The TV3 poll has the NACT vs Lab/Green/NZF gap at 22% vs 9% in the latest Roy Morgan. I’ll tend to pay attention to the company that polls every fortnight to the one that polls once in a blue moon. Nevertheless, the story of both polls is the same: Labour struggling to make headway + Nats potentially with a majority = opportunity for Winston Peters.
Phil Goff has allowed his leadership to come into question in the past few weeks. We’re seeing a powerful meme develop that if he can’t lead his party properly, he can’t lead the country. There’s a pretty straightforward solution to that: get a strategy. That means not floundering when events happen but dedicating the run of play by having solid policy announcements flowing and keeping your MPs active with on the ground campaigns, like the stop assets sales campaign, which Goff needs to be hyping.
With Goff looking a bit like Helen Clark did in 1996 (remember, Clark survived three coup attempts in her early years and nearly won in 1996), voters are looking for alternatives to National other than Labour.
I don’t think anyone can argue that National’s agenda or performance have been incredibly popular. On the economy, people (wrongly) believe the government is doing the best it can in a bad situation but they are angry at the bailouts, the favours for mates, and the elitism exemplified by the BMW saga. People are pissed off about the cost of living and falling wages, which National promised to improve. They believe some cuts may be necessary but what is cut matters – see the first in Mike’s series ‘Spending cuts I would like to see‘. And getting further into hock to foreigners through borrowing and asset sales is deeply unpopular. Indeed, National itself tends to rate far more highly than the popularity of its policies and performance – as shown in the Roy Morgan polls by the confidence in government numbers which have dropped nearly 30 points in the past year and a half.
That’s down to a perceived lack of credible alternatives, which means the Greens and New Zealand First need to put their hands up.
The two parties have surprisingly similar platforms: no asset sales, retention of public services, monetary policy reform, and economic sovereignty. People say that Winnie is too indifferent to the environment but remember NZF voted for Labour’s ETS.
With National and ACT determined to embark on a wholesale sell off of Kiwi assets in a second term (and the conversion of a lot of other Crown capital into operating spending) the time has never been better for parties that are resolutely opposed to sales. The Greens and NZF are both excellently positioned for this, Labour less so after they muddied the waters of their own state assets policy for no reason last year.
On top of that, the public has shown itself very wary of electing a single party government. The last time a single party got a majority was in 1951. Mike Smith likes to recount how Labour fell 15% in the 2002 campaign as voters deserted the sure winner looking for parties to control its influence. In 2002, that gave us the UF nutters. In 2011, NZF and the Greens could be the answer. Without any real partners, National is in deep trouble if it can’t poll over about 48% but (TV3 poll notwithstanding) voters are unlikely to vote it a majority. That’s quite a tightrope walk.
A lot will come down to where Peters chooses to stand. Epsom has got to be high on that list. Already he is attracting remarkable attention for his fiery speeches around the country. Standing in a pivotal seat against another party leader, who is also his nemesis, would be media gold.
In essence, I’m coming around the the thesis proposed by ChrisH. That a Labour-led government is a viable possibility but it would be one where Labour is much more one among equals, as should be the way in MMP, rather than a behemoth with a couple of tag-alongs. Labour 33%, Greens 10%, NZF 8% – now that would be interesting!