Suburban Squall #vicvotes
UPDATE: Credit where it’s due: the Victorian Electoral Commission has bowed to pressure to start counting sooner than planned, at 4PM today (Sunday). This is refreshingly responsive and PR-savvy on their part.
We don’t know precisely the outcome of the Victorian election yet, mainly due to the outrageous and indefensible decision by the Victorian Electoral Commission not to count pre-poll votes until Monday. These are by definition votes cast before the election even took place, so the VEC could have easily counted them before the close of polls on Saturday and simply hit ENTER to add them to the total. Their decision not to is beyond my feeble comprehension.
Where we stand is this: the two most likely outcomes are that (a) the Coalition has won with a two-seat majority (45-43) or there will be a hung Parliament (44-44). Other outcomes are possible depending on the unforgivably late pre-poll count tomorrow.
I wrote in the Business Spectator on Thursday that Brumby would win by a small margin, but that this would be against the tide of history since he was asking for an unprecedented fourth successive term. In the hours that followed publication of that piece, a series of polls (Galaxy, Morgan, AC Neilsen and Newspoll) revealed that late deciders were breaking decisively for the Coalition, forcing a rethink. By Saturday morning, I still thought it would be close but that the Coalition were more likely than not to win, given their apparent momentum in the final 2-3 days. By 6PM, when a Sky News exit poll suggested a statewide swing against Labor of 8.5 percent (pointing to a Coalition landslide), all remaining hope had well and truly faded.
So what happened?
In one sense, it was fairly straight-forward. The most marginal seats — those that required less than a 4 percent swing to change hands — fell to the Coalition in predictable fashion: Mt Waverley, Gembrook, Forest Hill, Mitcham, South Barwon, Frankston, Mordialloc, Prahran and Burwood. That’s nine of the government’s 11-seat majority and, while Labor may have hoped or even expected to hang on in one or two from this list, the result in any one of these seats is hardly startling.
For the Coalition to win, it needed to raid the band of seats that fell between 4 and 8 percent, a combination of regional and outer-suburban electorates. Of the eleven seats in this category, the Coalition has won two — Seymour and Carrum — and is leading in another, Bentleigh. It is also very close in Eltham and Macedon, the latter sitting just outside the 8 percent range. If the results remains as they are now, Seymour, Carrum and Bentleigh will be enough to deliver government to the Lib-Nat Coalition; if Bentleigh creeps back into the Labor column on the back of pre-polls, then we have a tie.
The results, therefore, won’t so much as raise the eyebrows of future political scientists. Indeed, if a government of eleven years didn’t lose a swag of marginals, that would be more of a surprise.
But there is a bigger story underneath the numbers , and that relates to the scale and intensity of the swing in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. Here, Labor copped a unmitigated hiding. This is a demographic gripped with unease; the same economically stretched, culturally rattled (and predominantly white, non-Tertiary educated) voters that punished Obama in Pennsylvania and Ohio a few weeks ago, and have lashed out at Gillard, Gordon Brown and Helen Clark in recent times. I plan to dig a bit deeper into this topic. If the centre-left can’t grapple with this angry white problem, then we can look forward to plenty more replays of last night.