It's good to feel wanted. For all of my adult live, I've lived in the bluest of blue-ribbon electorates, both state and federal. My neighbours and I were considered the sort of rusted on supporters who required only the most minimal of electoral campaigning to remain loyal and unwavering, kind of like a dependable chihuahua whose owner knows will never stray too far from home. My Federal electorate was Kooyong, a seat which has boasted such luminaries as Sir Robert Menzies and Andrew Peacock as its occupants, and which generally elects Liberals on primary votes alone. Ditto the state seat of Hawthorn, with its sitting member Sir Ted Baillieu.
Nowadays, things are a little different for me. In 2005 I moved to South Yarra, a suburb which fits into the state electorate of Prahran. Prahran is an electorate with an exciting recent history and one that is likely to get plenty of attention this time around.
First, the demographics. As the official VEC overview describes Prahran:
Suburbs: Prahran, South Yarra and Windsor.Parts of Melbourne, St Kilda, St Kilda East and Toorak.
Features: Prahran District is the smallest District in Victoria (12km sq.). It includes residential and well developed commercial areas, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Government House, Como Park and the Prahran campus of Swinburne University of Technology.
Prahran contains a lively and unusual mix of people: in the Toorak part of the electorate are some of Melbourne's wealthiest addresses and inside reside the kooks and millionaires that would be expected in such plush surrounds; whilst in the Prahran part of the electorate lives the heart of gay Melbourne, with a proliferation of DINKs couples. This divide is reflected in the voting patterns of different parts of the electorate. (Apologies for the gross generalisations in this section: without having access to better data, generalisations will have to do.) Take these two-party-preferred figures from the 2002 poll:
Labor - 54.3%
Liberal - 45.7%
Labor - 66.6%
Liberal - 33.4%
St Kilda East
Labor - 71.1%
Liberal - 28.1%
Labor - 36.3%
Liberal - 63.7%
Labor - 28.0%
Liberal - 72.0%
In 2002 the electorate changed hands. After 17 years of sending Liberals to Spring Street, the seat was caught up in the swing to Labor which swept through metropolitan Melbourne. Sitting member Leonie Burke was dethroned, and smooth Labor operator Tony Lupton was elected. At the time Lupton was commended for the years of hard work he put into campaigning for the seat, and his success was rightfully seen as a just reward for effort. Such was the hostility of the anti-Liberal feeling in 2002 that the millionaires of Toorak found themselves with a local member from the Labor Party. (As an aside, it was the outer-surburban seats with plenty of conservative aspirational-class voters who stuck with the Liberals when plenty of others did not.)
So with this as the background, it's clear why this electorate is such hot property for both parties. For the ALP, there is a desire to continue the career of a talented MP and to reinforce the strength of the ALP beyond its working class base. For the Liberals, losing Prahran is a source of shame and winning it back would be a clear sign that the party is heading in the right direction to return to its former glory.
Stay tuned for more.
UPDATE 7/12, 2:35am: To make it easier to find all the The Battle for Prahran posts, I've grouped the links together here, in chronological order: