The Big Wash-Up
Monday, 2 December 2002
The time has finally arrived for my pontificating post-mortem on the result of Saturday's Victorian State Election.
Saturday's result shows that the Liberal Party to reshape itself as a modern, responsible, democratic conservative party, in much the same way that Labor has grudgingly recognising the need to abandon the socialist dream and reshape itself as a modern, responsible, socially democratic party. It's time that the Liberal party recognised that while slogans like "We stand for choice, Labor stands for the closed shop." (to paraphrase a remark of Ted Baillieu's on Saturday Night) may have instant appeal with the party faithful, elections are not won in the lounges of the Melbourne Club, any more than they are won in the public bar of the John Curtin Hotel. Tony Abbott may be respected as Federal Minister for Workplace Relations and even liked in some quarters, but the people of Victoria have made it pretty clear that they don't want him as State Premier. Kicking the rusty old union can is no longer a ticket to instant electoral victory.
There's been some predictable scape-goating of Robert Dean since Saturday and no doubt we're in for more. It's also been said that Mr Doyle wasn't really given a fair chance to establish himself as leader: a less complimentary way to put it was that he didn't have enough lead time to the election to establish his public image as a basically decent fellow, rather than the ambitious, self-serving career politician who rolled Dennis Napthine. Robert Dean deserves his fair share of credit for Saturday's result but the Dean affair did not occur in isolation. Mr Doyle's attempts to recover from the situation on the weekend of the Liberal campaign launch by spinning it as "yesterday's news" did little to salvage the Liberal's chances. If anything it did the opposite, reinforcing the powerful symbolism of the Dean affair.
Afterword: I've just taken a look at Glenn Milne's article in the Oz. I love this bit:
... they [Victorian Electors] did not have the time or energy to put his Government under hard scrutiny. Nor were they prepared to assess Doyle with any degree of enthusiasm.
As usual, it's a case of the electorate being too dumb, or too lazy, to weigh the issues up properly. Of course, as someone who forgot that on Saturday I would be voting in the Legislative Council as well, I'm in no position to refute this view.