We are now over half way through the third term of the National-led Government of Prime Minister John Key. As a third term Prime Minister, Mr Key faces the problems that all third-term Prime Ministers have – and for the most part failed – to deal with. Perhaps we should not be surprised as three terms, or nine years is a long time to be in a public office, not least the most important in New Zealand. But as Mr Key looks to a fourth term in office, the array of challenges facing him and his Government are diverse as any of the challenges facing previous Governments.
So how would a new Government look if an election were held on this day in 2016?
On the grounds alone that housing is becoming the most dangerous issue facing Mr Key, there is potential for a change in Government. On the grounds that a host of other socio-economic problems are hurting the country – health, social welfare, crime and living costs all come to mind – and the increasingly negative public perceptions on all of these subjects, it would be reasonable to think that a change in Government will happen. National is slipping in the polls slowly but steadily, though Mr Key remains by far and away the most popular politician in New Zealand.
But here is the problem. In much the same way National does not look like undisputed fourth-term material, Labour does not look like undisputed new Government material. Despite the relative unity in the Labour caucus, and their memorandum of understanding with the Greens, Labour are still a long way from looking like a solid alternative. Its leader Andrew Little is trailing New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, whose party remains steady on 9% and who polls in the preferred Prime Minister stakes at 12%.
So where is that support going? At a glance it would appear to be going towards the Greens and New Zealand First, who are not normally bed mates, despite their common ground on things such as asset sales and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. The polls do not show movement towards Labour. But with the minor parties all hovering around 0% – entirely reliant on the fact that they hold electorate seats to save them from oblivion – there is a pool of support coalescing behind the two parties most likely to help Labour form a coalition.
On that basis, where is what I would expect if an election were held today:
- National on 45%
- A.C.T. on <1% (reliant on David Seymour holding Epsom)
- United Future <1% (reliant on Peter Dunne holding Ohariu)
- Maori Party <1% (reliant on M.P.’s holding seat)
- Labour on 30%
- N.Z.F. on 11%
- Greens on 12%