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How low can National go?

Written By: - Date published: 7:44 am, September 22nd, 2020 - 43 comments
Categories: act, election 2020, Judith Collins, national, new conservatives, paul goldsmith - Tags:

National’s competency problem has just got worse.

Newshub has discovered another alternative budget problem which thankfully for National in numerical terms is not as big as its $4 billion howler.  It is quite small, $88 million, but enough to pay the yearly salaries of a thousand or so new teachers.

From Jenna Lynch at Newshub:

National has made the same mistake with its capital allowance, that’s the money put aside to build things like schools and hospitals. Goldsmith took his numbers from May’s Budget, giving himself $18.63 billion from next year until 2027.

But in last week’s Pre-Election Fiscal Update (PREFU) the numbers changed, with only $18.542 billion available over that time, leaving National with another shortfall of $88 million.

Mistakes do happen.  But you have to wonder how prepared National has been for this election.  Simon Bridges (or is that Brigdes?) said that National would be a policy machine.  Stacey Kirk confirmed that the policy machine was whirring into life back in 2019.

Surely the policy machine was working on that most sacred of documents for an opposition, an alternative budget.

Sure there was the PREFU.  But what normally happens is that you draft your alternative budget based on the Government’s budget, put all the data into a spreadsheet, and then change the figures according to changes in the PREFU.

I suspect the reason was the impossibly short timeframes combined with the earlier turmoil over National’s leadership change.  The budget was released on May 14 and Todd Muller became leader, at least for a while, on May 22.

With PREFU coming out last Wednesday digesting the document and checking all of the figures by Saturday was always going to be a big task.  But Collins was gambling that the PREFU figures would be really bad and for reasons previously mentioned National had been distracted.  And they needed to get things happening.

The $4 billion mistake has the unfortunate symmetry of being a similar figure to what National had promised in tax cuts.  Now it is clear that they are borrowing more to give rich people more money.

The consequence is that National’s reputation as sound managers of the economy is in tatters.  And their vote is splintering.

Support for Act is at remarkable levels.  And Richard Harman has commented (paywalled) how the New Conservatives are having a very good campaign.  If it was not for the frenzied competition for the extreme conservative right vote between them and Advance NZ they could be having a very, very good campaign.

There is a Colmar Brunton poll out tonight.  I suspect that it will show a further decline in support for National.

Update:  Holy hell Stuff is reporting a further $3.9 billion dollar mistake.  I wonder how long Goldsmith will last?

43 comments on “How low can National go? ”

  1. lprent 1

    That Politik article by Harmon reflects what I saw when I was doing a campervan trip around the volcanic plateau, Gisbourne, and Hawkes bay last week.

    If you were going by the election road signs, the election would have been between the New Conservatives, Advance, National, something called Kingdom. Labour and the Maori party largely targeting the Maori electorates.

    Quite different to the view inside Auckland.

    Off course the urban areas tend to be pretty different to everywhere else, especially Auckland with its large number of voters.

    I think that Richard Harmon is correct when he says

    The worry now for National must be that if NZ First fails to make it back to Parliament; if the Billy Te Kiha – Jami-Lee Ross Advance Party gets some support and if the New Conservatives continue their surge, then the foundations are there for a populist right-wing party.

    What seems possible is that the centre-right space in New Zealand politics, which only a year ago National was beginning to believe it could have to itself is now becoming more contested by ACT and by the populists.

    That is one of the potential implications of a lacklustre showing by National at the polls on October 17.

    And after the events yesterday, that lacklustre showing looks even more possible.

    The real issue for National is that it is increasingly difficult to cause short shifts in trend close to elections. Many people simply don't watch free-to-air TV these days.

    I found it pretty weird walking into my dads place and seeing a news program on the TV. I haven't seen one for years except on links on a computer. I was bracing myself for the jangling mind-numbingly stupid adverts that fill the time. But I discovered that he was watching the RNZ TV… 🙂

  2. ScottGN 2

    National’s other problem is that they’re rapidly running out of time too. Advance voting starts in 11 days on Oct 3. And well over half of us will likely vote early this year.

