The only poll that matters, we’re always told, is the one on election day. So we must regard yesterday’s ballots as more than five separate by-elections, but a poll; a poll with an imperfect sample, true, but with these quibbles cancelled out by the size of those surveyed and their geographical spread – a poll with very bad news indeed for the (cough) Turnbull Coalition Team.
Let’s take a look at the figures as they currently stand at the close of counting on Saturday night.
Labor has not only held the two traditional two-party contest seats, Longman and Braddon, but increased its vote. More on this in a minute.
A matchless Liberal name and pedigree — and the full backing of both the Capulet and Montague factions — failed to assist Georgina Downer in Mayo. Instead, the electorate swung towards Xenophon detritus Rebekkha Sharkie.
Over in the West, where the Libs simply squibbed the competitions, it looks as if turnout has been low with, presumably, Liberals staying away — although a good number appeared to be prepared to line up behind the Liberal Democrats in funky Fremantle, the type of place where David Leyonhjelm ratbaggery provokes some of the great estfury.
The Turnbull Coalition team went down everywhere — and particularly where it mattered.
Down the East coast alone, the Coalition holds more than 10 seats with majorities of under two per cent — and that’s before the redistributions in the ACT and Victoria that have favoured the ALP are taken into accounts.
Yes, these have been by-elections, but by-elections when the government has a majority of just one in the House of the Representatives. Their outcomes could not change government, but voters were well aware of the psychological impact of their ballots on the Prime Minister and opposition leader.
Poll after poll has shown that voters regard Bill Shorten as a shonk, something News Corp has been keen to highlight from a right perspective and the ABC and the outlets known formerly as Fairfax Media from the left, yet he came out the winner yesterday.
Malcolm Turnbull is free to call an election any time between now and May.
He hoped yesterday would provide a spingboard for a poll vault maybe even before the football finals at the end of September or sometime in October, a poll he could win.
Now he has to factor in three more ballots; the Victorian state election in late November, a New South Wales vote in March — and a potential leadership spill.
He’s now been comprehensively outcampaigned by Shorten Labor on two occasions.
His based strayed to One Nation in utterly crucial ground in Queensland on Saturday.
Does he try for third time lucky, skip bringing back the parliament and still go early, or risk the rug being pulled from under his feet.
Late last night faint talk of a February spill could be detected. It might have been the hour. It might have been the beers.
Whatever the case, it was the last thing the Prime Minister wanted — just as last night’s result was the last thing he needed.
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