Labor must fight complacency as leaders shift into high gear

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Because nothing lasts forever in politics, it is best not to cling too firmly to orthodox views.

Although Election Day is more than four months away, the 2022 Victorian election campaign has begun. Preliminaries are out. Resignations and retirements from both sides have been announced. Daniel Andrews has his succession plan, and by implication his complete dominance over the government and the PLA, in place.

Prime Minister Daniel Andrews.Credit:age

Matthew Guy’s transformation from creepy and still furious 2018 Leader of the Opposition to even-tempered family man continues. Postal items from parties have started arriving in the mailboxes of major electorates in recent days. The standard view seems to be that an Andrews majority government, having won so big last time around, can expect re-election after taking a bit of an election haircut. Is it a certainty?

Political settlements come and go. Between 1955 and 1982, the Liberal Party governed Victoria in its own right, without the need to form a coalition with the National Party (formerly the Country). Throughout these 27 years, the Labor Party has never really been in conflict. But in the 40 years since 1982, the Liberal-National coalition has only been in power for a total of 11 years and Victoria has become the safest Labor state in the country.

Recent history holds lessons for today. Take the 2010 national election. Labor was seeking a fourth term under John Brumby, who took over from Steve Bracks mid-term. Four months from election day, just as we are now, the government had 56% of the two-party preferred vote in Newspoll. Things were looking good.

But the PLA ran a weak campaign. The Liberals, led by Ted Baillieu, have mounted a good one. Frankston’s underperforming rail line, which ran through five marginal seats held by Labour, produced an electoral disaster for the Brumby government: in the election, all five seats went to the Liberals. In total, the Coalition won 13 seats, just enough to give it a simple parliamentary majority.

One thing you can say about Daniel Andrews is that voters don’t need to message him twice. The Frankston line now includes refurbished stations and many level crossing setbacks. Bentleigh, Mordialloc, Carrum and Frankston – where the line south of Caulfield is – are back in Labor hands and are expected to stay there.

But the state has changed since 2010. It has grown. The western suburbs exploded. Growth to the north and southeast has been almost as great. And society’s attitudes towards politics and politicians are changing. We saw it in the federal elections in May. Attachments to major parties are collapsing – in some places quite precipitously.

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