National’s conference is being held this weekend and some of the details of their campaign have been disclosed.
Firstly it lives and dies on the personality cult that surrounds John Key. He is National’s strength but also its weakness. I suspect that from now to the election we will not see him involved in any further attempts to undermine David Cunliffe using underhand or subversive means. Expect increased use of the right wing blogs however to continue to try and tarnish David’s image and expect Key to veer away from any behaviour which could be branded as manipulative and tricky.
The campaign slogan “Working for New Zealand” is one that Crosby Textor would be proud of. It is deferential and has a superficial appeal to the working class and ordinary people. It is also not true unless by “New Zealand” you mean the wealthiest 1%.
National has announced that it will be targeting four Labour seats, Hutt South held by Trevor Mallard, Port Hills held by Ruth Dyson, West Coast held by Damian O’Connor and Palmerston North held by Iain Lees Galloway. They have already started their campaign for the West Coast with the crudest anti green wedge imaginable. I am sure they do not think they will win any of these seats. But they will be intending to scare the local Labour campaigns to focus on the electorate vote campaign. This would be a mistake if the campaigns were to do so. We live in an MMP world and the MMP vote will decide who forms the next Government, not individual electorate results.
Of course this consideration also applies to National. But results will depend on what sort of campaign is run. As Carmel Sepuloni showed last time in Waitakere it is possible to run a strong electorate campaign and maximise the party vote at the same time.
National is also borrowing the language of the left and saying that a low turnout will hurt it. The rationale as presented by John Key is that in National held seats the drop in turnout last time was high. If this is correct then I would put it down to disheartened Labour voters who without a turn out the vote effort by the local electorate organisation simply gave up and failed to exercise their democratic rights. National wants a low turnout, the lower the better.
Coalition options will be vital. It appears more and more likely that the Conservatives will be offered McCully’s head on a plate before nominations close. This is a risk. Craig is seriously scary to a wide selection of the community and joining him at National’s hip will put some people off. This is why they continue to claim that Labour will be dependant on the Internet Mana Party getting up. There is a difference however. Labour has made it clear that it will not enter into any negotiations with any other party until after the election. National meanwhile is willing to do whatever it can to ensure that it holds onto power but will trot out slogans not to defend its position but so that it can plant the idea that Labour does it too.
If you wanted proof on how scary any arrangement with the Conservatives is, a recent Reid Research TV3 poll showed 60.1 percent of voters questioned didn’t want a deal. When it came to National supporters, 49.3 percent were against it. National may be damned if the Conservative Party fails to make Parliament and equally damned if it gives the CP a seat.
And National has a new social media hub at teamkey.co.nz. According to Stephen Joyce this hub will collect National’s social media traffic. The site appears to have similar capabilities to Nationbuilder which has been used with effect in recent electoral battles.
So National continues to pin its hopes on John Key and a well resourced campaign. It will be hoping that Key is not subject to any intense scrutiny. For instance it will prefer that he is not asked the question why the period after the tea pot tape scandal erupted and not the period after the Christchurch earthquake or the Pike River mine disaster was his worst week as Prime Minister.
And National supporters will be praying that John Key does not trip or falter during the campaign. Because clearly there is no plan B.