In 2004, I was living in Jerusalem in the leadup to the election. Back then, Labor‘s leader was Mark Latham who I had gotten to know when I worked in Beazley’s office and so I wanted him to win. Well, I was an eight-year veteran within the Labor Party at that stage, so I guess I wanted us to win even if our leader was Tinky Winky Teletubby. But Mark being the leader gave me a personal reason beyond the ideological one.
During the weeks leading up to the calling of the election, I had identified, amongst my circle of friends, a few people – maybe half a dozen – who were also committed to the cause and so when the campaign period hit, I’d be able to mobilise them to help. For those of you who haven’t worked on political campaigns, I’ll tell you that every extra body is a valuable asset. I met the campaign managers for two seats in northern Jerusalem – both held by the Government by less than 3% – and for the seat of a local Labor front-bencher. So what I was offering the campaign managers was a significant resource.
During the six week campaign, I rang each of the campaign managers more than once and the sum total of requests I got for myself and my slaves was to help hand out “how-to-vote” cards on election day – for *another* party that Labor was assisting.
It took me a long time to work out why this happened. Why our side had just wasted their potential in provincial marginal seats. And the reasoning came down to one man – the local Judean Governor – King Peter.
At a state level, the provincial leader is so popular, so media-friendly, that he waves his magic wand, and delivers victory. At the level of the local campaigns on the ground, the party workers have come to believe that nothing they do will affect the result, because the election will be decided somewhere else. They can sit on their arses and someone will hand them a win.
I can’t say this will happen again. But given Peter’s continued dominance in Judea at the provincial election last Spring, there’s no reason to believe it wont. I’ve asked people within the higher echelons of the party organisation what has been done to avoid this problem this time around, and got brushed off. Only the member for Jerusalem bothered to respond and discuss the matter with me in detail.