What does National do about English?

Written By: - Date published: 8:45 am, March 27th, 2017 - 51 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, bill english, election 2017, jacinda ardern, john key, labour, national, Politics, same old national - Tags:

John Key has claimed that the transfer of power from himself to Bill English was flawless and designed to ensure continuation of National’s rule.  Based on the last couple of opinion poll results he should reconsider his optimism.

And National caucus members must be thinking about 2002 when English led National to its worst ever electoral result when it achieved 21% of the party vote.  Sure things are not that bad right now but National’s hold on power has always relied on third parties support and it tends to shed support during a campaign.

At this stage the situation as far as party support appears to be stable.  Last night’s Colmar Brunton poll suggests that apart from a shift from New Zealand First to the Maori Party everything is stable, at least as far as the parties are concerned.

But the interesting feature of the poll is Bill English shedding 56% points in support for preferred Prime Minister since February.  He is now 10 % below John Key’s ratings in both the Colmar Brunton and the Reid Research polls.

The right will try and present the poll as some sort of crisis for the left in that Jacinda Ardern is now ahead of Andrew Little.  But Little’s support is steady and Ardern’s surge appears to be at English’s cost.  Give me surging support for Labour MPs as potential leaders and declining support for the National Prime Minister any day.

National’s basic problem is that Bill English is no John Key.  I have seen him recently at two public events.  On both occasions he was totally underwhelming.  There was no excitement surrounding him.  People were courteous to him and that was all.

And his approach to politics matches his personality.  Putting off action for decades on important issues such as climate change and clean rivers and rail to the airport suggests a completely faltering will to achieve anything.  This is a major weakness for National.

The circumstances exist for a fascinating election campaign.  Where National is unable to do anything about its slowly ebbing support because its leader is so Meh.

National looks tired and out of ideas.  I suspect that more and more of the electorate will realise this is the case as the election approaches.

51 comments on “What does National do about English?”

  1. Things are lookin up then , – despite the one liners the RWNJ’s will no doubt offer on this post and the following as it slowly dawns on them and NZ that the Nats reign is coming to an end.

    I hope Farrar will be happy… he needs a break after all that spinning .

    He must dizzy.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    National looks tired and out of ideas.

    No, they’ve definitely got ideas – they’ve just slammed up against the wall of reality and the realisation that the electorate won’t take any more of their ideas because they don’t work as National tries to tell us that they do.

    • Mordecai 2.1

      Really? With National on 46% and Labour on 30%, what does that say about Labours ideas?

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        Have you noticed that 46% is still less than a majority?
        Have you also noticed that National are dropping even in the polls?
        Have you noticed that people really are starting to get pissed off with the increasing homelessness?
        Have you noticed that people are concerned about the housing bubble that National has been propping up?

        And I’ll refer you back to that ex-National MP John Banks: If I wear my policy on my sleeve, I won’t get elected.

        That’s where National is always – where they can’t tell people their policies and they have to implement Labour Lite ones to get elected and to stay there. Thing is, they’re now at the point where they actually have to tell people their policies and they have to start implementing them.

        But their Labour Lite ones are crashing the economy and people are noticing the difference between what the government are saying and what’s actually happening and all they see is increased poverty while the bludging rich make out like the bandits they are.

        • Not a Nat 2.1.1.1

          46% may as well be a majority. It only takes a few crumbs to get to a governing majority and even if they were to dip to 43% at election time it would be a hard to see anyone else take government.

          If the Labour – Green coalition is going to have any legitimacy they’ll need at least 45% on their on. I’m not saying that’s impossible but on current polling it’s unlikely.

          The key for Labour is to actually provide an alternative view that is distinct from National’s (that’ll require some courage) instead of just relying on the Greens to be the point of difference. Whereas National just needs to ensure that its disaffected voters don’t drift too far away; they can go to ACT, United, Maori or even NZF.

          • Matthew Whitehead 2.1.1.1.1

            Oh this rot about minority coalitions yet again. My eyes still haven’t stopped rolling since last time I heard it in 2014.

            Firstly, 46% is not “[essentially] a majority.” It translates into about 56 seats with the current 1.5-2% wasted party vote, (it only looks close when you have a big failure like the Conservatives wasting a lot of Party Votes) which means it can’t be done purely with one-seat parties, and therefore takes more than “crumbs” to get it over the line. You would need one of the undeclared parties- ie. NZF or the MP, in order to govern in such a situation.