    So this week is the crucial week for National to try and get their campaign back on the road. If the Colmar-Brunton tonight does show a decline for them as Micky suggests it could be the death knell.

  3. Enough is Enough 3

    National can't win this election. There is no scenario which gets them home. I don’t even think a Jacinda resignation would swing voters back to National.

    The only interesting thing about the election is whether Labour will have any friends left, which won't be important now, but may be in 3 years time.

    • Anne 3.1

      Do tell us E is E. I'd love to know why they will have no friends left.

      Do you think voters will be upset with Labour for doing the right thing and saving lives? Do you think they will take it out on Labour for going early, going hard and bouncing out of the inevitable recession while most other countries are still knee deep in deaths and recessions? Do you think people will be angry about all workers getting the living wage and beneficiaries getting a big helping hand?

      Its always been on the cards Labour has ear-marked the second term for those on a low income – after using the first term to get the country's fiscal priorities on an even keel and moving in the right direction.

      • Enough is Enough 3.1.1

        Because New Zealand First is finished and the Green party is 5% on a good day.

        We need the Greens to rise 3-4% in the polls for me to feel safe.

        • Anne

          Sorry. I misunderstood your reasoning.

          I'm fairly confident they will make it back.

          In the event they don't, I'm hoping that a Labour government will utilise some of them in strategic posts. They will return to parliament before long – rapidly building C.C will see to that.

      • Siobhan 3.1.2

        "Do you think people will be angry about all workers getting the living wage and beneficiaries getting a big helping hand?".

        .historically, around half of all voters do get angry about these things..and a fair number of labour voters are more concerned about their increasing Capital Gains than wanting anything to actually change…they certainly don't want to pay more for goods and services to cover wage increases..

        They would much rather buy from some overseas sweatshop and have a poorly paid courier driver deliver it to their door…so don't get too comfortable…

        National are determined to lose this time round..but they are due a resurgence in the next few years..and the idea that Labourites such as yourself seem to think..that there is a 'right time' to fix inequalities..that time is never going to happen..so it will be interesting to see how long the marginalised voters (financially disadvantaged/ barely housed/ reliant on public Health care) can keep trying to tell themselves they are part of 'The Team'

  4. Leighton 4

    The New Conservatives are dangerous and any rise in support for them should be fought vigorously, not applauded in a display of shadenfreude for National. I don't like National's neoliberal economic policies at all, but National at least have rules of engagement and (usually) try to justify their position based on objective facts. Whereas the NC's are the true arrival of Trumpian post-truth politics in NZ. I would rather see National get 33% and the NC's 0.5% than National get 30% and the NC's 3.5%.

    • Uncle Scrim 4.1

      It will be very interesting to see how all those fringe right parties perform in this poll, the first since they (Te Kakiha in particular) have garnered a lot of mainstream media attention. And how NZF fit into that field. The last CB poll had NewCons at 1.2% and it seems probable that they'll have risen? Advance didn't rate even 0.1% then.

    • observer 4.2

      I agree with Leighton. A short-term pleasure (wasted vote) does not outweigh the long-term danger (far right on the rise).

      It's also a mistake to assume the nasty fringe are only going to attract National voters. For now, maybe. But in the future, evidence overseas says otherwise. Votes ON the Right are not the same as votes FROM the Right.

  5. Incognito 5

    Answer: 20.93%

  6. Peterfailed UE twice 6

    How low? If it's about electability or competence everyone knows it's pretty low.

    The unknown is how low in morals and dirty politics they will go. Unknown because those depths are unfathomable.

    After all it is Judith Collins with her handicaps, backed up by backroom generational base of Boag, Ede and Key, supercilious Joyce and Paula the realtor.

  7. Ad 7

    Naturally I would credit Labour eating so deep into National's base to the stable leadership and non-aggressive policy measures of Ardern and Roberston. Labour is eating everything.

    Long time since we had the New Zealand Party generate some frission on the right. And it's sure a perfect moment for Act. They did best in the 1999 and 2002 elections when Labour were last at their height.

    May a thousand rightist flowers bloom.

    • woodart 7.1

      nats have had a very diverse lot in their tent. it makes sense that their are more right wing parties. new cons(ervatives) share very little with act, who share little with new cons(piracy) party. expect to seemore of seymour as he will be putting out fires in his own mixed bag.

