We are, at a legal maximum, 72 days away from the election. The tradition is that the date is announced at least six weeks before election date (that’s the timeframe the Electoral Office needs). So, we would expect to have the election date announced by the start of October, no more than four weeks from now. Even if the election date were named today and it was the bare minimum six weeks from now, that would only be at most four weeks earlier than it could otherwise be. In other words, there’s no such thing as an early election at this stage; the range of potential dates is trivial, from mid-October to mid-November (and Oct 25, Nov 1, and Nov 15 are out, Labour Day weekend, All Blacks test, Canterury Anniversary weekend – leaves Oct 18 and Nov 8).
So why is National so desperate for the election to be as soon as possible? Probably for one or more of the following reasons:
– to try to shorten the remaining time Parliament has to sit. Maybe John is bored sitting in that uncomfortable chair while Gerry and Bill do all the talking or, maybe, they want to prevent the passage of the final pieces of legislation
– the later after October 1 the election is, the longer people will have been receiving Labour’s tax cuts and Working for Families increases.
– maybe Key just wants to be right. He’s been predicting an October 18 election to anyone who will listen and we’re now on the cusp of that becoming unfeasible timewise. Maybe, National has been so sure of that date they have been timing their policy releases and advertising around it and are worried that they will peak too soon if it’s at a later date.
– maybe it’s purely political. Calling for an early election is intended to make the Government appear unstable. It’s the same trick they tried in 2005. And, if Key can convince the public he forced Clark to go early, that will be a psychological advantage.
– or maybe they’re worried about the polls. They’re turning on National. A couple of the public polls have National falling to the high 40s (the internal numbers are rumoured to agree). That’s a danger zone. With only ACT as a partner for sure, Peter Dunne bringing just his own seat back, and the Maori Party anything but a sure bet, National needs to win 47% plus of the vote (less if there’s a large wasted vote, say, if NZF narrowly fails to reach 5%). There must be very real concern in the National camp that the gap will continue to narrow and National will find itself getting 42-45% of the vote and not able to govern. With the trend being down, National needs to get to the polls as soon as possible. The hollow charm is starting to wear off. The more time people have to wake up to National’s secret agenda, the less likely they are to win.