            Secondly, coalitions and other support arrangements aren’t less legitimate than an outright majority or a near majority that needs only a couple of extra seats. Not only have we never had an outright majority under MMP, and it’s entirely possible we never will. An outright majority is a huge landslide, and in fact single parties with more than 40% of the vote in any list system is hugely atypical, and it seems to be based entirely on National’s tendency to eat into the party votes of their support partners. Iceland, for instance, uses a list system, and the coalition leader won only 29% of the vote, less than Labour is polling now. (They have a higher wasted vote than we do though, so the coalition maths would be a bit similar to needing both the Greens and NZF) Germany regularly returns a Bundestag that requires a Grand Coalition to govern, because the left-wing parties refuse to work together.

            I’m going to be charitable and assume you’re not arguing that National has a right to govern because they’ll be the largest single party, because we all know that’s outdated FPP thinking and completely illogical. In a majoritarian parliamentary system like ours, what confers the right to govern is securing a majority, and if nobody has it outright, any path above 50% is just as legitimate as any other.

            And hell, I will point you back to Iceland again, where after the 2016 election, the third largest party, the Pirate Party, got a crack at trying to form a majority thanks to their president, (they had the equivalent of 20 seats) so in list-based systems like ours, even parties composing less than a third of Parliament can be potential coalition leaders if there are enough seats from smaller parties up for grabs in coalition talks.

            Legitimacy in any democratic system is down to whether the government as a whole respects the institutions of democracy, (eg. free and effective media, free and fair elections, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, etc…) forms a government legally, retains enough political power to effectively govern, and retains enough public support for the government as a whole to credibly claim to represent the people. It’s not about where their party ranked in the popular vote (although if there’s a big disparity between the popular vote and the share of seats in parliament, that goes against credibility of representation. Arguably parties polling at 3 or 4% and not getting into Parliament represent a problem in this regard, even if it’s a small one) or how close to a majority they came, as both those ideas are FPP-era leftovers.

            • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Not only have we never had an outright majority under MMP, and it’s entirely possible we never will.

              Didn’t have them often under FPP either – if you track the popular vote the last government under FPP that actually had a majority was late 40s or early 50s.

              • I was referring to a majority of seats under MMP, rather than a popular majority, but you’re absolutely correct to point out that the popular majority matters just as much as the majority of seats, as it goes to credibility of representation, and that many of the “majority of seats” situations under FPP had in fact lost the popular vote. Whereas all a “majority of seats” gets you is “legally forming a government,” which is arguably the least important criteria of legitimacy in a democracy, as it’s the one that even dictatorships can meet with sham elections.

                If your MMP coalition didn’t at least get close to a majority of the party vote, it’s hard to talk about having a mandate to pass laws, even if you campaigned on them specifically. And oh look, coincidentally, under MMP National has been the party more likely to not have a majority of the party vote when forming governments, just like it often didn’t have a majority of the popular vote under FPP. Fancy that. Maybe people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

        • Mordecai 2.1.1.2

          National is not dropping in the polls. The CM poll under discussion here has them unchanged. But keep you head firmly embedded in the sand.

      • Please remember little minion that Labour and the Greens are campaigning together, and the two blocs are basically equal at this point, with National having actually slipped behind Labour and the Greens at one point.

        • Mordecai 2.1.2.1

          Basically equal? Not according to today’s Colmar Brunton. There is only one poll I can remember that has them equal.

  3. AB 3

    “National looks tired and out of ideas”
    Is this the only way a government gets changed in this country nowadays – because they look tired and out of ideas?
    Never because their ideas are actually toxic crap? Because National are far more dangerous to the majority of people when they’re not tired and out of ideas.
    It’s sort of depressing if peoples’ votes are driven by vague perceptions about personalities and feelings of how energised a government is, irrespective of what they actually do.

  4. Rightly or wrongly 4

    Saying that Little’s support as PM is ‘steady’ is a wonderful take on the reality.

    You could say that Trevor Mallard, Judith Collins, and Meteria Turei also enjoy steady support on 0%.

    The issue is the level of support. There must always be a hope amongst pundits that their leader’s leadership qualities assist the party attract support.

    Little at 7% is considerably behind the old geriatric Peters and his own deputy. This is despite getting significant publicity from his position as LoO.

