Effectively one year has now passed since National was re-elected for a third term by New Zealanders. The election was seen by the electorate as a catastrophe for Labour, an outstanding night to be a National party member and – with the exception of New Zealand First – a decidedly average night for everybody elses political fortunes. A year later, how is a party that looked like being set for a fourth term before they had even started their third, getting on?
The answer by the historical record is, decidedly par for the course of third term Governments. Most of the achievements of this Government happened in its first few years, and although the individual Ministers of the Crown still have occasional success, the Cabinet of Prime Minister John Key is looking:
- Seriously bereft of original ideas
- Increasingly out of tune with New Zealanders on a range of issues, especially with the refugee crisis in Europe where even the Young Nats (the youth wing of the National Party)are telling the Prime Minister to increase the quota
- In serious danger of terminally harming their fourth term chances with a flag changing exercise that anywhere between 60-80% of New Zealanders do not want
Of course the mainstream media, dominated as they are by National-supporting corporates, do not show this in their polls. The New Zealand Herald Digi Poll showed National still enjoying 50%+ support with the Prime Minister at a historic third term high of 64% support.
But how high would it have been if the media had?
- Reported that the business community thinks Mr Key needs to consider stepping down – the “Key Brand” is no longer weaving its magic with the economy
- Done serious journalistic research on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement – either the corporate media supports the deal or they have been gagged, but the silence over something that is drawing increasingly alarmed responses from the public, should show a few red flags
And I am having trouble believing that Labour’s low polling is entirely their fault. For the first time in six years, their caucus looks like it is working together. For the first time in six years they look like a party with a purpose, even if they are not quite sure what it is. For the first time in six years simply saying Labour’s polling reflects their performance will not suffice any longer.
But the Opposition rarely win elections. Normally the Government loses them. This seems like a double Dutch statement, but it is not, for at the end of the day in democratic countries, the people eventually decide it is time to give the other side of the House of Representatives a turn at holding office. The challenge for the Government of the day is to make that goodwill last as long as possible.
This Government is not.