  8. mac1 8

    Yesterday I wrote a comment wishing for a defeat severe enough for National, that even they would lick their wounds and see the need 'tae think again".

    That was predictably commented on that National deserve to go to the wall, they're a bunch of power hungry, selfish individuals etc.

    I won't argue that, but I do share a beer in a group with some National members who do not fit that depiction. They are what we would call decent people.

    It's for them that I wrote that wish for a re-thought party.

    And for us. Like it or not, National is a party of the centre right representing many. I do not wish for it to either be taken over by a cabal of religious, social or economic extremists, nor do I want another party that espouses such extremism to arise to have enough power to materially affect matters.

    So, we need a party of the centre right that most New Zealanders would not feel threatened by in terms of basic decency, freedom and community.

    I guess what I wish for is a decent opposition centre-right party in opposition to a centre-left government with a small disunited grouping of single-issue advocates, woo-woo science adherents, conspiracy nutters, and religious fanatics out on the fringes.

    That opposition has to be good enough to keep the government honest, representative, uncomplacent and energised.

    My prediction is that National will fail in its oppositional tasks, and that the right wing fringe groups will coalesce into a force strong enough to act as the Greens and NZF do now, or as the Alliance did at the beginning of MMP.

    • woodart 8.1

      dont really agree mac1. too many opposing views on religion,sex, freedom, economics, etc, for any one party to encompass all of these people. act want the freedom to do anything in the bedroom, new conservatives want the freedom to stop you doing anything in the bedroom, nats want you to remortgage the bedroom, and advance dont believe its a bedroom at all.

    • Dennis Frank 8.2

      My prediction is that National will fail in its oppositional tasks, and that the right wing fringe groups will coalesce into a force strong enough to act as the Greens and NZF do now, or as the Alliance did

      Nat failure is usually relative. Bounce-back results from conservatives re-grouping. Relevance of tradition during a period of transition is naturally in question. Conservatives are unable to think that through due to it not being part of normalcy.

      Thus I agree a flounder is likely from them. Re right-wingers coalescing on the fringe, it depends if perception of common interests overwhelms competing-tribes mentality. Time will tell. ACT is doing well via presenting as a party of poseurs posing as establishment supporters while simultaneously pretending to be anti-establishment. The nutter brigade seem to prefer separation from them.

      • mac1 8.2.1

        Both replies appreciated.

        My view too is that National is still a coalescence of rural conservatives and urban social liberals and they are hanging together for political purposes. What I wonder is how long urban liberals will tolerate a party that allows the type of candidate and view springing out of Southland for example? Or from the religious fringes such as they have in their ranks. Or vice versa, especially when such coalition fails electorally, each side/faction blaming the other for the defeat.

        I note with some interest our local National MP has a full page advertisement that does not mention National except in his online addresses in the smallest of print at the bottom (along with his misspelt first name!).

        A local MP standing on his record and not expressing a National connection except in an unnamed photo with his leader, and the background blue. No logo. No party.

        • Phil

          how long urban liberals will tolerate a party that allows the type of candidate and view springing out of Southland for example? Or from the religious fringes such as they have in their ranks.

          They've been political bedfellows within National for the better part of 40 years and seem to make it work for the most part.

          Same goes for the Liberal-National coalition of urban and rural blocs in Australia.

          Same goes, too, for the tension in Labour between its social and religious 'small-c' conservatives within, say, the maori & pacifica cohort of the party, alongside the far more socially permissive urban elements of the party.

        • observer

          To put the "urban liberals" in context; not one single National MP has promoted a private member's bill on any meaningful "liberal" issue.

          Some have voted for bills pushed by others (e.g. Louisa Wall, David Seymour) or by government (abortion). Or they have followed their leader's instruction (smacking). But that’s all. Never leading the debate, never breaking ranks.

          Take the supposedly most liberal Nat MP in the past decade – Nikki Kaye. She has not once taken the initiative on a private member's bill and not once voted against her party.

          They haven't even pushed back on debatable issues like cannabis. They aren't "liberals" in any meaningful sense.

