National Leader Simon Bridges has ruled out working with New Zealand First, saying the centrist party that determines which of the mainstream parties forms a Government cannot be trusted. In effect the announcement means that National and A.C.T. will need a combined total of at least 61 seats to govern.
New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters is 74 years of age and will turn 75 on 11 April 2020. Mr Peters is the longest serving Member of Parliament with a total of 36 years as a Member of Parliament, and 26 serving as Leader of New Zealand First. Public disgust over the party’s decision to support the Trans Pacific Partnership, combined with internal disorganization poses a significant challenge in an era of politics where the New Zealand voting public have been rarely more disengaged. Given his age many New Zealanders are likely wondering when Mr Peters will retire from Parliament or whether that will be up to the voters to decide.
Depending on which polling system is used, there is no real guarantee that Mr Peters will be returned to Parliament. It lacks an electorate seat and the most recent 1 News/Colmar Brunton Poll suggests New Zealand First might not get the necessary 5%, which would end its time in Parliament.
The same poll suggested that National and A.C.T. could indeed govern alone. It suggested that a good many of the voters are tired of Ms Ardern’s lack of progress on key socio-economic issues. In fairness to Labour though, it takes a quite inept party to be a one term wonder in New Zealand politics, and Labour will probably be able to form another centre-left coalition after the election. This is especially so if A.C.T. is restricted to its Epsom seat where National voters have once again been asked to vote for A.C.T. Leader David Seymour.
But the electoral battlefield is shifting into policy territory no party is particularly strong on. I believe housing will be the single biggest issue at this election. Climate change will be a distant topic that the Greens might use to try to prop up their vote, but it will be lagging behind poverty, jobs, and social welfare support. Despite the Australian bush fires and the immediately obvious smokey sunset last night to reinforce the message, it simply lacks the in-your-face; ignore-me-at-your-peril immediacy that goes with not having enough money for food, for rent, the inability to find housing that suits ones needs.
Climate change might not even be a second tier subject with education, crime and tax policy also wanting significant air time. Ultimately some economic policy around climate and the environment is going to have to be released, but I cannot imagine it being an election winner for a lot of people. New Zealand, simply put, has bigger and more immediate day to day problems.
As the world watches the Democratic primaries, and Britain entering uncharted waters, closer to home the first rumbles of thunder from the New Zealand General Election 2020, are being heard. There will be many more in the coming months.