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The Letter 14/07/2014: 60 Days to Go

The Letter

60 Days to Go

National in the Pundit Poll of Polls has broken 50%. Labour has dipped below 30%. In the month prior to the last election both major parties saw their support drop – National to 47% and Labour to just 27%, where it now is. As Labour dropped the Greens grew. This year all the parties of the left are dropping, including NZ First, which is below the 5% threshold. It is early days, as the third parties traditionally gain traction in the last weeks of the campaign, but we can draw two conclusions:

The Big Mo

What matters in polls is momentum. Once an opinion is formed it is hard to turn it around. The momentum is towards the centre right. The right/left gap is growing. The speed of Labour’s fall is such that a poll result worse than 2011 is likely. David Cunliffe’s negatives are so high that that Labour campaign managers are dreading their leader getting equal time. Last election Phil Goff lost Labour 4% during the campaign; David Cunliffe could lose even more. Labour seats like West Coast-Tasman, Rimutaka, Palmerston North, Hutt South, the new West Auckland seat and all the Maori electorates are now at risk.

Internet/Mana is having an Impact…

But not as our German fugitive from US justice intended. He set up the Internet party to destroy John Key and avoid extradition. He has failed on both counts. His party has torpedoed David Cunliffe instead. Internet/Mana Party is attracting voters from the Greens and Labour. When David Cunliffe states that he probably won’t have Hone and Laila in his Cabinet, and they respond “we’ll see”, it reminds voters that Labour can only win with Hone and Laila’s support, a prospect that may push Labour’s more conservative voters towards National. The only government support party to be hurt by the $3million support for Internet/ Mana is the Maori Party, which has a battle on its hands. Interesting times.

Where is ACT?

ACT has momentum and is winning Epsom. When Jamie Whyte became leader ACT was on zero, losing members and had no money. ACT has always, with the exception of the last election, gained strongly during the formal campaign. Jamie Whyte is the only “new” leader on the hustings and voters are recognising the strengths he brings to the campaign. He is the only party leader saying no to tax and spend. He abhors ‘green’ tape and pursues Three Strikes for burglary. ‘One Country – One Law’ is his focus. Without doubt, ACT is being well-served by its leader. After being declared by commentators to have won TV3’s The Nation third party leaders’ debate, ACT is looking forward to having Jamie Whyte on the TVNZ Party Leaders’ debate.

Jamie leads a top team. Last weekend ACT selected an impressive group of candidates – well qualified with good life stories. They are all relevant in today’s society and they would all make good MPs; they won’t be seat-warmers, as is the case in the NZ First and Green Party caucuses. See for yourself at www.act.org.nz .

John Key’s options

Last October National was polling at 45% and it appeared it might not have any allies after this election. Labour had a new leader and together with the Greens was polling up with National. NZ First – or Winston, more accurately - was on track to hold the balance of power. Now Labour has the unwanted coalition partner from hell. John Key has all the options. He has signalled National voters in Epsom to support ACT and now he is pondering whether or not to help the Conservatives.

Why the Conservatives?

The Conservatives are not even recorded in Pundit’s poll of polls but that shows the weakest of public polls. ACT’s in-depth poll of 2000 voters reveals potential support for the Conservatives is around 4%. It is the percentage of the electorate which says “Christian values” are important when determining their vote. Conservative voters are very different from ACT supporters and much closer to NZ First’s supporters. While National members do not want a deal with yet another party, John Key is playing a MMP long game. Key wants to grow the Centre/Right vote. There are Right/Centre voters who will vote ACT, and others who will vote Conservative, but neither will vote National. Giving the Conservatives a seat will grow the Centre/Right, it might even sink NZ First, and it will give John Key allies to his left and right. His promotion of the Maori Party shows this is a flexibility the PM likes. Of course, the danger is ACT does not win Epsom and National becomes dependent on the Conservative Party, whose economic policies are loopy, to say the least.

John Key’s Election Conference speech

Last week we analysed David Cunliffe’s election conference speech and found it awful. “What did we think of John Key’s speech to his conference the week before?” Well, it was better than Cunliffe’s. But both speeches had a great deal in common with what they did not say. According to any intelligent analysis of New Zealand, take any OECD report in the last decade as an example, there are a number of critical issues facing the country: The growth of government spending, the unsustainability of superannuation, the extraordinary and growing cost of healthcare, the falling standards in education and the number of able bodied adults and young people on welfare. John Key had a few words about welfare but these issues hardly figured in either Leader’s speech. (David Cunliffe promised more spending). Neither party leader has any plan to tackle these issues. Alarmingly, National is campaigning on roads and bridges, a type of politics New Zealand has been free of since National set up the National Roads Board in the 1950s and began allocating roading money on a cost/benefit basis rather than on vote getting. “Roads of National Significance” often struggle to meet the cost/benefit rationale. It is “pork barrel” politics, something more akin to Australian and US campaigning than here. National has lost it moral authority. If National can spend money on roads just because Gerry Brownlee thinks it is a vote winner then the government can say little as Mayor Brown seeks to bankrupt Auckland with a rail project that has a negative cost/benefit ratio.

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