The party leaders, major and minor (Photos: Getty, Compilation: Anna Rawhiti-Connell)
The party leaders, major and minor (Photos: Getty, Compilation: Anna Rawhiti-Connell)

The BulletinJune 14, 2023

The key shifts four months out from election

The party leaders, major and minor (Photos: Getty, Compilation: Anna Rawhiti-Connell)
The party leaders, major and minor (Photos: Getty, Compilation: Anna Rawhiti-Connell)

From a landslide majority in 2020 to a landscape of bottom lines and cross-benches, the major to minor party shift looks set to define this year’s election, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

The indefatigable Winston Peters 

Today marks four months to go until election day. This week in ancient history (four months out from the 2020 election) we were primarily concerned with whether two women, who got lost on an Auckland motorway, had hugged or kissed other people on their travels. New Zealand First were in government, applying a handbrake to gun reform measures. Since failing to get back into parliament after Labour’s big win in 2020, many pundits have looked in the mirror and wondered if this is the year they can confidently rule out NZ First leader Winston Peters. Not according to Peters based on a recent Grey Power meeting attended by Duncan Greive. This is, Peters said “the most critical election that any of us have ever faced.” In a very colourful write on The Spinoff this morning, Greive catalogues the furious concerns of attendees and notes that for Peters to get back to parliament, he will “need to find a way to turn their fury into his votes.”

National’s latest moves a bid to stem tide and sell something ‘less politically scary’

As Stuff’s Andrea Vance outlined in her Sunday column, this year is the year of the minor parties. “Minor” might now underplay the role they may play in the upcoming election and subsequent formation of government. Vance writes that “the political establishment that has rotated power for decades has finally run out of ideas to make things better” and so we turn to Act, the Greens, Te Pāti Māori and possibly the Opportunities Party. BusinessDesk’s Pattrick Smellie casts his eye over National’s recent abandonment of bipartisanship (paywalled) on housing density and agricultural emissions and judges it as both politically cynical and pragmatic. He writes that “National’s hope is that it will translate not only into a slide back from Act to National, but a slide from the undecided centre towards National on the grounds that a centre-right government less dominated by Act is less politically scary.”

Cross-benches and bottom lines 

In the most recent polling snapshot catalogued by Toby Manhire, the average across the latest polls would create what looks like a dead heat with both National and Labour reliant on support from other parties. As Vance wrote, cross-benches is this year’s buzzword. Act has already said that if it doesn’t get what it wants from National in coalition negotiations, the party is prepared to sit on the cross-benches and negotiate everything, vote by vote. Stewart Sowman-Lund notes that “bottom lines” is also something to add to your election year bingo card. Prime minister Chris Hipkins used it yesterday morning when asked about the Green party’s tax policy and whether he’d be prepared to lead a minority government, should the Greens choose to sit on the cross bench.

What do voters actually care about?

All of these machinations and calculations aside, Toby Manhire writes that the latest Ipsos New Zealand Issues Monitor gives us a sense of the “crunchy” terrain ahead for the election. Topping the list of things we deem most important is the cost of living. Whether or not we’ll feel better or worse about things after GDP numbers are released on Thursday remains to be seen. As Liam Dann notes (paywalled), the figures are retrospective so if we have been in a recession, the correct question to ask is “How was it for you?” The latest retail card spending data from Stats NZ suggests that recession or not, the economy is in a bit of a slump. Second on the list was law and order. In July 2020, it was seventh. I have mentioned this before but tough on crime/soft on crime rhetoric is very typical pre-election territory and crime data, as demonstrated in this excellent work from the Herald’s Michael Neilson and Chris Knox (paywalled), is a tricky thing but it’s clear people are deeply worried about what they’re observing and experiencing. Third was perennial fav, housing. Have a read of Greive’s piece this morning to gauge how these concerns stack up against the concerns of last week’s Grey Power meeting attendees.

Keep going!