The post-Budget bump for National in the Roy Morgan polls was there but was small and it’s already evaporating despite the credit card story. Confidence in government and consumer confidence numbers are also falling. I think we’ll see a return to the pre-Budget trend – National shedding about a percent every month or so, Labour steady but gradually edging up and the Greens going strong.
Fundamentally, National’s policies just aren’t popular. Mining on Schedule 4 land is strongly opposed, the coming GST hike is strongly opposed, ACC hikes are strongly opposed, as are spending cuts. And last night’s TV3 poll shows an overwhelming opposition to asset sales. 85% are against selling Kiwibank (now, we’re seeing the poll numbers that caused Key to go from supporting a partial sale and saying that was consistent with his pre-election promises, to suddenly ruling out a sale forever). 80% are against all asset sales.
Very interestingly, 53.5% of people (vs 29.5%) don’t trust Key not to break his promise not to ever sell Kiwibank. And why would we trust him? National is actually pursuing an unpopular privatisation by stealth agenda – whanau ora, PEDA, contracting to private providers in health, more money for private schools while public ones get cuts, and, of course, water.
National’s policies are unpopular and a majority (which must include a large number of National supporters) don’t trust Key’s promises. Yet the polls still give National a healthy lead.
So what’s going on? Well, John Key is National’s biggest asset. A while back Eddie wrote Key is “so good at distraction he could be a rodeo clown” – Key’s ability to change the topic and be adorable is political gold for National. As our commentator gobsmacked notes:
“National’s poll lead is entirely due to people who like John Key, and oppose National policy. Polls have consistently shown that they oppose mining in Schedule 4, tax cuts for the wealthy, increased GST, and above all, asset sales.
New Zealand voters have never voted for the Right on economic policy, and they won’t next time either. They may, however, vote for a National party that promises not to do the things that the National party wants to do. In Bill English’s words, for ‘that nice Mr Key’.”
We can’t just rely on the public to ‘wake up’ to what we already see, although that is gradually happening.
So, do you attack your enemy’s strength or do you by-pass it and go for the soft spots? I think the media’s sheer unwillingness to deal with criticism of Key seriously (imagine if Phil Goff had been caught out with a fake blind trust) gives us the answer. And, anyway, I think it’s better for the polity if we’re arguing on policy more than trust issues, which too often devolves into hollow, misdirecting mudslinging.
The Left would be on very solid ground if it chooses to fight the election on public assets/anti-privatisation and public services. Jobs and wages would be another plank, of course. This needs to be a positive vision that contrasts with National’s policies. Right now, the Left is, understandably, engaged in scatter-gun defence of the achievements that were built up over the past decade and National is now tearing down. Focus and direction is needed.
This direction needs to come from Labour’s leadership in the form of a year-long strategy.
The Left is in surprisingly good shape and its issues have the support. The problem is that Labour is not managing to push its support back into the late 30s, support is going to the Greens but that’s like only one half of the engine of the Parliamentary wing of the Left working.
The root of problem is the performance of the Goffice. Key brings in a hundred thousand votes or more. The leader should be an asset. We’re not seeing that from Goff’s team. Can they turn it around? I reckon they can if they really want it. How? I don’t know but there’s plenty of very well-paid people in the Goffice whose job it is to work that out.