After the blast

CLP supporters hoping that late counting might add a skerrick of respectability to the Northern Territory scoreboard have once again been shatteringly disappointed. Labor’s leads have remained stubbornly intact in Drysdale (1813 to 1698), Port Darwin (1705 to 1609) and Goyder (1984 to 1860), while their other gains of Daly (2239 to 1199), MacDonnell (1705 to 1046) and Denis Burke’s former seat of Brennan (1912 to 1761) have never looked in doubt. But the CLP will hold Greatorex (1930 to 1821), maintaining the Labor lockout from Alice Springs. The independent member for Braitling, Loraine Braham, has defied conventional wisdom to strengthen her position in late counting and now looks likely to retain her seat, leading 1770 votes to the CLP’s 1717. Barring last minute miracles, the numbers in the Legislative Assembly will be Labor 19, CLP four and independents two. The Poll Bludger has thus emerged with five wrong calls out of 25, namely Drysdale, Brennan, Port Darwin, Goyder and Greatorex.

Compared to my score of 55 out of 57 at the Western Australian election (and I would argue that one of the two wrong calls didn’t fully count, since it went from one Coalition party to the other) this doesn’t look too special, but this was a very different election. Anyone who tipped Labor wins in Drysdale or Brennan before Saturday could have expected a visit from men in white coats, and even some of my accurate predictions attracted howls of derision from observers at the top end. Since the scale of Labor’s win was beyond anyone’s wildest imagination, the spoils went to whoever made the boldest prediction in their favour. In this respect, Peter Brent at Mumble and Bryan at Palmer’s Oz Politics might be said to have emerged as the winners with their predictions of 17 seats for Labor rather than the 16 tipped by myself and Charles Richardson at Crikey, but they weren’t tipping individual seat outcomes. Of those that were, Richardson was kind enough to note that this site was nearest the mark.

The Poll Bludger is too kind-hearted to draw attention to the legions of observers who weren’t even close (note Bryan’s observations at Palmer’s Oz Politics), and will limit the gloating over his detractors to this self-serving selection of highlights from the last three weeks:

I suspect that those who have watched Labor struggle over nine Northern Territory elections might prove a little slow to acclimatise to the entirely new circumstances now that Labor heads a stable government with a popular leader, and faces a divided rabble of an opposition. I would not be amazed if the CLP emerged with as few as six seats.

Comment at Troppo Armadillo, 1/6/05

As the Northern Territory election loomed, the Poll Bludger’s gut feeling was that Clare Martin and Labor were on course for a landslide win that would rewrite the top end’s electoral rule book. After probing deeper I was surprised to discover that this view had little currency among those more closely familiar with Territory politics than myself, which led me to back down on some of my bolder seat predictions. I did so without conviction … (Newspoll has) emboldened me to trust my original instincts. The poll suggests that participants in various online forums who have been debating which northern suburbs seats might deliver victory to the CLP have been barking up the wrong tree entirely. The real question as far as Darwin is concerned is whether the CLP can hold back the tide in Port Darwin, which it holds with a margin of 7.3 per cent.

The Poll Bludger, 11/6/05

I have developed a theory about this election that has inspired me to draw a different overall conclusion, not just from (thread commenter) Bonnie but from just about every other observer. It goes like this – unlike every previous NT election, this one will be held under a Labor government, which entirely changes the rules. For one thing, the CLP can’t scare people away from Labor now that it’s been practically demonstrated that the world won’t come to an end if they win … For another, the well-known advantages of incumbency for local members were always a boon for the CLP in the past because they had more sitting members than Labor. But this time, Labor goes into the election with 12 sitting members versus eight for the CLP. Yes, local issues still matter and there will be big variations in the result from one seat to the next. But my punt is that these will occur within the context of a seismic movement in Labor’s favour, such that the variations will amount to differences in the size of the pro-Labor swing.

Comment at Inside Politics, 18/6/05

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.