In January I made fun of those who predicted that Bill Glasson would do well at the Griffith by-election because do well is such an elastic term that could be applied to anything short of a 10% swing to Labor. But if we look at it with some semblance of impartiality it has to be said that achieving a small swing to the coalition, when all the major polling companies are recording swings to the Labor Party does seem to suggest that Dr Glasson (for a doctor he is) did a reasonably good job.
Historically by-elections swing away from the government. This isn’t because governments disappoint us; it’s just human to choose not to increase the government’s power unless the other guys have a serious chance of seizing power themselves. So Glasson achieved a swing to the Coalition despite two powerful trends which would have inflated the Labor Party vote. That’s a bloody good effort.
The big factor in Glasson’s favour was the absence of Kevin Rudd’s personal vote, but personal votes would be built in to overall by election trends. Peter Mcgauran would have had a personal vote which the Nats lost at the 2008 Gippsland by-election, so too Tom McVeigh at the 1988 Groom by-election.
Many out there from both sides of politics are overstating the significance of the result and I wouldn’t for a moment call Glasson’s minuscule swing a “win” for the Liberal National Party. But when all things are said and done, you’d have to say Glasson did pretty well.
3rd time lucky?
Apparently voters resent being made to vote at by-elections, but they have a funny way of showing it. If Kevin Rudd had hung around until 2016 then retired Labor would have entered into a general election with no personal vote in Griffith and would have been a very good chance of losing the seat altogether. But by forcing a by-election where the odds are skewed against the government they managed to avoid this trap and by 2016 Butler should have a decent personal vote of her own that should keep any Liberal candidate at bay. It’s a cruel world.