The West Australian, which has been gunning hard for the removal of Troy Buswell from the Liberal leadership for the past week, has published a “snap” Westpoll survey of 400 votes showing the Liberals would lead 57-43 on two-party preferred if Colin Barnett was leader. It also finds they would be in front even with Buswell at the helm, but only by 51-49. One normally likes to exercise caution in interpreting poll results, but I think it can be stated with confidence that the latter finding is definitely wrong. This means we can either dismiss the poll as rubbish and pay it no further mind, or take the view that the six-point difference says something enormously significant about the Liberal leadership even if it does come from a dud sample. Excitingly, the paper reports that the election “could be called as early as tomorrow”.

UPDATE: Click here for a timely trip down memory lane, back to a month before the 2005 election.

UPDATE 2: The following questions are not meant to indicate a conspiratorial mindset: they are merely questions that have sprung to my mind, as questions sometimes do.

• What do the dashes following “don’t know” indicate? That all but a statistically insignificant number of respondents did know, or that those who didn’t have been excluded from the calculation?

• Why would you lump “informal” together with “other”, rather than with “don’t know”?

• Given that this has been done, we can ascertain that the “others” vote is less than 4 per cent under Buswell, or less than 2 per cent under Barnett. This compares with 11.2 per cent at the 2005 election and between 8 per cent and 12 per cent in the past six Newspoll surveys. The Greens vote at least is in the ballpark of the 2005 election, down only from 7.6 per cent to 7 per cent (The West Australian rarely provides figures for the Greens, but on the four occasions it has done so in the previous year they have been between 8 per cent and 11 per cent). In the current political environment, would we really expect the combined major party vote to have shot from 81.2 per cent at the election to either 88 per cent (under Buswell) or 89 per cent (under Barnett)? The two Newspoll surveys this year have had it at 80 per cent and 76 per cent.

• Shouldn’t we expect the 7 per cent of respondents who would vote Coalition under Barnett but not Buswell to be largely parking their votes with minor parties or independents, rather than going straight for Labor?

UPDATE 3 (28/7/08): Robert Taylor in The West Australian:

Troy Buswell will not step side and Colin Barnett will not challenge for the Liberal leadership despite overwhelming evidence that the Cottesloe MP is the party’s best chance of defeating Alan Carpenter’s Labor Government at the coming election. Mr Barnett again made it clear yesteday that he was availbale to lead the Liberals despite having already announced his retirement at the next election. But Mr Buswell was adamant that no one had asked him to step down in favour of the former Opposition leader and he intended continuing in the role. And Mr Buswell received strong support from Liberal Party president Barry Court, who clutched a Bible as he said the chair-sniffing, bra-snapping Opposition Leader had shown strength to push through his problems and was beginning to have an impact on the Government in the polls.

UPDATE 4 (29/7/08): Peter Kennedy reports on ABC TV news that “Labor strategists have put a plan to the Premier” for an election on September 13 or September 20, thereby preventing the resumption of parliament in two weeks.

UPDATE 5 (4/8/08): Buswell quits.

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