Party and published polling and the mood on the ground across eastern and south-eastern suburbs in Melbourne today (Saturday) suggests a Liberal victory according to party campaign workers at lunch-time. Labor people say theyâ€™re not sure but most concede a swing against the Brumby government is coming theyâ€™re just not sure whether it will be a gentle slap or a round-house kick to the head. In the inner-city, Labor campaigners say it feels on the booths a bit better than the federal election where the Greens vote surged but was still substantially behind Labor (the Marxist Melbourne MP Adam Bandt won on Liberal preferences).
If he does win, we have little doubt that central to his triumph will be 1) keeping his head down and avoiding scrutiny reasonably well and 2) most unexpectedly demonstrating some strong belief in a cause by putting the Greens party last and pledging not to enter into any coalition or government arrangement with them. It was undoubtedly the finest, strongest moment of his political career, many, including us, assumed it was all too little too late. Weâ€™ll know soon enough.
The talk of his possible victory gives us the first opportunity for a very long time to speculate about what a victorious Ted might represent for the internal workings of the Victorian division of the party.
Will a victorious Ted be a vengeful Ted against the many perceived and actual enemies he has across the organisational wing of the party?
Many believe while he would baskÂ in the glow of an unexpected victory for a time that the very party-focused Leader would take a very hands-on interventionist role in the party, something he has even attempted as Leader despite not having the numbers.
Anti-Ted forces â€“ too busy on the booths fighting the good fight to analyse the implications too deeply â€“ worry that he will use the surge in prestige from any victory to purge the dominant Kroger/Ronaldson faction from its position of vast numberical superiority.
It could revive vigorous spats that once went on between the Kroger and what was then called the Kennett faction. We have occasionally labelled them Dries and Wets but the ideological differences between them are not vast, Baillieuâ€™s group is perhaps a little more small-â€˜lâ€™ Liberal than the red-meat eaters of the Kroger brigades like Robert Clark and our favourite Bernie Finn MLC. The differences are more personality and political method than political.
If elected, as Premier and a noblesse oblige low-key low-reform occupant of 1 Treasury Place, Baillieu wonâ€™t have much to do. The books are in good order, whatever one might think of the Brumby government they have run a very tight ship financially, with the appetite for kick-the-door-down reform very low in Baillieuâ€™s circle of trust which includes hard-drinking upper=house leader David Davis (D-squared to his few friends), Petro Georgiou (the lefty former Liberal MP), Peter Poggioli, Chief of Staff Michael Kapel and The Ageâ€™s correspondent Paul â€œCurlyâ€ Austin.
Heâ€™ll have plenty of time therefore to devote to the task of â€œtaking back the partyâ€ from the Krogerites as one observer explained to us this morning, with his head still spinning about the prospect of a famous Liberal victory few of them ever dared dream about until last night while guarding the bunting.
Baillieuâ€™s small-target strategy might just have paid off, some of it containing elements of the outrageous, including getting his $43 billion Victorian budget costings done by a tiny three-man accounting firm that occupies about 100 square metres and has a dental surgeon in the adjacent office.
The incident suggests Baillieu doesnâ€™t have a strong team around him, which again can only serve to compound his authority if elected Premier today.
While quite elaborate plans had been made across the party room involving plotsters and conspirators like Michael Oâ€™Brien and Matty Guy (with Baillieu-aligned Mary Wooldridge even putting herself about) in the event of a Baillieu defeat, few have planned for victory and even fewer know whatâ€™s on the menu. And those who donâ€™t know will probably find it might include themselves.
A victorious Ted could well be a very vengeful Ted against all those factional federal foes who p*ssed on him from a great height over the past five years. While heâ€™ll probably govern the state in such a low-key Rupert Hameresque boring way that weâ€™ll all be put to sleep while marvelling at his embrace of inner-urban left and arty causes, his internal governance of his own party will be more Generalissimo Franco than Captain Snooze. Be afraid.