Sunday, August 26, 2012

Swinging By

The Heffron by-election came and went yesterday with a predictable Labor win.

I've written about the circumstances that lead up to the by-election here.

Suffice to say that, as expected, I didn't hear anyone complain about Keneally leaving early, which just goes to prove that a promise to stay and serve your local electorate no matter the state-wide result is a promise that no one is ever going to hold you to.

In the end, as discussed the post where I reviewed the candidate list, only 4 candidates nominated: Labor, Christian Democrats, Greens and Australian Democrats. In the 2011 election, there were an additional 2 (insignificant) independants as well as the Liberal candidate. In 2012, we were short those three but added an Australian Democrats candidate.

Given the likelihood of an easy Labor victory, the interesting part was going to be where the Liberal voters allocated their vote. All the state-wide polls since the election are very similar to the election result, so it is fair to assume that those that voted ALP or Green last time would vote the same way.

The only exception would be strictly progressive voters who voted Green or Labor last time and may now find a more comfortable fit with the Democrats.

It's unclear exactly how many voters there are who want to vote progressive but dislike the ALP (perhaps because they are a major party, or because of the union ties) but also don't want to vote Green (perhaps being put off by the focus on environmental issues).

This is the (an am sure growing) group that the Democrats would be perfect for - but whether the Democrats can ever rebuild and capture that group remains to be seen.

In any event, this was the result (not including postals, naturally):
Table from the ABC
38% of the voters would have had to vote differently to how they voted in 2011, and every candidate benefitted.

The first remarkable thing is the size of the vote for the Democrats. If the Democrats website is to be believed, in 2011 they ran in only 1 lower house seat, where they garnered just 1.4% of the primary vote. In the upper house, they didn't even manage 1%, which is less than the No Parking Meters Party.

So, where did that 10% come from? I'd say people like this:
It appears that this guy probably voted Green (however begrudgingly) but I suspect a large portion of that 10% were Liberal voters who could not contenance voting Green or Labor. That doesn't really make sense if you've read the Democrats platform, but there you go.

I also wonder how much of it was what I like to think of as the Liberal Democrats effect.

The Liberal Democrats are a party that drew 1.8% of the Senate vote. This is despite them being a fairly anonymous party with a platform that is libertarian and small-government. What I wonder is how many people, put off by the major, better known parties, liked the sound of a name that really told them nothing about the policies, but sounds like something they might like (progressive voters like the word Democrat, conservative voters are comforted by the word Liberal).

In other words, they may have scooped up voters who didn't like the sound of the other parties by having a name they liked.

That could be completely wrong, and we'll never really know what goes on in the mind of the "makes up his mind in the voting booth" voter. But it bears thought.

Other than the Democrats, the biggest rise was reserved for the Labor party.

Why? This tweet from Green upper house member John Kaye caught my eye last night:
He's right. Except when bickering over a few particularly divisive issues, there is hardly a vast chasm between the Liberals and Labor.

Most Liberal voters, when given the choice between Labor (in theory a centre-left party, although views differ) and the Greens (left - or loony left, if you prefer) will choose Labor.

There's no mystery about that. What remains to be seen is whether the Greens can start to capture a greater portion of the vote.

Many feel that Labor (both Federal and State) have drifted further and further to the right - becoming a centrist party. The Greens are not going to win Labor voters by outflanking them on the right - the only way they can take voters off Labor are going to be by winning the voters who are frustrated by Labor's apparent renunciation of left-values.

There's far more to say about that. Suffice to say, it's a pretty fair explanation of why the Greens didn't benefit more from the Liberals not running.

The next by-election with probably be Sydney if Clover Moore (as expected) is re-elected mayor and is forced to resign her state seat. With a prominent local member stepping aside it will be fascinating to see where her votes flow.

Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. The Democrats did surprisingly well in Heffron.

    I say surprisingly, but is it?

    The Greens have surplanted the Democrats as the tird party of choice. Many Democrats have simply shifted to the Greens.

    However, the Greens are not the same as the Democrats, and rather than a centrist concensus based party are rather one that is well to Labour's left.

    Many people who moved from the Democrats to the Greens are beginning to realise this. Greens are idealogues, and sometimes frighteningly so.

    There are many points on which Greens and Democrats agree, but many on which they do not.

    Whether the Democrats can take advantage of the opportunity is unsure. They will require a huge effort, willpower, and some media coverage.

    The latter is woefully missing at the moment, and I am unsure how they can get heard. However if they do get that voice, the results could be interesting