          • SPC

            Their urban liberals are white middle class first. They will not break ranks for the "Maori" drug of preference, and they were not even to the forefront for "libertarians" like Lindsay P and Ryan B either.

            In that regard note Judith Collins claiming she voted against civil unions because she claimed it was not the equality of same sex marriages – yet later in 2005 she voted for marriage as being between a man anad a woman. She is still lying about her/their past.

    • Ad 8.3

      I agree with you Mac.

      Particularly with the Labour government has (albeit for good reason) taken, and given back, and taken, so many civil liberties, it's really important that there's a coherent Opposition to test the government.

      There are plenty of excellent National supporters who are great to drink with.

      With the high likelihood of global reinfection which will also occur here, we are going to have more lockdowns that are going to cause more people to get angry – and they will seek political homes that are not comfortable for the left.

      Some kind of functioning split of the core National vote is similar to the formation of the Alliance in 1991 from the left factions. Which did fuck all except house the disaffected. Should be the same applying here.

    • RedLogix 8.4

      Thanks for this comment mac.

      I'm of the view that far too many left wingers do not realise that they can never 'defeat the right' by crushing them out of existence. They are people who, like family, will always be with us. We are allowed to disagree with them, get exasperated and pissed off by their antics from time to time, but fundamentally we have to live alongside them for a healthy cohesive community.

      Too often I see rants about the right here, which are little more than sad attempts at gathering leftie virtue points. Time to give it a rest. We'd be far better off understanding their important value drivers (which are not always stupidity and greed) and learning how to more effectively negotiate with them.

      • Hanswurst 8.4.1

        Although I agree with you that it is important to understand where opposing viewpoints come from, and to ascertain how compromise might achieve progress where none would otherwise have been possible, I am extremely wary of the incrementalist framing that suggests that left-wing activists' adjusting their rhetoric towards the centre would help move the political spectrum more to the left. Your assessment requires the assumption that left-wing activists need to negotiate with the right, whereas it is the politicians representing them who need to do the negotiating, and the actual role of activists is to convince persuasible moderates that their philosophy and solutions are worth pursuing. You appear to be treating the political discourse as though it operated on the same dynamics as a private discussion between adults, whereas it isn't even the same as a debate between small, well-defined teams.

    • Gabby 8.5

      We need them to move to the left in order to give Labour a bit of a leftwards shove.

    • SPC 8.6

      I do not see a breakaway group from National – the party exists as a centralised vehicle for realising power, and all of its factions appreciate that.

      There is already ACT for advantage in the electoral system and the vichy MP (hostage to National over fear it would abolish their seats if they went with any other party in coalition).

      That said, if NZF folds (fails to get 5% this time and again in 2023), then there will emege a new party.

  9. AB 9

    Anything above 0 is not low enough. But the more interesting question is how parties build back from these lows and re-absorb all their splintered pieces back into the fold. Last time National did it with Brash/Orewa and then the culture wars of "light bulbs/political correctness/being told what to do and think by Helen Clark" etc. etc. culminating in the shallow, self-serving pragmatism of Key really catching the mood of the times. Labour did it almost entirely through the personality of Ardern and then their impeccable judgment throughout the Covid response. How will National do it this time? Or can they?

    • Patricia Bremner 9.1

      I think at some point Jacinda Ardern's management has to be seen as a plus.

      When a Leader can marry 3 really unalike parties, and still pass 200 pieces of legislation during 3 difficult years is widely understood now. Also there is a thought Winston Peters has been an anchor which was dragging against progress, and the Greens the true left.

  10. ianmac 10

    National has always been a coalition of a full range from Centre to very Conservative and including the Christian lobby. So far they have been tightly glued together but with Covid, lack of cohesive leadership, electoral errors, the abandoning the ship by many MPs, the fractures are showing.

    Is it possible that National will fade away but become a group of parties each with their own identities but occupying the ground previously held by National? A truly MMP.

  11. Stuart Munro 11

    "How low can National go?"

    It really depends on whether you mean morally or pollwise.

    Lower than a run-over dachshund, lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut, lower than the soul of an abyssal worm.

