Monday, November 29, 2010

A Collingwood Supporter

In any election, state or Federal, there's always a certain cache attached to which electoral boffin is the first to 'call' the election. As in, which pundit is the first to get onto some sort of media outlet and declare the winner. And there's even more cache attached to doing this and getting the answer correct.

And the winner this time? For last weekend's state election in Victoria? If you're thinking ABC Election obsessive Anthony Green you'd be...dead wrong.

Incredible as it may seem, long forgotten British electro pop duo 'Bentley Rhythm Ace' were the first to call the outcome this time around. Even more incredible is that they called it 13 years ago!

For their 1997 song 'Bentley's Gonna Sort You Out!' pretty accurately describes the outcome of the poll and also what soon to be no more Premier John Brumby faced up to on Sudnay, the morning after.

In that the election was close, in terms of the number of seats won, with the ultimate winner to be decided by whichever of the major parties managed to win the seat of 'Bentleigh' (so the spelling's different, so what? BRA were artists, man).

The day after the poll, most media commentary had Labor on 43 seats (out of 88) and Liberal on 44. Well, that's not true. Most media had already called the election for Big Ted Baillieu and had the final result 45 - 43 in favour of the conservatives. But Brumby is not a man to let go easily. He waited a long time in the shadow of that likeable goofball, Steve Bracks, doing the Government's heavy lifting in Treasury while Bracksy rode around in the car with the flag on the bonnet, and he wasn't going to vacate the Premier's office until he was absolutely certain, beyond the shadow of any sort of doubt, that there was no way that defeat could be turned into victory.

Hence his election night prediction that a hung Parliament was 'the most likely outcome.' As predictions go well, optimistic is probably the wrong word. 'Creatively unrealistic' is probably closer to the mark (and people had said that the soon to be no more Premier was a dour man, with no creative side).

Which brings us back to Bentley/Bentleigh, as this was the last of the electorates in the 'too close to call' bracket. Nevermind the fact that, again, most followers of the election had this one already falling to the Liberals' Elizabeth Miller. The soon to be no more Premier was determined to soldier on, stating in a press conference on Sunday arvo that there were any number of pre-poll, postal and absentee votes left to count that could still get him over the line, although by this time the Liberal lead was about 400 votes and that was enough to extinguish any hope.

He then went on to point out that even if Labor did lose the election, and the soon to be no more Premier felt this unlikely, Labor really hadn't done too badly. I mean, the Liberals would only win by one seat. And Labor had won at least 43 seats, which was one more than Bracksy won in 1999 when he took office. He’d outdone Bracksy, see. And, and, and, Labor had held all of their inner city seats against the Greens. So really, you know, when you think about it, it was a pretty good result, overall.

So if the soon to be no more Premier's election night prediction was unrealistic, this analysis of the outcome was a bit like the captain of the Titanic saying 'Yes, well, the ship may have sunk and a few people may have drowned, but we were making incredible time!'

For the fact of the matter is that this election result is a disaster for the ALP. Pre election, they looked more or less impregnable having had two large victories in 2002 and 2006 which gave them a buffer of 6.5% and 13 seats statewide. Which really ought to have been enough. Especially when you consider that Brumby's opponent was Big Ted, who's never been the sort of person to inspire any emotion from the public previously, unless mild disinterest counts as an emotion.

But despite these factors, JB has still succeeded in leading State Labor over a cliff. The anti Government swing in the suburbs ran as high as 10 - 12% (JB himself suffered the ignominy of a 12% swing against him in his own electorate of Broadmeadows), and those are the sort of numbers that sweep even well entrenched Governments from office. The ‘It’s Time’ factor was a large part of this, the feeling that the Government had been there too long, but Labor had also had a series of legitimate policy failures – myki, public transport generally, hospital wait lists and water among them – for which the public were calling them to account.

All that was left was for JB to formally concede, which he finally did yesterday afternoon, this time mostly restraining himself from offering up all the same lunatic excuses listed above. However, the soon to be ex Premier couldn't resist putting on the record how he thought Labor had campaigned well and, if given his time over, he wouldn't have changed a thing. If this is really what he thinks, then we can expect a chapter in the ex Premier's memoirs about how he and Ted Baillieu are best mates and he was always a Liberal double agent.

Inept campaigner - and aloof, arrogant bugger - he may be, it was hard not to feel a bit sorry for JB yesterday. His dream of actually being elected Premier and riding in the car with the flag on the bonnet:

is over.

And after a lifetime dedicated to Labor politics; junior staff lickspittle, backroom apparatchik, Federal backbencher, State Opposition leader, State Treasurer and unelected Premier, he now has to find something else to do with his time. It makes a person's eyes moist to be sure…

… until you remember that he is a Collingwood supporter after all.

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