Victorian Liberal party left shellshocked after another heavy election defeat

<span>Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP</span>
Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

The Victorian opposition, leader Matthew Guy, has conceded the Coalition has “a lot of work to do” after the party lost its third successive election to Labor’s Daniel Andrews.

While Labor’s primary vote fell about 5.6% statewide, the Coalition failed to capitalise on it, with the Liberal party in particular going backwards and recording a primary vote below 30%.

It was not yet certain on Saturday night whether the Coalition would be able to improve on its 2018 tally of 27 seats in Victoria’s 88-seat parliament.

The election loss is sure to trigger more soul searching within the Liberal party, which also suffered humiliating defeats at the federal election in May.

By the time the next term of government ends, the Coalition will have led Victoria for just four of the past 27 years.

Related: ‘Hope always defeats hate’: Labor’s Daniel Andrews returned as premier in 2022 Victoria state election

While Guy did not address his leadership when conceding defeat, it seems unlikely he will stay on after two successive defeats as leader.

After calling Andrews to concede, Guy spoke for less than five minutes to a subdued crowd of supporters at the Doncaster Bowling Club, in his electorate of Bulleen.

He said it was important the state put the difficulties of recent years behind it and “come together”.

“The best of our state should be ahead of us, not behind us,” he said.

Guy pointed to the significant swings – in the double digits – against Labor in the northern and western suburbs as proof people were unhappy with the government.

“That alone, I just say, is a message,” Guy said. “I hope that the Labor party, who will form the government, will heed that message, and will have a change in style, a change in attitude.”

Despite hopes of capitalising on dissatisfaction with Labor’s pandemic response, the Coalition failed to claw back “must-win” seats in eastern Melbourne, such as Ringwood, Box Hill and Ashwood, which fell to Labor at the last election.

Related: ‘Greenslide’: Victorian Greens celebrate election success while two teals lead knife-edge contests

Despite significant swings towards them in the city’s north and west, the Liberals weren’t able to convert that to winning seats.

Outgoing Liberal MP Tim Smith said the Coalition failed to leverage the major policy difference between the two major parties – the Suburban Rail Loop – which it had vowed to scrap and funnel available funds into health system.

“It wasn’t sold properly,” he told a Sky News panel.

Guy ended his speech by conceding the Coalition had a lot to do in order to win government in 2026.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, we know that. But we also know that our time in the sun will come again,” he said.