Politics

100 days to go! The Spinoff Editorial Board on the state of the parties

In a little over three months, New Zealand goes to the polls. Recent months have seen shock and volatility in elections around the world. Will we see something similar? Here we assess the contenders’ status as the clock counts down to September 23.

A big day for lovers of democracy and arbitrary round numbers: there are one hundred sunsets until election day in New Zealand. As the sands tumble inexorably through the hour glass (there are only 88 days till advance voting starts, too), the Spinoff Editorial Board strokes its chin and assesses the state of the rival parties.

National

Last election: 47%

Latest polling (from today’s RNZ poll of polls): 45%

What we said about them when the election was announced back in February: “If the National Party slips even three or four points, if Bill English’s personal rating sits in the doldrums, what will be the response from MPs in marginal seats or the bracket of uncertainty on the list?”

What we say now: That if hasn’t come to pass, and English could hardly have hoped for a better start since taking over from Sir Whassisname.

They want to talk about: The economy and – bizarrely for a National government – “social investment”, English’s signature policy which also goes for Labour’s jugular. They’ll also lean hard on strong and stable leadership (but without using “strong and stable leadership”, because look what happened to Theresa May), and some slice of their attention will go to pizza preferences.

They don’t want to talk about: The housing crisis. There’s actually a lot – Auckland’s at bursting point, mental health, immigration, homelessness – but most current issues feel anchored to the crisis. It’s a political strobe light on 24/7, and the government’s efforts to pretend isn’t flashing now seem tragi-comic.

Dream scenario: Same as last time.

Nightmare scenario: A flimsy governing coalition with NZ First that also relies on other support parties could be even worse than a term in opposition.

Labour

Last election: 25%

Latest polling: 29%

What we said then: “Can Andrew Little’s lot achieve non-crapness?”

What we say now: Mostly they have achieved non-crapness, though the list announcement veered badly off course. But nothing spectacular beyond.

Want to talk about: Housing, their fiscal responsibility rules and (sotto voce) immigration.

Don’t want to talk about: The Greens and New Zealand First. Labour has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Greens but polling suggests that if they can form a government at all, it is more likely to be with NZF. But nobody wants to work with Winston and talking about it makes everyone queasy. Corbynistas in the Labour Party and wider movement are already arguing hard that his surge calls for a move openly and sharply to left. Most of the Labour leadership does not agree and they really do not want that debate to stuff up their more centrist focus.

Dream scenario: A youthquake which powers a surge in support to 37%, channelling the kind of energy that led Jeremy Corbyn to vastly exceed expectations, and leading to a Red-Green government..

Nightmare scenario: Same as last time.

Left to right: Labour Party leader Andrew Little, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, ACT Party leader David Seymour, Prime Minister and National Party leader Bill English and NZ First leader Winston Peters.

Greens

Last election: 10.5%

Latest polling: 12%

What we said then: “Labour and the Greens have a memorandum of understanding and the media and their rivals will push hard at any fissures they detect.”

What we say now: There’s been a bit of that. The Greens have enjoyed positive coverage with a youngish and diverse list, and attempted to cauterise perceptions that they’re not government-ready by backing the MOU with a budget responsibility pact, but they now need to show some bold policy vision, and restore the faith of parts of the base suspicious of an embrace of orthodoxy.

Want to talk about: Rivers and families. When they’re with business groups: the Budget Responsibility Rules.

Don’t want to talk about: Misfires on immigration. When they’re not with business: the Budget Responsibility Rules.

Dream scenario: A youthquake which powers a surge in support to 15%, channelling the kind of energy that led Jeremy Corbyn to vastly exceed expectations, and leading to a Red-Green government.

Nightmare scenario: A lack of cut-through, with Labour and NZF sucking up all the opposition oxygen, leaves them lagging behind NZ First, by a distance even.

NZ First

Last election: 8.5%

Latest polling: 9.5%

What we said then: “The critical question is whether the party, with Shane Jones likely to sprinkle a bit of extra charisma into the election, can channel some of the Trump/Brexit populist, anti-globalisation, anti-immigrant energies in New Zealand, and do that without tipping over into a crankiness that turns off some of their target voters.”

What we say now: The critical question is whether the party, with Shane Jones likely to sprinkle a bit of extra charisma into the election, can channel some of the Trump/Brexit populist, anti-globalisation, anti-immigrant energies in New Zealand, and do that without tipping over into a crankiness that turns off some of their target voters.

