A Fork in the Road for the National Party
Thursday 10 March 2016
Life is full of interesting and not so interesting choices. Some seemingly mundane or innocuous choices turn out to be life makers (and breakers). Occasionally the noisy intensive choices turn out to be little more than a passing zephyr carrying dust. The National Party in Australia have just been presented with a 'Fork in The Road' moment. Tony Windsor's decision to run in the Seat of New England against the incumbent National Leader Barnaby Joyce. The 'Fork' looks like this:
Should the National Party
a) Invest significant party resources trying save the Deputy Prime Minister from losing his seat? or
b) Provide the resources across all party members to maximise their chances of winning their own seats?
The Nationals will be unable to do both. Tony Windsor, the previous member for the seat retired due to health issues, which have from all accounts, now been put on a stable platform. To say he was popular in the seat is reasonable given that his first preference votes across the previous Federal Elections in 2004, 2007 and 2010 were +57%; +61% and +61%. Which means Tony Windsor has pulling power within his home electorate. He also has pulling power outside the electorate.
And here's why the Fork in the Road is such a sharp one. It is likely that Tony Windsor will garner significant funding and campaign support from way beyond his electorate. His social media and local support will be high. If the National Party believe that a standard local campaign will be enough to get the Deputy PM over the line against Tony Windsor, they'd be deluding themselves. They know it. BUT, if they choose to focus on a 'Save the Barnaby' approach they will need to divert already stretched resources from OTHER electorate campaigns. In other words, run the risk of under-campaigning in a number of National held seats to save one seat.
I'd suggest it will be a pretty nervous time in the National Party right now. There will be a list of seats which the National Party will target for 'minimal support'. To do so risks raising the ire of a strong and proud Agricultural sector support base who may just go with a protest vote on a seat by seat basis if the locals get a clue that they're being taken for granted. I'd doubt any protest vote would be big enough to unseat too many National MP's, but it may well be big enough to continue to undermine the funding support given to the Natonal Party through the electoral laws that pay per vote received above the 3% level.
The National's Fork in the Road has them weighing up trying to save their Deputy PM or supporting the rest of their elected members. A continued dwindling of votes sees their funding base for the future eroded further and could well see them fall further, quicker. Do they sacrifice the Deputy PM to save their future? Fork in the Road
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