Saturday, December 03, 2022

After their worst election result in 70 years, what will the Coalition do next?

When all the votes are counted, and all the seats are decided, the Coalition has a lot of thinking to do.

This is the worst seat result for the combined Liberal and National parties since at least 1949, even if they win all the in-doubt seats they have a chance in.

The Coalition is certain to have won less than 40 per cent of the lower house, slightly worse than its landslide defeat of 1983.

In that election 39 years ago, the conservative parties won just 50 of the 125 seats in the chamber, ending the political career of Malcolm Fraser.

That was the first of five consecutive election losses for the conservatives, consigning them to 13 years in opposition.

The Liberals also cycled through six opposition leaders before making it back into government.

Andrew Peacock led the party for two years before John Howard was given a go, then it was back to Andrew Peacock, four years under John Hewson and the Alexander Downer months, before the Liberals returned to John Howard who led them to victory in 1996.

A Newspaper Clipping From 1983 Shows The Headline 'Misjudged The Mood Of The People' Alongside A Photo Of Malcolm Fraser
An clipping from the SMH, March 6, 1983.,The Sydney Morning Herald,

The electoral tapestry has unravelled

Peter Dutton, as clear favorite to replace Morrison as Liberal leader, might be looking back at that list and wondering how not to fall into the same trap.

But that was a two-party contest. Nearly four decades later, the Australian electoral tapestry has unravelled — and that’s left the Coalition with its seats concentrated in fewer areas.

Inner-city strongholds deserted the Liberals, in favor of a rainbow of teal, green and red.

On the other hand, the Coalition goes into the 47th parliament holding 70 per cent of the lower house seats in Queensland, having retained all their seats except two in inner Brisbane.

They lost more ground elsewhere, and now hold at most a third of the seats in each of Western Australia, Victoria, and South Australia.

Many speculated before the election that Scott Morrison’s strategy was to chase gains in the suburbs, even if that meant moderate MPs in seats like Wentworth and North Sydney were put at risk.

His movements through the six-week campaign seemed to support that. He was spending virtually no time in the seats targeted by teal independents, where he was seen as a liability, and much more of his time in seats like Parramatta, in Sydney’s west.

His captain’s pick of — and continued support for — Katherine Deves in Warringah was seen as further evidence that the former PM was prepared to risk affluent areas to chase gains elsewhere.

If that was indeed the strategy, it was a high stakes affair and it has royally backfired.

The states that moved away from the Coalition

The Liberal Party not only failed to pick up any seats in suburban parts of the capital cities, it lost seats like Reid and Chisholm.

It also lost six of its so-called “blue ribbon” seats to independents.

All states and territories swung against the Coalition, except Tasmania.

Now the parties face a big challenge to regroup and come back competitive in three years’ time.

And all the new teal ink on the electoral map has swept away a generation of Liberals who might have helped to do that.

With a Queenslander looking likely to take the leadership, the challenge will be to win back the support of people in wealthier parts of the capital cities — the heartland the Liberals used to rely on.

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