- Date published:
8:30 am, April 4th, 2015 - 90 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, articles, david cunliffe, john key, journalism, Judith Collins, labour, Media, national, national/act government, newspapers, nz first, winston peters - Tags: cameron slater
Both the Herald and the Dominion Post have opinion pieces published today on the medium term implications of Winston Peters’ win last Saturday in Northland.
John Armstrong’s analysis is that long term this presents a significant threat to National as its previously stronghold provincial seats may now be at risk. As third term grumpiness takes hold provincial voters may be keen to embrace the mantra that they have been taken for granted while the urban centres receive all of the Government’s attention.
Peters’ triumph has changed everything longer-term. His game of divide-and-rule which has him pitting voters in regions which have suffered economic stagnation against their big city cousins is the most serious challenge he has mounted to National’s centre-right hegemony since he climbed aboard the anti-Asian immigration bandwagon some two decades ago.
Armstrong challenges the suggestion that suddenly ACT and United Future have more power. Although on the occasional issue where the Government’s position is extreme, like Resource Management Act reform, this may be significant but the reality as Armstrong notes is that both parties are poodle parties whose very survival depends on National largesse. The chances of them refusing support to this Government on supply or confidence is equivalent to a couple of turkeys voting for an early christmas.
Armstrong notes Andrew Little’s declaration that he wants the opposition parties to act in a cohesive manner and blames David Cunliffe for Labour’s failure to do this last year. This is somewhat harsh although certainly Labour needed to work out and improve its relationship with the Greens.
He notes National’s claim that Andrew Little’s momentum has recently stalled. I presume that this is as accurate as National’s claim that Peters and Osborne were neck and neck in the polls. National does have this habit of saying things for political advantage that are not necessarily true.
The most telling part of Armstrong’s analysis is where he describes the effect that the win will have on the morale of National MPs.
What will really be troubling Key, however, is that Peters’ repositioning of New Zealand First as some kind of “Country Party” will see him wreaking havoc behind National’s well-fortified frontline – territory previously considered to be impregnable.
That is Key’s nightmare. Not that he will be allowed to sleep in peace anyway.
The fall of Northland means there will be sleepless nights for nervous National MPs who thought their seats in National’s supposed “heartland” were safe forever.
Those MPs will be keeping Key very much awake to that no longer necessarily being the case.
National has been focussed and disciplined for the past seven years. But if the wheels fall off and individual MPs panic and seek to distance themselves from the party then that strong support will crumble. There are rumours that Cameron Slater’s recent attacks on the government may be related to Judith Collins wondering if her future may be better in ACT. This sort of incident would shatter the up to now impregnable face that this National government has presented.
The second article is by Tracey Watkins in the Dominion Post. She rightfully gauges the significance of the loss:
Losing a safe seat like that so soon after an euphoria-inducing election win is a gut-wrenching reminder to National MPs that nothing lasts forever.
No wonder Parliament felt like all the air had been sucked out of it this week.
National’s third term is barely under way and its MPs have already been forced to confront their own mortality.
Yet the lesson from Northland is hardly a new one; all it takes is a lightning rod and the voters will turn.
She then tries to find some silver linings and points out that at least National has two years to turn things around, she notes National’s claim that Labour’s rise in the polls has stalled, and she describes Peters as inherently conservative so that the chances of National and New Zealand First working together remain good. She also notes Peters’ advancing age.
She concludes by saying this:
The by-election was the result of a unique set of circumstances.
At least that’s the official explanation from John Key and his loyal lieutenants. The real disaster for National would be if they started to believe their own spin.
The sense of third termitis is growing strong.