By this time in 2017, New Zealand will either be in the throes of an election campaign or be watching the next Government in whatever form it may come, be taking shape in Wellington. With a year or less to go, how are the parties in Parliament shaping up?
National: Old and tired. This party has enjoyed the limelight for 8 years now and despite its high polling a year out from the 2017 general election a swag of issues including crime, housing, social welfare, education, the environment and health are beginning to combine to drag down support. None of the Ministers have sought to excel, much less actually done so, with communication (or a lack of)dragging them collectively down. Third term blues counting against it winning a fourth term. GRADE: C
Labour: Showing the first real signs of promise in the polls with an 8% climb recently. However it is still a long way behind National, and Andrew Little is struggling to gain popularity in the preferred Prime Minister stake. It has much work still to be done on policy, as well as matching them with the strongest voices in their Parliamentary ranks – the exception being Jacinda Ardern whose consistently strong voice on social welfare. Possible that New Zealanders may vote for Labour just to get rid of a third term Government. GRADE: C+
New Zealand First: Doing well in its traditional areas, and showing promise with Fletcher Tabuteau on economic policy and Tracey Martin on education, both of whom have solid experience in these areas. The media prefer to ignore the party or give them a couple of sentences at the bottom of articles. Denis O’Rourke has been working steadily on Christchurch and railways. Needs to run a well organized election campaign. Could cause the shock of the 2017 election if well organized. GRADE: B
Greens: Holding ground, but do not seem to be scoring any large hits. Whilst having clear support for environmental policies, the party has been less successful on justice, housing, and an array of other issues. It has capable Members of Parliament in Julie Anne Genter, Gareth Hughes and James Shaw. Their ongoing appeal to younger people needs to be tapped into if they are to get more seats in Parliament. Competing with New Zealand First for Labour’s attention. GRADE: B-
United Future: Peter Dunne has always been a mystery to me. On one hand we see eye to eye on a Republic, civics in schools and human rights – he has often been on the apologies list for Amnesty International New Zealand Annual Meetings – but on the other his support for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, for National in office on legislation I thought a centrist would have voted against, I have found disappointing. Can Mr Dunne become more than a one man band? Maybe, but United Future would have to lift its game substantially. GRADE: C
A.C.T.: That other one man band, has – for a party of the far right (I won’t call them libertarian, because their corporate nous is stronger than their small government principles permit) – done well with David Seymour’s die with dignity bill getting praise from corners that would normally want nothing to do with A.C.T. Mr Seymour has also been able to see his charter schools idea get advanced by National. But that is where it stops because National could destroy A.C.T. in 2017 simply by standing a strong candidate in Epsom and not doing a deal with a party New Zealanders rightfully thought was dead and buried. GRADE: D
Maori Party: Regardless of what mana Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox might have with Maoridom, there is no doubt in my mind that this party has been a colossal failure. Oh sure it was formed by Tariana Turia to oppose Labour’s Foreshore and Seabed Act, but a one issue part is never going to get far in the New Zealand Parliament. Its failure to advance the social needs of Maori and stem the shocking rates of involvement in crime, poverty and other negative socio-economic assessment areas. It is only because of the Maori seats that the Maori Party exists at all – would it be a loss to New Zealand if it disappeared? GRADE: D