Third-time unlucky Lawrence Springborg must be feeling a bit down today, while Anna Bligh is triumphantly not packing her office.
But can there be elections it is better to lose?
I can think of two basic scenarios in which this might be the case. The first is when the party is (if in government) no longer capable of doing a good job and risks damaging its reputation if it wins another term or a party is (if in opposition) not ready for government and risks damaging its reputation if it nevertheless wins office.
The second is when there are events over which the government has no or insufficient control, but which overwhelm it and destroy its prospects at subsequent elections.
Unfortunately for the hapless citizens of NSW, both versions of scenario one were at play at the March 2007 election. However for Labor – having so rundown the public institutions of NSW that no quick recovery is possible, even with competent Ministers – a narrow loss would probably have been preferable to the agony of being in terminal decline for years. Despite on-going doubts about the Opposition, Labor runs the risk of severe electoral punishment at the 2011 NSW election.
The Victorian election of 1988 is an example of the second scenario. Labor won, but it was probably too late to avoid the financial disasters of the coming few years. Instead of the Liberals winning a narrow victory and being destroyed by these problems, Labor won a narrow victory and was wiped out by Jeff Kennett in 1992.
The GFC creates a potential second scenario for the winners of the 2007 federal election, 2008 WA election and 2009 Queensland election.
I don’t follow WA or Queensland politics closely enough to judge whether the first scenario applies in these cases, though the quality of state governments and oppositions is generally low.
For the 2007 federal election, I thought at time that the Howard government had run its course (though of course I voted for them anyway). In hindsight it is fortunate that it got out with a postive result on the before-and-after test of a government. It is almost certain that Australia will be a significantly worse position at the time of the 2010 election than it was in 2007, which is not good news for the victor of the 2007 election.
Though most of Rudd’s Ministers are politically competent, policywise I have seen nothing that impresses. They are way below the quality of the Hawke and Keating governments. So I doubt they are up to the challenges the GFC creates.
It is too early to tell the long-term political fates of the winners in 2007, 2008 and 2009. But mediocre Ministers facing major issues does not augur well for their long-term standing.