During the early days of the pandemic some pondered on what the political landscape would look like once we got to the other side. The 1945 UK general election came to mind.
Winston Churchill was bowled out of government after having lead the country through some of its darkest days. That result was counterintuitive, given his personal popularity during the war. But when assessing the psychology of why Brits turned their back on their war time leader, it’s not a hard riddle to solve.
Winston Churchill was a living reminder of the trauma. His campaign failed to appreciate that UK voters were ‘triggered’ by his presence. Their campaign strategy is in my opinion one of the greatest political blunders in western political history. He was served up to the voting public unchanged, with a slogan that connected him directly to the trauma, ‘Help him finish the job’.
His opponent, Labour’s Clement Attlee understood what was needed. Hope.
Hence, Attlee’s nation building offering to the voting public. A social reform agenda that was a clear break from the past and offered hope to the millions of traumatised Brits that looked for a more caring and compassionate form of politics.
Last week, as Victorians began to cast their votes, the two main political parties in this state continued their impersonation of the Winston Churchill 1945 strategy. Labor’s campaign looks like someone dusted off their 2018 campaign strategy, minus the strategic discipline. Daily spending announcements, coupled with an ad campaign that looks awfully similar to 2018. A free this, a free that, only noticed by political enthusiasts, as each announcement lacked any connection to an overall narrative and above all else, any understanding on what it takes to gain market reach on such important announcements. It’s akin to BMW launching a new car via a simple announcement and media release, then spending no money on advertising and marketing.
The Coalition campaign is not much better. However, they have displayed some understanding of strategy, be it minimal. They have created localised themes, like health and economic funding for Melbourne’s outer south west. Over a six week period, they have carefully built up a localised narrative in Werribee, using health as a bridge towards them establishing a bond with the local population. It may not be enough to overcome generational anti Liberal Party sentiments but at the very least, there appears to be some thought behind their effort.
Neither Labor, nor Coalition, have offered hope to Victorians. Neither have sought to provide a vision of how our future may look like as we attempt to live through the aftershocks of the pandemic. There is no nation building vision. Infrastructure announcements may indeed be part of ‘nation building’ but the public’s hunger for hope has nothing to do with concrete and steel.
We can already see the consequences of these campaign failings. Our research has identified women as a key constituency driving support for smaller parties and independents. Within Melbourne’s inner suburbs, young professional women are flocking to parties like the Greens and Independents. Their pandemic experience was particularly brutal, over represented in the number of people who lost their jobs during the early phases of the pandemic.
Women from poorer backgrounds are also opting for minor parties along Melbourne’s outer suburban fringes. This is one constituency that unfortunately can claim the number one spot on soaking up the impact of the pandemic. Domestic violence, financial hardship, a lack of social support, combined with an overwhelming sense that the two major parties only really cared about men in high vis during the dark days of the pandemic.
In May 2022, women drove the Morrison government out of power. In November, these same women may indeed hand some harsh lessons to both the Coalition and Labor. If you don’t offer those who have suffered the most hope, they then allow their despair to guide their voting intention.
*Kosmos Samaras is a pollster and the former Deputy Director for the ALP – he comments regularly on politics for major news outlets.