New Zealand First in the kingmaker spot

Three weeks after Prime Minister Bill English set the date for the election – 23 September 2017 – the campaign machines are rumbling into life. In the last week four Green candidates and one major Labour candidate have been announced. The incumbent National Party is down in the polls, but its leader has increased his popularity. But how ready are the parties for the New Zealand Election 2017?

I will be honest on two counts now.

  1. I do not want National to win the election, and preferably not in a coalition deal either
  2. Labour have seven months to look like they are capable of winning an election, or they are can probably classified as a terminally ill political party

On the first count history generally does not favour four term peace time Governments. The exception is the Government of Keith Holyoake whom my mother told me the other day was well regarded as a Prime Minister, and had an exceptional command of the English language. But he had a major failing in that he looked down in a contemptuous way on people who were less well off – in much the same way, the left accuse the likes of the current National-led Government today of being.

It also has to be said that there are issues brewing in the background which National have had 8 full years to deal with, and have not done so. These issues are ones that are a consequence of the economic policy of the last two decades, but exacerbated by changes in Government policy in the last 8 years, namely:

  • Deliberate admittance of large numbers of immigrants to New Zealand, not all of whom intend to live and contribute here long term
  • Subsequent heating of the housing market that has made affording a house in many areas simply unaffordable to many New Zealanders
  • Deliberately forcing people into jobs that they cannot hold down; refusing to address a myriad of interconnecting social issues
  • Escalating crime problems related to drugs that the police simply do not have the resources to deal with

National might be the most popular party, but the last poll showed that New Zealand First is steady on 11% (13 Members of Parliament), which probably translates in real terms into being on about 14% (16 Members of Parliament). National itself is probably more likely to be on about 43% than the 46% given in the latest Colmar Brunton Poll.. That would mean National needing all of its support parties plus New Zealand First to pass legislation. Which brings me nicely to the other side of House.

Labour, in all of their 9 years of Opposition never been stronger. But that is not a difficult thing to say for a political party that has barely moved in that time. In all that time, despite having Phil Goff, David Shearer and David Cunliffe and now Andrew Little lead the party, Labour have not released any large scale policy changes, seem happy with minor policies and still do not seem to have united behind their leader.

Rather for a political party that wants to be the bedrock of the next Government in seven months time, it is quite a damning thing to say. But even with the 32% (38 Members of Parliament) support that I think Labour probably have, they and their Green Party allies combined are still not enough on their own to form a Government. Like National across the House, Labour and the Greens would need New Zealand First to make up the numbers. Labour desperately need to release some big and bold policy, like maybe a comprehensive change to the legislation governing the Ministry of Social Development or a radical overhaul of the justice system acknowledging that – something that is going to make people stop and take notice.

However Labour have had a few bright spots. They took the Mt Roskill by election, caused by David Shearer’s departure comfortably and will probably take Mt Albert comfortably as well in a few weeks time. And the former police boss Greg O’Connor has just agreed to stand for them in Ohariu, against Peter Dunne.

And then there is the Greens. People have often expressed fears about the social policies that the Greens might introduce and the problems with order and crime that they claim will come with them. Others are concerned that the Greens will stifle economic growth and . But for all the claims against the Greens, I think there are some very good things that they could do around transport, the environment, human rights and energy. I have concerns myself, especially around defence – which is the primary reason I refuse to join, donate or vote for them, but some of the damage being down to the environment that draws in huge numbers of tourists every year is becoming too big to ignore.

Finally there is New Zealand First. If an election were held today, whoever the larger party turned out to be, would have to work with New Zealand First – if assuming we did not have Trump/Brexit type magnitude 9.0 political earthquake that installs New Zealand First on top. Winston Peters has hinted he is not a fan of working with the Greens, but he may have no choice. And much as Mr Peters might not want to admit it, the Greens and New Zealand First see eye to eye on a couple of issues such as killing the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

Small wonder the pundits think this is going to be a big year.

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