Gillard’s got a lot riding on Saturday’s Victorian election
Prime Minister Julia Gillard will be among the more nervous onlookers at Saturday night’s Victorian election count.
While not in the frame herself, the poll is another test for a tarnished Labor brand and the first since her own underwhelming result in August.
She will take comfort from the facts Federal Labor did quite well in Victoria and the State Government of Premier John Brumby is widely seen as competent.
Mr Brumby goes into the election with a massive buffer of 23 seats thanks to the thumping victory achieved by Steve Bracks in 2006. The Opposition needs a uniform swing of at least 6.5 per cent to get the 13 seats needed to form a majority.
Despite this, opinion polls have charted an ever-tightening race.
Though unlikely, a defeat would be a significant repudiation of the State Government and would inevitably trigger recriminations within the ALP.
Ms Gillard would no doubt argue state elections do not turn on national issues and that voters are wise enough to distinguish between the two. True enough. But this is a special case.
Although raised in Adelaide, Victoria is Ms Gillard’s home ground.
Her closeness to Mr Brumby, for whom she once worked as chief of staff, is well known.
She would struggle to stand aloof from any electoral setback.
Would it be fatal for her? No, but it would be a significant morale sapper for a party which is in a deal more trouble than the raw numbers suggest.
Having just scraped through in SA and now in minority Greens-dependent arrangements federally, in Tasmania and in the ACT, Labor’s once strong grip on the states is now geriatric.
WA voters got rid of their beige Labor government and Queensland voters would do the same right now if they could.
In New South Wales, the situation is so bad that a gormless Opposition is the unbackable favourite when voters get their chance next March. Victoria remains Labor’s last best hope.
If it falls, or even lists badly, it would be hard to avoid the conclusion that if Julia Gillard were the answer, the question had little to do with winning elections.
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