Why Labor Won
Posted by Possum Comitatus on December 4, 2007
Just when we thought it was safe to open up The Oz on a Tuesday, the first Newspoll of the New Order is released.
First up, the fun stuff.
Unfortunately there wasn’t any voting intention question, which is a bit of a pity as these first post-election voting polls are always good for a bit of a laugh, but we do have a question on “Which of the following do you think would be best to lead the Liberal Party“.
Aquaman (so called via the comment of David R – Turnbull is a little bit green, a little bit blue and one would add a little bit wet to boot) defeated Uncommitted as preferred leader and was nearly twice as popular as the Doormat-in-Chief, Spanky Nelson.
The canonical couplet of Abbott and Bishop rounded out the ‘top’ contenders.
Do you get the feeling that Nelson is in for a long, hard slog?
A more interesting question that actually gets to the point of the post, was on whether people voted for a party or against a party as their primary motivation in the election.
This goes to the very heart of the cliché that ‘Oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them’. Clearly in this election, that cliché has marginal relevance.
This result suggests that the electorate voted for Labor on the basis of merit rather than against the Coalition because they were fed up with them. Yet this Newspoll isn’t some weird survey result thrown up in isolation; if we remember back to the internal Liberal Party Crosby Textor research and look at the issue positioning overall, and which specific issues were driving the vote of the major parties, Labor was winning vote share on the issues that mattered to the electorate.
This is further reinforced if we look at the Newspoll question also published today on which issues the electorate believed were important in terms of deciding their vote.
Just as that Crosby Textor research showed back in June, the dominant issues in driving the vote were nearly all Labor issues.
So we have a majority of respondents saying they voted for Labor rather than against the Coalition, the major issues that were driving the vote were nearly all owned by Labor at the end of the election campaign, and that ownership was not a new phenomenon, but something which occurred way back in December 2006 after Rudd gained the ALP leadership – it was consistent over nearly a 12 month period.
This is important because it gives us the empirical data we need to determine the observable reality of why the Howard government was defeated – and this observable reality is running completely contrary to an awful lot of political commentary out there at the moment.
The government didn’t lose the election, their failed campaign strategy didn’t result in an ALP government by accident, the electorate didn’t say “it’s time to give the other side a go“.
However, nor was it a rejection of the Howard government either. The dislike of the Howard government didn’t drive the election result – far from it.
The election was won by Labor on the merit of the arguments and political positions Labor produced. It was a vote FOR a party, but more importantly a vote FOR the policy positions and stated directions that the ALP had produced. It was a vote for change, substantially on the basis of the issues.
This is a complete empirical slap in the face to those in the commentariat that have been rabbiting on with superficial twaddle over Rudds “Me-Tooism”. That was always a shallow, vacuous substitute for what was actually occurring in the campaign.
Far from simply copying the Howard government as some nonsensical small target strategy, Rudd embarked on a process of agreeing with Howard on those issues that could lose him net votes were he not to do so, and disagreed with Howard on those issues where to do so would win him net votes. This strategy effectively neutralised and/or minimised any remaining Coalition strengths, and highlighted the differences between Labor and the Coalition on all of the issues that were actually driving the vote – it crystalised out the differences that would deliver for the ALP.
And deliver it did – the strategy that so confused most of the commentariat delivered government for the ALP, and it delivered government on the basis of issue dominance.
There were a couple of Journo’s out there that got a little shirty about this article in Crikey that I wrote during the campaign, an article that effectively said exactly what I’ve said here.
Well the data is in – suck it up fellas
Moving right along from that small moment of self-indulgence, there was also an amusing little piece in The Oz today – another addition to the growing family of “Oh yes, we’re all sorry now”.
In a piece headlined “APOLOGY TO GEORGE NEWHOUSE“, The Oz states:
“Apology to George Newhouse
On Saturday morning November 24, 2007, I (Caroline Overington) had an encounter with the Labor candidate for Wentworth, Mr George Newhouse, in circumstances that I sincerely regret. I hope that Mr Newhouse and I can put this incident behind us and I wish him all the best.
The Australian regrets any embarrassment Mr Newhouse has endured and also wishes him well.“
I hope that The Australian also regrets the embarrassment Overington caused to their not insubstantial brand.
That’s what inevitably happens when journalists confuse their roles and attempt to become a player in the political process rather than the intermediary between political events and the publics’ interest in them.
While this whole fiasco was a disgrace from its deplorable start to its pathetic finish, what hasn’t received enough attention is the thuggish behaviour that Overington carried on with, to a small political blogger who had the audacity to poke fun at her stupidity.
There were plenty of things said about Overingtons behaviour on the big political blogs that can easily defend themselves and wouldn’t be intimidated by that kind of bullying windbaggery – but none of them to my knowledge heard a whimper out of her. For whatever reason – she chose to pick on the small guy.
Thankfully the small guy wasn’t taking any of that crap.
This is also a good lesson out there for political bloggers generally – only converse with people that have grievances or people that you don’t necessarily trust, via email. When people know that there will be a record of their correspondence, they are more likely to keep it in their pants.