It is election eve and the auguries are not propitious. The Australian Electoral Commission says that, by Wednesday evening, some 2.15 million voters\had cast their ballots early, either by visiting a pre-poll centre or via a postal vote — an increase of over 40% on the 1.5 million recorded for the same period in 2013. Perhaps they simply wanted some sort of personal conclusion to the endless campaign. After all, it was at the start of March we first discovered it was likely we would be voting on July 2.
Perhaps – but a large and early turnout, in the eyes of the old-timers, is usually a sign the electorate wants change. The polls remain in the same stubborn state as they have been for the past eight weeks. They show the election is too close to call.
This morning’s Galaxy poll gives the government the narrowest of leads, 51% of the two-party-preferred vote, compared to Labor’s 49%. It also shows an increase of one percentage point in the Coalition’s primary vote to 43%, better than its 2010 showing but still an awkwardly low base to build a victory on. The IPSOS poll has the parties tied. When voters are asked how they will allocate preference, this changes to a Labor lead of 51% to 49%. It has the Coalition’s primary vote at just 40%, yet finds fewer than one in five of the electorate believe Labor will win tomorrow.
This last part is nonsense, particularly given than 14% of the IPSOS respondents say they will vote for someone other Labor, the Coalition and the Greens. It perhaps represents wishful thinking or an inarticulate attempt by many in the electorate to say that while they don’t like the current government and want to punish them, they prefer them to the alternative.
All of which is why it is reasonable to forecast the election will result in a hung parliament.
This column has attempted to cover the campaign with at least some levity. Wryness is the best I can offer today. Look along the frontbenches of both the government and opposition. They are dominated by members of a professional political class. Their triumph has proved their undoing. Peter Oborne documented this breed in a Spectator column nearly 10 years ago, back in September 2007.
“The Spectator political commentator Henry Fairlie, in his column of 23 September, 1955, famously identified the Establishment as the mechanism through which power was exercised in this country,” he wrote. “His analysis, though at once recognised as authentic, was written as the British Establishment was about to collapse …
“Though the eclipse of the Establishment is well-documented, the Political Class which replaced it is so far poorly understood. This is regrettable because the Political Class has come to occupy the same public space that the Establishment was supposed to … This new class now stands at the pinnacle of the British social and economic structure … Unlike the old Establishment, the Political Class depends directly or indirectly on the state for its special privileges, career structure and increasingly for its financial support. This visceral connection distinguishes it from all previous British governing elites.”
That “visceral connection” now represents a visceral disconnection from the electorate. Last week we say what it meant in Britain. Tomorrow we will see what it means here.