As a group, the Victorian ALP is politically walking dead. It cannot win the next state election in November 2022.
That is a pretty big claim. Predicting an election outcome two years out is foolish by any measure. But here’s the reasoning.
In Australia’s current political environment each major party can only rely on a locked–on vote of about 35 per cent each. The task at every election is to grab enough of the remaining 30 per cent of swinging voters — or their preferences — to end up with 50 per cent plus one on election day.
As leader of Victoria’s ALP Dan Andrews is running a Covid ‘management’ process that is entirely politically focused. He’s playing exclusively to his perceived core voting base — public sector employees (note their two per cent pay rise), construction and other unions and key regional seats; stopping ‘infected’ Melburnians from infecting regions. Also included are others within his political imagination, among them LGBT and social welfare communities.
On the ‘outside’ of Andrews’ political ‘hug club’ is business, particularly small business and the self-employed. His approach to these groups is one of nasty, vitriolic sternness. He’s the bullying big brother demanding his younger siblings behave or he’ll ‘whack ya one!’ He backs this with forced private–sector shut–downs yet keeps his public servants and construction buddies working and paid. Witness, for example, council gardeners working but Jim’s Mowing not.
The trouble with this strategy is that it’s killing his access to the 30 per cent swinging voter group.
In deriding the self-employed (allegedly insecure workers), for example, he’s infuriated a massive segment of swinging voters. Self-employed, small business people are self-starters, self-motivators and astute decision–makers. They are not followers. This is their nature and it’s this behavioural psyche that makes them swinging voters.
What’s ‘exploded’ with this diverse group is seething anger with Andrews, arising both from their treatment and the way they’ve been talked to. Andrews has turned large numbers of people previously too busy to be much involved in politics into committed anti-Labor voters. And it’s not just their vote that’s been locked to anti-Labor, but their determination to rout Labor.
And organisational capacity is their ‘thing’. By far the largest group of self-employed are professionals — accountants, lawyers, engineers and high–end consultants of all sorts. They are formidable once focused.
But this extends also to Labor’s presumed ‘core’ of artists and the LGBT community, for example. Both of these groups are highly entrepreneurial. Artists have to be. They work from job to job. LGBT Australians are well over-represented in small business — particularly retail, IT, marketing and cultural activities.
What’s happened in Victoria is that Andrews has driven big percentages of these people away from Labor with almost a manic obsession.
Look at some anecdotes.
There are about four key ‘Ditch Dan’ closed Facebook groups that didn’t exist five months ago. Combined membership can be estimated at 40,000–50,000. Yes, they are angry, but they shouldn’t be assumed to be the radical right. The radical right groups are quite small.
Around four to five class action cases have been launched to sue the Victorian government for damages. These actions are targeting self-employed and small businesses as their clients. These professional class litigant companies don’t initiate such actions unless they see a big market.
Just two weeks ago Self Employed Australia launched our ‘Put Labor Last’ campaign for the Victorian council elections (voting closes this Friday, 23 October). From a standing start of ‘zero’, 35,000 people have accessed our DefeatDan website that lists all 2,400 council candidates and whether they are Labor or Labor–leaning. Our Facebook page promoting the campaign has ‘reached’ 140,000 people with 38,000 ‘engagements’.
Our action seems to have triggered around another three websites and/or groups also campaigning against Labor in the council election. Their traffic seems to be at least as large if not larger than ours. For what are normally boring council elections where voters have no idea who the candidates are or what they stand for, these council elections have generated major voter interest from what we can see.
What this all amounts to is a dark picture for Victorian Labor. Their anti-small business campaign includes policy to make self-employment illegal. That is, their intention is to harm small business. And Dan Andrews is proving to be supremely successful in that objective.
But in doing this he has driven away from Labor a significant percentage of the Victorian swinging voter demographic. If that alienated percentage is, say, 5 per cent, then Labor has to attract 15 per cent of swinging voters from the remaining 25 per cent of swingers. If the alienation figure is 10 per cent, Labor must still capture 15 per cent of the smaller remaining 20 per cent of swingers. And if the alienation rate is 15 per cent, Labor must capture all of the remaining 15 per cent of swingers.
Even at a 5 per cent alienation rate, Labor’s task is horrid. No political party in Australian can afford to deliberately attack swinging voter groups. It’s death.
Obviously, this thesis could be totally wrong. Victorian lockdown will stop. Covid will be defeated. Premier Dan will be a hero fighting the hard fight when ‘all about you are in panic’. A surge of support will rush back to Victorian Labor.
But what if I’m right?
Ken Phillips is Executive Director of Self Employed Australia.
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