The crushing swing against the Liberal Party in the Wagga Wagga by-election will send a shiver down the spines of federal and state Coalition politicians who are on the brink of their own electoral tests.
The Liberals suffered a 29 per cent swing to their primary vote, which is the third biggest in a by-election in New South Wales history and a far bigger collapse in the party’s primary vote than the recent Longman by-election in Queensland.
The result is being seen by many as the first litmus test of voter sentiment since the federal leadership coup, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian already blaming the chaos in Canberra for turning voters off the party.
But it’s also sparking a blame game over who should take responsibility for the loss.
“Gladys can send a big thank you note to Tony Abbott for delivering this result,” one senior Liberal minister said.
Internal Liberal Party polling suggests voters deserted the party in droves after Malcolm Turnbull was dumped from the prime ministership and the party’s woes were compounded by the corruption allegations surrounding the outgoing MP Daryl Maguire.
“We had an MP booted out of Parliament and we had the federal Liberal Party ripping itself apart, what do you expect is going to happen?” the Minister said.