The BulletinSeptember 26, 2023

Young candidates debate as poll sets stage for return of ‘Matua Winston’

Juxtaposition aplenty as candidates front for young voters’ debate and new polling proves you can never write Winston Peters off, 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.

Young voters’ debate provides juxtaposition to poll news

If you’re looking for some juxtaposition in your campaign diet, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better “shot, chaser” example than watching last night’s young voters’ debate after the Newshub Reid Research poll results. Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke is standing for Te Pāti Māori (TPM) in the Haurkai/Waikato seat and repped the party at the debate last night. At 21 years old, Maipi-Clarke would be the youngest MP to enter parliament since 1853. That now depends on TPM lifting its party vote above last night’s poll results and an electorate seat win for the party. Maipi-Clarke is the grand niece of Hana Te Hemara, who was among the group that led the Māori language petition to parliament. Despite English being the de facto official language of New Zealand, potential kingmaker, Winston Peters wants to enshrine and protect it by making it an official language.

Poll sees return of the king (maker)

Last night’s Newshub Reid Research poll has NZ First above the threshold on 5.2%. National are on 39.1%, down 1.8, while Act have fallen to 8.8%. Based on this polling, National and Act would only gain 60 seats. NZ First’s polling would give them six seats in parliament and with 61 needed to govern, National and Act would require the support of NZ First. Return of the king (maker) indeed. If poll results bear out, Peters would be one of the oldest candidates (maybe the oldest?) to enter parliament at the time of election. Despite big ideological differences, there’s a reason both Marama Davidson and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer referred to him as “Matua Winson” at last week’s Newshub powerbrokers debate. All participants at that debate also whakapapa Māori and I guess we can say that this election campaign has done wonders for killing off the concept of Māori as some kind of homogenous, singular group. It’s also illuminating some vast generational divides at a time when some candidates are smashing “youngest ever” records, and a large, older generational cohort is regularly debunking the myth that getting older equates to a compulsory shuffling off to a quiet retirement. Older age groups are also raring to go on voting as these stats from the Electoral Commission show.

Voter enrolment as at 10 September 2023 (Electoral Commision)

Luxon ‘looks slow and expedient’

Back to last night’s poll, which confirmed the inevitably of National leader Christopher Luxon needing to call Peters on election night. There’s broad consensus among political media that the call is not part of a game of three-dimensional chess but because he’s been backed into a corner. Toby Manhire writes that “Luxon missed the opportunity to look decisive and leaderly. Instead, he looks slow and expedient.” The Herald's Audrey Young (paywalled) writes that “Luxon has decided the risks in inflating NZ First’s vote by articulating the obvious coalition position are less than the risks of him continuing to sideline himself from one of the big issues this campaign: coalitions.” As BusinessDesk’s Pattrick Smellie observes (paywalled), “Luxon can at least take heart from one thing: the endless pressure on him either to rule Peters in or out will stop.”

The second coming of the coalition of chaos?

Last night's poll also tested a perception about coalition stability, asking “do you think a three-party National, ACT, New Zealand First Government would be a stable or a chaotic Government?” 63% said chaotic, while just 26.4% said stable. As both Young and Smellie note, Luxon will be hoping that his message about calling Peters “if absolutely necessary” and the preference for a two-party coalition between Act and National lands. After floating a confidence-only partnership just a few weeks ago, Act released a statement yesterday titled “Act and National a coalition for change” which, as the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan writes, “seemed to mark a new era of bonhomie between the two parties.” Bonhomie aside, perceptions of chaos won’t be helped by yet another story this morning about dodgy social media activity from yet another Act candidate. A number of former prospective candidates have also expressed concerns about the party’s selection process. The candidate in question, Simon Angelo, is ranked 39 on ACT’s list, and doesn’t have a hope in hell of getting to parliament but it’ll prove to be yet another unwelcome distraction as the shape of the next government looms ever closer in voters’ minds.

Keep going!