    Why don’t voters prefer Little as PM? Would be a good subject for internal polling I would have thought to try and attempt to fix any perceived issues.

    • Cinny 4.1

      However the fact remains that English is on a steady decline, Rightly or Wrongly why do you think that is please ?

      • Rightly or wrongly 4.1.1

        Its too early to say.

        Prior to becoming PM English never featured as prefered PM.

        Since then there has been a Christmas break and 2-3 polls giving English ratings around 25-30%.

        I suspect that this is residual support left over from Key.

        The first major event for English will be the budget.(barring natural disasters)

        I suggest that PM ratings after the budget will show English’s true personal support.

        • Psycho Milt 4.1.1.1

          Prior to becoming PM English never featured as prefered PM.

          Since then … 2-3 polls giving English ratings around 25-30%.

          Which suggests that incumbency is worth around 25-30%.

    • Labour leaders generally don’t become popular in the PPM metric until after they start implementing their agenda, so it’s kinda expected that he’s not doing so hot there. That doesn’t actually mean people won’t like him once he’s appointed.

      Honestly, it’s a pretty useless metric for anything but measuring the popularity of National Party leaders, as the left tends to split a lot more than the right, and it’s structured as an open question. If it were about more than interesting news headlines when some new MP shows up on the PPM poll, then they’d be doing approval ratings for the Leaders of major parties instead. (and by that I mean all five- both the Greens’ leaders and Winston, too)

  5. What does national do about English? Get nick smith to tell us how wonderful english is. -See sorted –next problem?

  6. roy cartland 6

    I’d quite happily see English tank the Nat party to an historic low. Again. I wonder if he’d get the message this time?

    • The issue is that English is basically their best choice anyway. If they can’t win with him, they really can’t win at all. Who else would their caucus elect? Paula Bennett? That’s not gonna work. Judith Collins? LOL, they know that’s a terrible idea. Jonathan Coleman? Simon Bridges? Yeah, you can see why they went with Boring Bill, right?

  7. DoublePlusGood 7

    Honestly, I think that the preferred prime minister poll is thoroughly useless in giving us a lot of useful information on the state of things.
    The various polls are still showing some minor variation around a -7 swing to the right, as has been approximately where things have been for the last three elections. There isn’t anything yet to indicate that the country will swing more to the left.

    • Sacha 7.1

      ‘Preferred prime minister’ is utterly pointless in a system where we can’t select that person, only their whole party. When did it start to be part of polls?

      • It’s also a terrible metric to ask an open question in a system with discrete choices. (ie. the only valid choices are actual party leaders, similar to how the only valid choices for the Party Vote are registered political parties. Even then, arguably only parties likely to lead a coalition are likely to ever be Prime Minister, and so far only Labour and National have been large enough for that)

        It is a sop to presidential-style campaigning, but it’s also a reality that some people award their party vote that way anyway. (Voters also do a similar thing in reverse in actual presidential systems, where other candidates often get a boost when that party’s presidential candidate is more popular) As such, leaders can and do give a boost or exhibit a drag on a party’s vote.

        If they’re going to ask questions like this, they should be doing one of two things:
        a) Closing up the question and asking people to choose from the current leader of a political party, and providing the choices if asked,
        or
        b) Instead of treating it as a zero-sum game, offer approval ratings on the leaders of every party over the threshold, or at least the largest two parties.

        Both these options address the issue that certain parties are more likely to “split” their vote than unite around a single candidate, making slumps for their leaders look worse than they actually are, and would give us an actual metric. It would be of debatable use given we don’t vote for Prime Minister, but it would still help us judge a bit better that issue of boost-vs-drag. Option (a) tells you more about comparative popularities of various parties, but option (b) tells you more about whether a party leader is likely to be challenged.

  8. Bearded Git 8

    It is really interesting because I can’t see English getting more than 40% as a leader for the Nats if he is lucky. This leaves the scenario (with 2% odds and sods):

    Lab 34+Gr 13+NZF 11=58%
    Nats 40%

    or:

    Lab 34+Gr 13=47%
    Nats 40+NZF 11=51%

    In this scenario Peters would be justified going with the Left in order to promote stable government. The 51% he could argue was a bit shaky.

