The common wisdom is that first-term governments never go early. After all why would you cut short your period of mandate and lose valuable months of your carefully planned policy programme?
But then again this not a usual government. Not even two years into their term they seem to have run out of ideas, or at least ideas that can be stomached by the public, and they wasted the first of those years getting the hang of some the basic governance stuff a party nine years in opposition struggles with – just look at how long it’s taken Gerry to figure out how to run the house.
They also face an economy that could fall into recession at any time, have implemented a host of policies that will start to bite into voters’ pockets from the end of this year (and will only keep biting as time goes on) and have only just started to get their functionaries into senior public service positions.
They also have their fingerprints all over a rugby world cup that could leave the voting public dissatisfied with both the sporting outcome and the cost and inconvenience of badly run infrastructural programmes around the country. Put all that together and it might start to look like even a poorly organised opposition could gain traction given enough time.
Add to that the fact that an strong majority is needed by National for them to drive through their second term privatisation agenda (possibly without the help of Act party numbers) and the case for going early to lock in a second term starts to look very appealing.
Let’s also not forget that Key is pretty clearly planning on a being a two-term PM – that’s enough to look credible on his CV without all the hard graft a third term entails.
So I’m picking that we’ll see National go early in 2011. Probably in July because at that stage any potential problems with the world cup planning won’t be on the public radar and a winter poll means a lower turnout which is always a good thing for the right.
If they do go in early they’ll be betting on squeaking in with a majority (either with the Maori party or with the Maori party and Act) and then claiming they’ve got a mandate for all sorts of nasty right-wing stuff that transfers wealth and power from ordinary Kiwis to the usual suspects.
And at the end of it all Key will leave English holding the baby (he’s had some practice – poor bastard) and the sixth Labour government will be left to pick up the pieces.
Of course election date predictions are a notorious trap for even the oldest hands so I wouldn’t bet the farm on July just yet but I’ll guarantee the Nat’s strategists will be giving it serious consideration. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.