Be careful what you wish for in the Canning by election

Sat, 22 Aug 2015  |  

Every pundit and their dog are saying the result of the Canning by election on 19 September will be vital in determining whether or not Tony Abbott remains Prime Minister through to the next general election.

A small swing against the Liberal Party, say 4 or 5 per cent (or less) would be a great result for them and shore up Mr Abbott’s position. A swing of 8 or 9 per cent (or more) against the Liberal Party of Mr Abbott is toast.

Here is a dilemma for both sides.

There are many in the Liberal Party who are desperate to see Abbott go so that a new leader, Mr Turnbull or Mr Morrison, could lead them to the next Federal election with a policy clean slate and a renewal of the Ministry, especially in Treasury. Their secret wish would be to see a Liberal Party blood-bath in Canning and for this to be the catalyst for a change in leader. Their incentive is to boost Labor’s vote. Some Liberal members might even vote Labor in Canning to make sure Abbott is gone before Christmas.

The Labor Party, on the other hand, know they will win the next Federal election if Mr Abbott remains Prime Minister. They reckon, on the other hand, that they will be soundly beaten by a rejuvenated government lead by Mr Turnbull, for example, and there are secretly hoping that the Canning result is not so bad to see Mr Abbott replaced. The incentive of these Labor people with a longer time horizon and a bigger prize in mind is to vote Liberal in Canning, minimising the swing and see Mr Abbott remain in the top job.

In the scheme of the Parliament, the Canning result is irrelevant. Even if Labor win, the Coalition will retain a commanding majority and nothing else changes. But the result of Canning just might change who is Prime Minister.

Strange days indeed.

For what it is worth, the betting markets have the Liberal Party as warm favourites to win Canning. They are $1.57 versus Labor at $2.35. All eyes will be on the counting on the night of 19 September with there being the odd prospect of a bunch of Liberal strategists hoping for a big swing to Labor and the Labor strategists hoping for a strong Liberal Party result.

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