The madness of King Peter

Member for Wentworth Peter King will today announce if he intends to run for re-election as an independent against the man who defeated him for Liberal preselection, Malcolm Turnbull. The word is that he will indeed take the plunge, with Channel Seven News sounding particularly confident. King yesterday provided the Wentworth Courier (click here and jump through the hoops to page eight) with results from a survey of 350 voters commissioned from "a well-regarded pollster whom he would not reveal". Unfortunately, all the report would say was that "Peter King would take 56.5 per cent of the vote, with the ALP’s David Patch behind him at 43.5 per cent". It’s very hard to say exactly what this is supposed to mean. A two-candidate preferred result comparing King with Patch can only be based on the unlikely assumption that Turnbull will only manage third place, when the real issue is whether King can surpass Patch to take second and then ride over Turnbull on Patch’s preferences. If King had real reason to believe this would happen, he would have given primary vote figures showing himself ahead of Patch. For a more plausible guide to the state of play, Taverner conducted a poll for the Sun Herald in May that had Turnbull on 35 per cent, Patch on 29 per cent and King on 18 per cent. It could be that this is roughly what King’s own figures show and that he is essentially combining his own vote with Turnbull’s to generate a spurious two-candidate preferred figure to rebut "scaremongering" that his candidacy might deliver the seat to Labor. In reality, this is all King can seriously hope to achieve if the best he can manage is third place. With a 7.9 per cent margin, Wentworth is less safe for the Liberals than is commonly supposed and if a substantial proportion of the existing Liberal primary votes were drained away by an independent, leakage of preferences to Labor could well cost them the seat.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.