: good marginal seat campaigns can defeat a generalised voting trend."

    I didn't miss this at all. I openly state that what happened in 1998 will not recur in 2007, the Libs don't have it in them. It is a parallel in the sense that it will maintain its distance.

    Let me take this opportunity to say how silly this is. Half the workers wearing your rights at work caps, the assumption that a State government decision will somehow flow into a Federal election, and a promise that could hardly be more "non-core".

    "The use of entitlements by MPs to support their own re-election (including staff) has always been held to be within entitlements."

    More proof, if any were required, that being an insider for too long dulls your political antennae. How many political careers have ended in scandal with screams of "it's technically not unlawful!" only making things worse.

    "before you race off to pronounce the patient deceased."

    Again, this metaphor accords me an authority I don't have, and you also overestimate my esteem for the considered opinion of Andrew Constance. If I'd been on the Bega preselection in 2002 (?) I would have voted for the other guy, but then factional discipline was never my thing.

    With you working shoulder-to-shoulder with Andrew Constance, and with the PM relying on Michael Photios and Trent Zimmerman helping to clean up the Towke embarrassment, there might even be some hope for a post-Howard Liberal Party in NSW. Can't come soon enough I say.

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