September 04, 2006

Coalition loss decades in the making.

Can Peter Beattie sustain 56% of the two-party preferred vote Newspoll says he is winning? I think he can. As this election has progressed, more and more voters have come to regard Queensland as functionally a one-party state because there is no alternative to Labor.

The Opposition parties are seen as completely under-done and outclassed, like a couple of weekend warriors who have decided to turn up and play at the club finals after spending most of the season smoking behind the clubhouse – and that is what their fans are saying.

This defeat has been in the making for decades. In our polling voters cite past and recent history: “[Springborg] leads a rabble in Parliament…[i]f they act like hoons in opposition what would they be like as government. As well the shadow of the old corrupt national party is always hovering…”.

Then there’s the question of teamwork. “The lack of cohesion between the coalition…how could they possible rule together.”

These themes have always been there, but the last three years has accentuated them with a period of each going solo, two failed attempts at a united conservative party and one Coalition. And while the faction-ridden Liberals could have changed leaders anytime in the last six months, they did it just before the election.

Worse, when the whistle is blown to start the match, they don’t even have a health policy to bring to the pitch, even though voters have been telling us since last May, that Health was a number one priority.

All of this resonates with voters as the signs of parties that want to do anything to get into power, except the hard training of finding and grooming good candidates, producing policies, generating issues and refining it all into a message that will switch allegiances.

So, what to do when your legs won’t carry you as fast as you opponents? Slow the game down and use your superior tactical smarts. Well, that worked for the Coalition in 1995. A large protest vote swept Wayne Goss from office, but it won’t work this time. To win a protest vote you have to be seen as worthy of it.

The disdain for the Coalition is so high that voting for them is seen as sending the wrong message. However, there is a viable play. When we put the proposition to respondents “What would be better for Queensland – a larger government majority or a stronger opposition?” they select the latter. It’s similar to the protest vote pitch as it admits you’re unlikely to win. It won’t change government, but it could save them from the record worst wooden-spoon.

However, to make it work they need sufficient discipline and hunger for the team to be prepared and able to admit they’re losing – an big ask given the understandably large egos involved. If Lawrence Springborg mentions “my government” in his campaign launch today, you’ll know that even the lazy play is beyond the opposition, and Beattie’s heading for another premiership and record score.

An edited version of this article was published in The Sunday Mail on Sunday 3rd September under the title "You can't succeed without planning."

Posted by Graham at September 4, 2006 09:41 AM
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