So, after six weeks of unrelenting political campaigning, annoying television commercials, stumbles, bumbles and dirty tricks, the Fat Lady is about to sing. As you know, I have been off the air for a few weeks for health reasons, but I am pleased to say that I plan to be back on deck on Monday. By then we will all know just what tune the Fat Lady chose to perform on Saturday night. So, now is the time for considering the issues, assessing the campaigns and making some observations. The overwhelming consensus in the press appears to be that Kevin Rudd has powerfully out-campaigned the Prime Minister, and that the A.L.P. is set to take office. There are some who believe the outcome is not so clearcut, but they appear to be in the minority.
With a majority of opinion polls declaring a Rudd victory, and a majority of newspaper editorials predicting such an outcome, it would seem to be a no-brainer. However, there are some potential hitches for the opposition.
First, there’s the underdog effect. If everybody believes that Rudd is guaranteed victory, some might believe that it doesn’t matter which way they vote, and may choose to support the Howard Government. By and large, the underdog effect is often exaggerated and is far from a reliable source of support. If the sticks are out, nothing will stop a flogging.
Second, there is the fear factor. Not just fear of the unknown, which is an obstacle for any potential new government, but also the specific fear of Union dominated irresponsible economic management. This has been the Coalition’s not so secret weapon, and it is an effective one. There is no shortage of people with genuine concerns about the economic credentials of Labor, and about the influence of the Unions. The truth is that these concerns are grossly exaggerated, but that doesn’t mean they won’t influence the way people vote. The catch cry “Labor can’t manage money” is for many people a statement of the obvious.
Third, the fact remains that Labor must win sixteen seats or more to take government, and that all hinges on how many marginal seats will change hands. History demonstrates that a party can win the two party preferred vote by as much as 53% and still not win enough actual seats to take government. It happened to Kim Beazley and it happened to Andrew Peacock.
So, it’s not a lay down mizarre. John Howard can pull of an apparently miraculous victory. But I don’t believe he will. My prediction is a Labor victory, and if I had to pick a number I would suggest that the A.L.P. can pick up more than 20 seats.
But it’s not up to me, it’s up to you. So what do you think?