The Long View
Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 16, 2007
This election is about momentum, Barry.
Doesn’t it make you feel all warm and fuzzy when you start channeling Paul Kelly ? Although he can have that whole Sunday Morning Dressed By Tarocash look to himself.
During this election campaign, miles of column space will be written, every action of our politicians will be analysed to death, every movement in the polls however small will be used to judge the success or otherwise of the previous days and weeks political strategy.
But when the race is finished, when the marquis are pulled down and everyone involved goes off to nurse their hangovers, history will look back and identify the defining feature of the 2007 election as having occurred before the starters gun was fired.
The dominant characteristic of the political landscape since March 2005 has been the unstoppable momentum in the declining level of support for the Howard government. If we look at the monthly aggregation of the Coalition Two Party Preferred estimates from Newspoll over the period since the last election, the obvious speaks for itself.
One could almost ski down that slope. This decline hasn’t been an artefact of the minor party vote or preference flow issues either, for the same phenomenon can be witnessed in the primary vote of the Coalition. If we look at the primary vote swing of the Coalition, by month, using Newspoll estimates – the underlying cause of the Two Party Preferred decline reveals itself:
Coalition primary voters have simply done a runner.
No single defining policy event over this period can be pinpointed as the fundamental root cause of the desertion from the Coalition voting ranks – it’s been an incremental, almost drip feed of estrangement. While Workchoices has obviously had a large effect on some demographics voting intention, and has probably consolidated a lot of that movement – this alone doesn’t come within a bulls roar of explaining the chronological nature of the electoral decline.
These Coalition divorcees all have their own reasons for why the relationship broke down. The primary problem for the Howard government is that these reasons are many and varied, too many and varied. The Coalition is suffering from their previous supporters feasting on a veritable smorgasbord of political grievance, and doing so for a very considerable period of time.
In 2001 after the Ryan by-election, you may recall that Howard found himself in a similar electoral situation, but key backflips on the specific causes of his political problems, like petrol excise, allowed him to mea culpa his way back into political contention long before the toxic twins of Tampa and 9/11 unleashed themselves on the political system.
Yet today, as a result of there being no specific policy cause to the decline in the Coalition vote, there is no key identifiable policy solution available to sooth the wide variety of reasons that have driven pundits to abscond from the coalition voting community.
Voters have been changing sides since shortly after the last election, and have continued to do so throughout the intervening years. This momentum has already defined the way this election will be fought, it’s now only a short matter of time until it defines the political outcome itself.