2010 Vic election: Greens lack class base

The Labor loss in the Victorian state election over the weekend (27-29 November 2010) provides a opportunity for the Left to re-think its attitudes and/or relationship with the Greens.

The media have been inflating the influence of the Greens lately. This is because the Greens did well in the Federal election. However much has been exaggerated. OK Adam Bandt won Lindsay Tanner’s old seat of Melbourne. But Tanner, on of the gang of four and finance minister had resigned i.e. Bandt was not contesting the seat against a sitting member. Also Bandt had union connections that helped his campaign, he was not the run of the mill Green candidate.

The biggest problem for the Greens is that they do not have a class base.

But the ALP now have the same problem – 2/3 of all workers have never been members of a union.

The ALP has suffered as a result because the unions were their link to ordinary workers. And a few unions now question that relationship.

There is little doubt who the Liberals represent especially with a toff like Baillieu as leader.

OK, the Liberals worked out the counter to the ‘Wilke factor’ by preferencing Labor before the Greens – not that this was hard to figure out. This tactic by the Liberals may turn out to be too smart. Used elsewhere it could backfire politically i.e. voters need not cast a preference vote in Qld.

Looking at the seat of Melbourne – Brian Walters, a lawyer, was the candidate for the Greens against Labor’s education minister, Bronwyn Pike (pictured here in the Age). The results show that this was the best chance for the Greens to win a seat. But predictions of Bronwyn Pike’s demise were premature. Unlike Bandt’s victory in the federal seat of Melbourne, the fight for the state seat was a tougher contest. Pike was a sitting member with a group of people around her ready to go to the barricades against Brian Walters for the  Greens.

However, a better grassroots campaigner would have done better than Brian Walters, the Greens lack real organisational ability on the ground. This was highlighted when a former Labor candidate ran for the Greens and expressed concern for their lack of organisation and simplistic policy on decommissioning the Loy Yang power station.

A candidate with greater practical knowledge of economics and involvement in social justice issues may have done better than Walters – but it was still a tough ask for a party that does not even elect its leader, Bob Brown.

Brian Walters, a human rights lawyer, may do well in a courtroom but where does that get him in an election?

Walters lacked media experience and this showed on TV and radio.

Also, ordinary people are wary of lawyers.

Have a look at the results – the Greens did better in Melbourne than in Brunswick.

True, they did not have to contend with splitting their vote with the popular independent, Phil Cleary.[Cleary won the federal
seat of Wills off Labor when Bob Hawke retired.]

Candidate                  Party                      1st pref votes      % of total formal votes

PIKE, Bronwyn         ALP                              9106                         37.15%
LAZZARI, Peter (whistleblower on health) 150                                0.61%
FENSOM, Maxine                                              84                                 0.34%
MARTIN, Luke         Liberal                           6791                          27.71%
WALTERS, Brian      Greens                          7572                           30.89%
KILLEN, Rory Sex Party                                  660                            2.69%
PERKINS, John L. (Secular Party)                   148                           0.60%
Two party Preferred vote Candidate          Party    Preferred votes % Preferred votes
PIKE, Bronwyn ALP                                        14198                         57.93%
WALTERS, Brian Greens                                 10311                         42.07%

All elections are a huge effort and there is the risk that a social justice candidate would not win (politically speaking).

That’s my wrap. How the Greens faired will be a discussion point for some time but these are my early thoughts. Any thoughts or other comment would be appreciated.

Ian Curr
November 2010

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