    But single figures is something to aim for. A massive swing to Act is on the cards, which would be one way for National to clear its thicket of deadwood – but if you dig much deeper than Seymour it gets pretty wild and hairy – and I'm not sure NZ really needs a minister for smarm.

    NZPP is the scary one. I really don't want a foreign-backed Trumpster party doing to NZ what they've done to the US. The deep state isn't too concerned about them, but they'll likely meet an actually popular backlash before too very long.

  12. Draco T Bastard 12

    With PREFU coming out last Wednesday digesting the document and checking all of the figures by Saturday was always going to be a big task.

    Assuming that the PREFU and budget have the same digital format then a simple, automated search would do it. A few calculations thrown in and the whole lots completed in less than half an hour. Nothing else to do unless they're adding in new policies or different amounts for the policies that they have.

    This sort of mistake, in not doing the most basic of the jobs required of an accountant never mind in running a country, is just showing sheer incompetence and laziness.

    The consequence is that National’s reputation as sound managers of the economy is in tatters.

    True but its a reputation that they should never have had as they've never been good managers of the economy.

    And their vote is splintering.

    We may be seeing National breaking into its constituent parties. Are we going to see the return, in their modern incarnations, of the United and Reform parties?

  13. observer 13

    National won't get a 2002 result. That's wishful thinking.

    In 2002 there were 3 options for disaffected Nats who didn't want to tick Labour, all in Parliament already. Grumpy conservatives/authoritarians: NZF. Free market/libertarians: ACT. Vaguely centrist: UF.

    There's also the psychological factor to consider. A vote is a personal statement. If a voter thinks that their vote does not decide the election because it is already decided then it is "safe" to vote for your traditional choice. National voters who do not really want Collins to replace Ardern as PM could tell themselves that they won't be making it happen.

    I'm sure (and can never prove) that there are National MPs who would be happy to lose this election but will still vote for themselves, so they can prepare for 2023.

  14. ken 14

    It looks like National are actually trying to lose this election.

  15. Dean Reynolds 15

    The fun will begin when Luxton strides into his first post election caucus meeting, expecting to be welcomed as the Nats' new messiah, & finds a depleted collection of ferals, consumed with hatred, resentment, self loathing & scapegoating. Whoever becomes the Nats new leader post election will be mercilessly white anted & undermined by Collins, because she'll have nothing to lose.

    • ken 15.1

      If the nats had any sense, they'd get rid of their religious faction.

    • woodart 15.2

      on collins side, is that she will be queen bee, as all of the other power female nat m.p.s have fled the coop.can see collins being a cross between muldoon and boag.,hanging around and being an embarrassment.

  16. Weasel 16

    I think you need to update this story. There is a third more significant snafu and unlike the second howler of only $88m, it is almost equal to their first $4b howler. Stuff, whose political reporters give the impression of being paid-up members of the National Party, headlines its story "National's fiscal hole appears to double to $8 billion as Paul Goldsmith denies double count mistake".


    Stuff says: The error has come about after National twice counted $3.9 billion left over from the New Zealand Upgrade package, an infrastructure plan announced by the Government in late January.

    In fact, the left over money was put into Treasury’s multi-year capital allowance back in May. In National’s costings, the party had counted the two sums of money separately, when, in fact, the NZ Upgrade programme money now only exists in the capital allowances.

    National Finance spokesman Paora Goldsmith commented in tonight's Newshub finance spokespersons debate in Queenstown that "the good news is that it makes no difference to any of our policies or ideas that we will fund over the next few years".

    So $8billion+ makes no difference. I would like to see what National would say to Labour with a triple cock-up that of these magnitudes. I suspect calls of resignation would be shouted so loud in Queenstown that they would be heard in Wellington.

    As Labour's Grant Robertson pointed out, National is promising reduced revenue through tax cuts, increased spending ($38 billion in mostly roads) and reducing debt more rapidly. Methinks there is some magical thinking going on.

  17. I hate to be boring but the natz were born out of desperation because they despised employees..

    They still do.

    Any person earning money by way of wages or salary are beneath contempt.

    Only employers, managers, accountants , advisers, consultants, etc, etc, get off tax free.

    An equitable socirty? I do not think so.

    Goldsmith, necesarily is b s…….

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