The outcome of the Western Australian election remains undecided. Labor could hold on to power either by winning enough seats to govern with the support of independents or by making a deal with the Nationals. Conversely, the Libs need to win the seats in which they are currently ahead, and then cut a deal with the Nationals.
Apart from being a reminder of the folly of snap elections designed to capitalize on transitory political circumstances, this close result reminds me of something I’ve observed over time. Whichever of these two even-money chances is realised, we’ll come to think of it as inevitable. Consider for example Bush’s win in 2000, Howard’s in 1998 or Hawke’s in 1990. In each case, the vagaries of the electoral system turned a loss (admittedly narrow) on the votes into a winning outcome.
Yet with the possible exception of Bush, this fact is forgotten when we come to assess the electoral appeal of the winners and even more of the losers. Peacock, Beazley and Gore could all have reached the top if a few electoral dice had fallen differently. But they go down in history as failures while Bush’s two terms and Howard and Hawke’s four mark them as winners, at least until their luck ran out.