The results from Saturday’s Sydney state by-election were decisive. It was a clear victory for independent candidate Alex Greenwich, and for Clover Moore’s political machine that supported his campaign.
The result was a slap in the face to the Liberal Party, who passed legislation forcing Clover Moore out of state Parliament and who ran a serious campaign to gain the seat after coming close to winning Sydney in 2011.
The result was a modest but positive result for the Greens, who increased their vote but were pushed aside by a strong progressive independent, as they have been in Sydney in state and local elections for the last decade.
There are numerous ways to interpret these results. Alex Greenwich gained a 12.2% swing on primary votes and an 11.8% swing on two-candidate-preferred votes, compared to Clover Moore in 2011. Is this a judgement that voters preferred a new independent to Clover? Are they voting for Greenwich as a surrogate for his mentor, or is it a signal to the Liberals that voters didn’t appreciate Clover being removed mid-term and an unnecessary by-election being forced upon them? It’s likely a combination of those things.
Certainly the swings towards Greenwich and the Greens are greater than they would have been if the ALP had stood, but the absence of the ALP doesn’t explain the swing against the Liberals. Collectively the Greens and the independent gained a swing of 17.2% on primary votes, substantially more than the 11.3% vote recorded by the ALP. It’s also worth remembering that not all Labor voters would have cast a ballot for one of the other progressive candidates.
You can also compare like with like by looking at the 2CP vote, which was between a Liberal and an independent in both 2011 and 2012. After Clover Moore held on with a slim margin of 3.1% in 2011, this margin has now been expanded to 14.9%.
The real test now will be how Greenwich performs. There is a history of retiring independents successfully transferring their seat to a chosen successor for one term, but for their successors to be less capable of holding onto the seat in the long run. Now that Greenwich is the Member for Sydney he will be judged on his own agenda and his own achievements. Clover Moore isn’t going anywhere, but will Greenwich be able to win future terms in Parliament as the ‘Clover Moore party’ candidate?
After the fold I have posted some detailed breakdowns of vote by geographic areas, and maps.