The clever saying that a week is a long time in politics, attributed to British Labour prime minister Harold Wilson circa 1964, has become somewhat of a cliche due to overuse. Such a fate is yet to befall the saying that it’s unwise to make political predictions – especially about the future.

This week’s political outcome in Western Australia illustrates the point. Last Monday, incumbent highly successful Labor Premier Mark McGowan surprised almost everyone by announcing his retirement from politics.

There were three Labor frontbenchers considered to be in the running to become premier. Namely, in alphabetical order, deputy premier Roger Cook and senior ministers Amber-Jade Sanderson and Rita Saffioti. Initially it looked as if Sanderson would prevail with the support of the United Workers Union.

But, just when it appeared safe to assume the Western Australian Labor Party would choose a woman to succeed McGowan, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union supported a ticket headed by Cook, with Saffioti as his deputy.

And so it came to pass that the contemporary Labor Party, which proclaims its support for women taking key positions in the labour movement, chose a qualified man over a qualified woman to become premier of Western Australia. It did so with the unintended consequence of giving the Australian public a rare glimpse of the continuing strength of the trade union movement within the parliamentary Labor Party.

The strong Labor vote in Western Australia in the May 2022 federal election was crucial to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese being able to form a majority government in the House of Representatives. There is little doubt the popularity of McGowan – a supporter and friend of Albanese – was the important factor in Labor winning four seats from the Liberal Party in Western Australia last year.

It would be foolish to predict the impact of McGowan’s retirement on the Albanese government in the lead-up to the next election, scheduled for May 2025. But it is clear that the Prime Minister would have preferred McGowan to remain premier. The lesson from this week’s events in Western Australia is but a further example of just how quickly politics in democratic societies can change.

At the moment, many commentators regard Australian national politics as all but frozen. The prevailing view is that Labor is in the ascendancy and will be for something close to the next 10 years. On the other hand, the Liberal Party is seen by some as doomed, or close to doomed. Not dissimilar views about the Liberal Party were held in the wake of Labor’s electoral victories under Gough Whitlam (1972), Bob Hawke (1983) and Kevin Rudd (2007).

Sure, the Hawke government (which became the Keating government) enjoyed long-term success. But not so the governments led by Whitlam and Rudd (the latter of which became for a time the Gillard government).

There is a prevailing view in the Canberra Press Gallery – especially within the ABC and such papers as Nine’s The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, plus such avowedly left-wing outlets as The Guardian Australia and The Saturday Paper – that the opposition cannot win under leader Peter Dutton.

This may, or may not, be the case. What is evident is that many journalists based in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne are of the view that it’s okay for the Liberal/Nationals Coalition to hold office provided it is led by what is termed a progressive. Like Malcolm Turnbull.

The latest Liberal Party fave among large sections of the left-of-centre media is Bridget Archer, the Liberal MP for Bass (based in Launceston) in northern Tasmania. Why not? After all, she has crossed the floor to vote against the Liberal Party, since being elected at the May 2019 election, on no fewer than 27 occasions.

This is what warms the hearts of left-of-centre journalists – since Archer supports many “progressive” (read left-of-centre) causes. Also, she has criticised such Liberal leaders as John Howard, Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton. But not Turnbull.

Last Saturday, Archer (small pup in hand) graced the entire cover of Nine’s Good Weekend magazine in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. There was another full-page photo inside. The story, by Launceston-born Melissa Fyfe, was headed “Rebel in the Ranks”.

It was essentially an uncritical profile. Fyfe clearly supported Archer’s decision in the lead-up to the 2022 election to ambush the Morrison government on legislation. This despite the fact the Liberal Party lost Bass in 2016 under Turnbull’s leadership but won it back under Morrison in 2019. Archer boasted to Fyfe how she had “secretly conspired” with independent MP Helen Haines to embarrass the Morrison government.

Archer holds the view that the Liberal Party went “sideways” under Howard. This overlooks the fact that the Liberals have only won office from Labor on four occasions – under Robert Menzies (1949), Malcolm Fraser (1975), Howard (1996) and Abbott (2013). In 2016, Turnbull lost 14 seats in the only election he contested as leader.

Archer wants the Liberal Party to have a “revolution … to take the party back”, and says: “I don’t think Menzies would be particularly disappointed with my efforts.” She seems unaware that Menzies had no time for floor-crossers or that the Menzies government attempted to ban the Communist Party and sent conscripts to the Vietnam War.

Fyfe acknowledged that Archer “went backwards on her primary vote” in the 2022 election but increased her two-party-preferred margin by 1 per cent. Fyfe failed to point out that Gavin Pearce, the Liberal MP in the neighbouring seat of Braddon, increased his primary vote by more than 6 per cent and his two-party preferred vote by 5 per cent.

Pearce does not present himself as a Howard critic or as a progressive. Nor is he into floor-crossing. Needless to say, he is yet to be profiled in Good Weekend.

It’s far too early to state where the Liberal Party will be in 2025. But there is scant evidence its future lies in Archer’s “revolution” aimed at repositioning the party that Menzies formed and which Howard led to such success. However, as Western Australia demonstrates, it’s unwise to make predictions about such matters.