Want to talk about: Foreign anything: migrants, ownership, political trends.

Don’t want to talk about: Bottom lines.

Dream scenario: Channeling all of that (see above) and grabbing the limelight above a dour English-Little double act to accelerate into the high teens.

Nightmare scenario: People have seen the Brexit/Trump stuff and they don’t like it. As voters return, as in the UK, to the traditional power parties, they abandon, they slump, as did UKIP.

The Opportunities Party

Last election: N/A

Latest polling: 1.4% (this and below from latest Colmar Brunton for TVNZ)

What we said then: “Can the ‘TOP’ party make an impact?”

What we say now: That was a pretty useless thing to say then. But, you know, 1.4% at this point is not to be sniffed at, even if it is according to several sources 3.6% away from the threshold for entering parliament. The question really is: can the “TOP” party make a sufficient impact?

Want to talk about: Evidence-based policy, cannabis, not being an establishment party and Gareth Morgan.

Don’t want to talk about: Cats. Gareth Morgan coming off as a bullying, sanctimonious dryballs.

Dream scenario: Like some moustachioed amalgamation of Macron and Trump, riding a wave to 5% and the balance of power.

Nightmare scenario: People just get sick of it all and they get booted to the cellar.

Māori Party

Last election: 1.3%

Latest polling: 0.6%

What we said then: We didn’t really, just touched on the Mana deal.

What we say now: Despite Marama Fox being the greatest politician in parliament, the party is far from sure of holding two seats, with the battle against Labour in the Māori seats the most heated in the election leadup so far.

Want to talk about: Changes for Māori, such as Whānau Ora, achieved by being at the table.

Don’t want to talk about: Being shackled to the table.

Dream scenario: The Mana deal reaps dividends, and Fox gets plenty of spotlight, leading to two electorate wins and another two off the list.

Nightmare scenario: Down to just one seat and it’s held by the often underwhelming Te Ururoa Flavell.

ACT

Last election: 0.7%

Latest polling: 0.5%

What we said then: “Will the ACT Party, facing oblivion, do something spectacularly daft?”

What we say now: They might have to.

Want to talk about: The plight of millennials (Seymour proudly promotes himself as the only millennial leader); and euthanasia: leader David Seymour was given an election lifeline when his member’s bill on assisted dying was drawn from the ballot. It’s an opportunity to make noise on a conscience issue – one most parties ignore but the public feels strongly about.

Don’t want to talk about: See: latest polling.

Dream scenario: Seymour’s hustle translates into a few thousand more votes, enough to get the lonely leader a buddy in the big house.

Nightmare scenario: A combination of immigration fever and tactical withdrawals/voting brings Epsom into play and ends the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers forever.

United Future

Last election: 0.2%

Latest polling: 0%

What we said then: Sorry, we didn’t.

What we say now: Just sorry.

Want to talk about: Common sense. Peter Dunne’s powerful record of occasionally making minor drug law reform.

Don’t want to talk about: Greg O’Connor, the ex-Police Association head who is standing for Labour against Dunne and a likely executioner.

Dream scenario: Peter Dunne remains MP for Ohariu-Belmont.

Nightmare scenario: Greg O’Connor.

Mana Party

Last election: 1.4% (with Internet Party)

Latest polling: 0%

Want to talk about: Poverty, social injustice, the burgeoning global movement for change, driven by younger voters and those abandoned by establishment politics.

Don’t want to talk about: Last time.

Dream scenario: A surge in support, channelling the kind of energy that led Jeremy Corbyn to vastly exceed expectations and installing the Mana movement as a renewed voice of disaffected youth, bringing victory over Kelvin Davis in Te Tai Tokerau and another two or three MPs.

Nightmare scenario: Same as last time.

Internet Party

Last election: 1.4% (with Mana)

Latest polling: 0%

Want to talk about: Their most recent press release was subject-lined “website launch”.

Don’t want to talk about: K-i-m-d-o-t-c-o-m.

Dream scenario: The public becomes aware the Internet Party is still a thing.

Nightmare scenario: The public remembers what happened last time.

Conservative Party

Last election: 4%

Latest polling: 0.1%

Want to talk about: Family values. The way old-fashioned values are going to hell in a handcart.

Don’t want to talk about: C-o-l-i-n-c-r-a-i-g.

Dream scenario: Vague return to respectability.

Nightmare scenario: Vague return to C-o-l-i-n-c-r-a-i-g.


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