Two recent pieces in The Herald are a study in opposites. This one by John Roughan is truly awful – so far divorced from reality that I’d call it unprofessional:
National defies the pundits
For months they have been saying the gloss has gone, that John Key wasn’t smiling anymore, the second-term blues had set in.
They had their reasons. The election campaign had been derailed by the teapot tapes, it was closely followed by the approval of the Crafar farms sale, which was not only unpopular but became embarrassing when the High Court found the stated grounds unsound.
What else? The Maori Party forced a Treaty clause into legislation for the public asset sales, which are still contentious. There’s been a debacle over cost-cutting in Foreign Affairs. Nick Smith’s resignation. The Pullar-Boag business with ACC.
Add it all up and the Government was on the slide, wasn’t it?
As it turns out, no. The first proper poll since the election was published by TVNZ last Sunday and, would you credit it, nothing has changed. National got 51 per cent of Colmar Brunton’s sample, more than its 47.3 per cent at the election. Key’s personal rating was down four points but still high. The Government is fine.
What an embarrassing piece of drivel. (1) The TVNZ poll was not the “first proper poll since the election” – see for example this 3 News poll that had National down 3 points. (2) The TVNZ poll has an awful record, and tends to favour National. (3) Just two days before Roughan’s piece appeared there was a Roy Morgan poll which had the Nats down 4.4%. In short, Nat polling is in free fall, and apparently John Roughan is the only one who hasn’t got the memo.
For someone a little more up on current events, try Matt McCarten instead:
Last Sunday I wrote that a slide for National was imminent. The TVNZ Colmar Brunton survey later that night contradicted me, showing National inching up 1 per cent.
My critics were amused. But that particular poll traditionally favours National and underestimates other parties. For example, it found NZ First support has halved since the election. Does anyone believe that? Nevertheless something significant did show up. John Key’s support slipped 4 points. Experienced pollsters know that when the leader drops, their party surely follows.
On Thursday, my assumption was confirmed. Key must have wondered what had happened while he was away hobnobbing overseas. The more reliable Roy Morgan Poll showed the National Party has dived a whopping 4.5 per cent to 44 per cent. This would normally be ecstatic news for Labour, but its support barely moved. The Greens, who have been doing a superb job since the general election, soared to a stunning record high of 17 per cent.
Most of us focus on the gap between National and Labour, still a huge 13.5 per cent. But a Labour-Green combo hit 47.5 per cent. For the first time in years their combined support beats National’s 44 per cent.
Throw in their likely support parties, NZ First and Mana, and a David Shearer-led coalition easily defeats the current government and its allies.
That’s the political reality which has triggered the current power struggle within National. (My money is on the Joyce faction, they’re playing by far the smartest game.) But let’s see where Matt heads with his reasoning:
The Greens’ success is that they’re consistently on the front foot. They respond faster to any government missteps and they promote their policies whenever they get an opening.
Labour seems sluggish at times. And because Shearer says many of its policies are up for review, it often can’t offer clear alternatives.
Labour’s problem is it is too cautious and risk averse because it isn’t sure what it stands for. The Ports of Auckland dispute is an example. The Green and Mana parties from the start attacked the tactics of the port against its workers and strongly supported the wharfies’ fight for decent pay and secure jobs. Even when it seemed unpopular, the Greens held firm on principle.
With the honourable exception of MPs Darien Fenton and Phil Twyford, Labour was all over the place. Labour needs desperately to reconnect to its working-class constituency. …
The odds of a change of government at the next election are high. After this week’s polls, Labour’s current wooden performance and the appointment of Harre, the idea of a Green-led government isn’t so difficult to consider.
After all, Labour is barely 30 per cent and the Greens are currently 17. If Labour doesn’t lift its game, it may have to get used to the novel idea of its leader being “co-prime minister” with a Maori woman or an Aussie redhead.
It would be interesting to see a detailed breakdown of shifts in support. My guess is that National isn’t bleeding support direct to the Greens, rather it is losing voters to Labour, and Labour is losing them to the Greens at about the same rate.
I’m confident that Labour will emerge from it’s reviews and restructuring with a strong policy platform and a strong voice for the next election. I don’t honestly expect a Green led government in 2014 (though I’d be happy with that outcome!). But the rise in support for the Greens should certainly be giving Labour a sharp reminder that they need to be getting on with it…