The social issues

I've been trying to post a bit on the polls, which I still intend to do, but wanted to quickly focus on my hobby horse of the past few months that I've been quiet on lately, namely the increasing chatter (and denials and pseudo denials) of a UBP-BDA merger, re-unification or whatever you want to call it.

One of the most compelling aspects of the recent poll results is that they demonstrate that the split in the UBP and emergence of the BDA has been a net loss for both. The parts are worth less than their whole, and you can see that in the numbers. What the by-election in December also proved I think is that when the push comes to the shove the Opposition is almost split right down the middle, although with a better UBP candidate I think they would have performed better and will in a general election where voters won't roll the dice on an untested new party.

The by-election didn't show any gains by the PLP, or huge losses by the total of the Opposition vote. It pretty much showed the status quo, and I think the status quo is a result of uncertainty about an alternative to the PLP.

The poll party performance is also a bit fuzzy, in the sense that it is hard to quantify the explicit 'new leader bump', to separate some of the impact of a leadership change in the PLP from a toxic leader to one who holds extremely high positives (a component of that due in no small part to the rather low standard of not being her predecessor - virtually anyone was a material upgrade in most people's eyes, but Paula Cox does have her own individual cross-over appeal which seems to transcend - for now - her poor performance in Finance.)

So for me, the conclusion of the poll is that practically, dispassionately, pragmatically, an amalgamation has to occur for a) the UBP not to be reduced to only the safest of safe seats and b) the BDA to be obliterated.

I still am convinced that this will ultimately happen, hopefully sooner rather than later, but like corporate mergers it's not the business logic that gets messy, it's the social issues, and those social issues can sometimes inhibit execution after mergers and acquisitions as well.

Truthfully, I think the social issues between the UBP and BDA are minor and completely manageable because most of the individuals have all worked together previously, and philosophically the parties are aligned. I don't underestimate personality, ambition and ego, the influence of which has been the real eye-opener for me in participating and watching politics closely for some time now.

These kinds of negotiations and arrangements can be tough to navigate and delicate. I do think that time is running out, that Paula Cox would be nuts not to go to an election around the summer, with or without a unified Opposition. So if they're going to do this now is the time.

I'm going to return to the polls in a subsequent post, but I think that it is extremely likely that turnout will be depressed at the next election, and that hurts the PLP and helps the Opposition.

The PLP's strategy in 2007 was based on simply trying to keep turnout high and making the UBP toxic, so that if you can drag people - however reluctantly to the polls - they're not going to spoil their ballots in any large numbers and the stigma campaign against the UBP would cause undecideds to break heavily PLP (which I think is what occurred).

I'm not so sure at the next election the PLP can count on a similarly high turnout, other than appeals on the back of a popular Premier in a honeymoon period. The economic and social issues have exploded in the last few years and this has to suppress turnout somewhat.

So if turnout drops, and a unified Opposition party can hold and perhaps slightly build on that 47% from 2007, with new boundaries and more competitive constituencies, you could see some interesting results. Not necessarily the PLP losing, but a reduced majority I think is possible with a well executed campaign and credible candidates.

I find it hard to believe that the 47% who were not impressed with the PLP in 2007 are now suddenly impressed with them today, after such terrible mismanagement of the economy and escalating social dysfunction.

So on that basis there is an opportunity for some gains for the Opposition, but not if they go into an election separately. That's just a blood bath.

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