There will be a lot of analysis of what happened to deliver the ALP such a devastating setback, and the CLP such a resurgence (the CLP went from 4 seats to 11, most at the expense of the ALP). I wasn't here for the last election, so I'm not going to speculate too much. A swing against the ALP was expected, just because the last election with had been so huge, but it was much bigger than expected. The CLP went from being so small that people were warning that if it didn't make gains it was doomed, to being within a hairs breadth of government.
But what I can say is we got a pretty poor performance from both sides in the election, but especially the ALP. The election was called a year early, and fairly cynically so, and the voters knew it.
Both sides ran fairly presidential campaigns focussed on the leadership. ALP leader Paul Henderson has only been in the job 9 months, and came across fairly stiffly and wooden, a very poor follow up to former leader Clare Martin. And he had very little to say. The presidential style campaign was probably a mistake.
Both sides relied on an unimaginative combination of pork, Laura Norder, talking up development, and sledging the opposition. In particular, both main campaign slogans simply bagged the other side, the ALP telling us that the CLP 'Aren't up to it', the CLP saying that Labor 'Can't be trusted', neither going for a slogan that emphasised the positive.
The ALP campaign was also rightfully criticised as being Darwin focussed. Sure, they had policies for Alice Springs and the bush seats, but you wouldn't have known from TV and print advertising. Ultimately this both hurt the ALP bad, and perhaps didn't matter much -- it mostly manifested as savage swings against the ALP in the Alice Springs seats they weren't expected to win anyway, and most of the damage that really counted in terms of seats was done in Darwin.
The leadership was definitely an issue. The failures of Clare Martins leadership were real, and it was probably right that she left the leadership and territory politcs -- while she had done a good job of winning Darwin to the ALP, all seem to agree that she, after grabbing the portfoliio for herself because of its important, mishandled Indigenous affairs badly, ultimately resulting in the Intervention and the resultant Federal power grab over the Territory affairs. But I suspect her loss was also part of the ALPs problem -- her faults were real, but the ALP could certainly have done with a skilled and warm media performer like her in the leadership, and Martin was skilled at playing Darwin politics.
And the ALP also were presumed to be the winners throughout the campaign. The territory lacks any publicly available polling, so apart from some minor leaks from what seems to be fairly inadequate party polling, no one really had any idea of the size of the swing until the night. It has been argued a bit that many people, presuming the ALP would win, felt free to register their discontent by voting against the ALP without worrying that it might gain power. I'm always a bit unconvinced by this sort of reasoning myself, though.
The big question that the pundits will be asking is what does this massive swing away from the ALP (about 8% average) mean for the Rudd government? I'm going to go with what most Territory observers, including Federal member Warren Snowdon and former NT member now noted blogger Ken Parrish at Club Troppo, and say that mostly, the territory election result was about territory issues. Simply put, an overconfident ALP put a poor campaign to a cynical electorate. As Ken says, arrogance, hubris and complacency.
And the CLP didn't win the campaign, the ALP lost it. BOTH campaigns were very poor.