On the beach

The Poll Bludger, along with a number of others (Peter Coleman and Alan Jones spring to mind), could yet be made to eat his words on the folly of Peter King’s plan to run as an independent in Wentworth if Labor polling leaked to The Australian yesterday is accurate. The results were Malcolm Turnbull 30 per cent, Labor’s David Patch 27 per cent, Peter King 25 per cent and the Greens 10 per cent, a substantially better result for King than in May’s Sun-Herald Taverner poll. However King’s challenge is still to get his nose in front of Labor so he can ride over Turnbull on their preferences, which is why he is so furiously courting the Greens. However, all the evidence suggests that most Greens voters make up their own mind where to deliver their preferences and at least 70 per cent of them favour Labor over the Coalition. Where they will rank an independent Peter King in this scheme of things is an open question, but it is likely the majority will consider him a Liberal. So even on the figures quoted, King will need to have generated a substantial boost from Friday’s announcement and will have to maintain that through four weeks of fierce Liberal campaigning. Expect scare campaigning over a hung parliament to feature prominently.

Another point of interest here is the temptation for Labor to run dead and encourage "tactical voting" by their supporters, a concept familiar to voters in Britain but one rendered largely irrelevant in Australia by preferential voting. Where British Labour and Liberal Democrats supporters would often back each others candidates on the basis of who had a realistic chance of defeating the Conservatives, Labor supporters in Wentworth could face a choice between Peter King overcoming the Labor candidate and riding home on his preferences, or Labor holding firm in second place and Peter King’s preferences sealing victory for Turnbull. But to do that they would have to let go of the idea that David Patch might actually win, and with all the rancour consuming the conservative camp, he too might have enjoyed a boost of sorts from Peter King’s decision to run.

UPDATE: Malcolm Farr reported in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph (apparently not available online) that "party figures determined to see Mr Turnbull lose have urged Labor supporters to vote for Peter King, the Liberal turned independent … Mr Patch is determined to fight the poll rather than take a dive but the electorate might cotton on to the plan".

UPDATE (9/9/04): It did occur to the Poll Bludger that Labor might have suspect motives in conducting and releasing polling from a seat that would not normally be on its hit list of marginals. Prominent blog-botherer Homer Paxton has dropped a line to add support to this idea: "why on earth would the ALP waste money on polling in Wentworth? I have a fair idea of how much it would cost and they wouldn’t waste the money. I suspect this is a plant for the Libs to pour more money and more importantly people into Wentworth and less into some close-by marginals … the ALP very rarely polls only one electorate".

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.