    (He would also love to keep the Greens out of cabinet which he may well demand as his price of support)

      • They have been polling higher than that, so it’s not impossible. They tend to overpoll early in the campaign, so if they’re managing 14.5% later on too, it’s possible they’ll get a bump like that.

        I actually think the really unrealistic part there is Labour at 34%. XD There’s no indication they’re on track for that, it looks like if the government’s gonna change it’s going to be the support parties that deliver it.

  9. Ad 9

    Key has given English enough cushion to keep his party at 40%: still plenty for a + United 1 MP1 Act 1 + Confidence and Supply arrangement with NZF .

    But it’s spooky that we have had little by way of pre-budget announcements.
    Usually we are through most of the pre-announcement by now.

    That tells me English is preparing something big to go into election with.

  10. Bob 10

    Let’s have a poll on why Andrew Little is lagging behind Jacinda.
    NZ POLITICS is becoming fickle, if people vote for faces……..rather than policy!

    • Bearded Git 10.1

      The Nats have been trying to destabilise Little’s leadership for two and a half years and failed miserably-time to give up.

      Of course after the election all bets are off, but that is likely to be English stepping down after his second election debacle.

  11. SpaceMonkey 11

    I don’t want National to do anything about Bill English. I’d be very happy for them to go into the next election with him as their leader.

  12. EE 12

    First time mistake. Second time choice

  13. Enough is Enough 13

    I think preferred Prime Minister polls are reasonably irrelevant, but in any case the spin of the day award must go this beauty:

    “But Little’s support is steady…”

    That made me smile

  14. Rightly or Wrongly 14

    I personally think that English is slow to think on his feet.

    Also he never really comes up with solutions – just looks for compromises to make problems go away.

    When the pressure comes on in a genuine crisis or political storm I suspect that he is going to be somewhat of a possum in the headlights and this is where Labour can do real damage.

    The thing Labour need to be a little careful of is if they try and turn every little drama into a crisis (cars and barking) then the danger is the voters will be turned off – think boy who cried wolf.

    If I were Little I would leaving the daily sniping to my caucus members, and wait until the main crisis comes. (which it will) When it hits and English is floundering around, then come out with a good, practical, solution to deal with it.

    The voters will be listening and they will get the message that Little has some measure of competence – will change a few % to consider Little as a realistic alternative to the English double mindedness.

    • Wensleydale 14.1

      He’s not glib enough. He doesn’t have the veneer of superficial charm that so successfully masked Key’s lack of substance. He’s an accountant — one of the beige men of politics. A bit like a pot plant. You don’t really notice it until someone points it out to you.

    • Tamati Tautuhi 14.2

      Yep Labour and Winston NZF needs to make sure they don’t fall into the trap of barking at car tyres this coming Election as it just turns the educated voter off and they stick with the status quo.

    • Richard McGrath 14.3

      I agree. Too many of Little’s comments are knee jerk reactions to gummint policies or statements. He should pick his battles.

  15. Heather Tanguay 15

    English is very slow on his feet, he is a boring man with boring outdated ideas.
    People all over NZ have had enough of his ultra conservative ideas.
    Yes he will come out with tax breaks before the election, we all know that!

  16. greywarshark 16

    National and Blinglish are singing nostalgic songs with a sad note in a minor key since Johno has gone.

  17. Tamati Tautuhi 17

    I think National should seriously consider making Paula Bennett the PM for the coming Election, she would attract more of the female vote and may attract some of the Maori vote seeing as she has some Maori roots?

    • Richard McGrath 17.1

      That would make it interesting. To use the words of Nigel Farage, Bill English has the charisma of a wet dishrag. Bennett has a bit more mongrel.

  18. Tamati Tautuhi 18

    Mention tax cuts and its a done deal, New Zealanders like having the wool pulled over their eyes.

  19. In the image at the top of the post, Key sits exposed by his mien; those who were and are repelled by him can see it, those who worshipped him, cannot. They look at the image and sigh with longing.

  20. Tanz 20

    As long as they have Winston waiting in the wings, they will be fine. He will be Kingmaker, he is the only politician who actually listens to Joe public, he has suloutions on housing, immigration tidal waves, and oh yes, repealing that unpopular and largely unwanted, anti smacking law, which of course, the majority were given the fingers on.When govts become arrogant they soon get booted out, and Winston is such a savvy player. Brexit and Don Trump are signs of the times – the electorate at large frigging fed up with arrogant and deaf elite.

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