Polls show sup­port for the Govt

Well-de­served con­sol­i­da­tion of sup­port for gov­ern­ing par­ties and slap on the hand for Na­tional

Hawke's Bay Today - - Opinion - By Mike Wil­liams

"If this kind of re­sult is re­flected in the now rare pub­lic polls, Si­mon Bridges’ hold on the Na­tional Party lead­er­ship will weaken rapidly."

On Oc­to­ber 19, the Gov­ern­ment no one saw com­ing cel­e­brated its first year in of­fice and all the po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors awarded it high marks, de­spite its un­likely con­struc­tion.

Even a nor­mally harsh critic, ra­dio broad­caster Mike Hosk­ing gave it “eight or nine out of 10”.

Since the elec­tion, busi­ness con­fi­dence as re­ported in reg­u­lar ANZ sur­veys of se­lected CEOs has vir­tu­ally col­lapsed and one ex­pla­na­tion for this phe­nom­e­non has been the un­ex­pected out­come of the gen­eral elec­tion.

How­ever, when you look at polls as far back as two years be­fore last year’s elec­tion, they were pre­dict­ing just such an out­come, though be­fore Jacinda Ardern came along as Labour Party leader, the bal­ance be­tween the three par­ties which make up the cur­rent Gov­ern­ment was very dif­fer­ent.

It was prob­a­bly a mat­ter more of luck than good plan­ning that there was a ma­jor poll com­mis­sioned by the Labour and New Zea­land First par­ties less than a week af­ter the first an­niver­sary of the for­ma­tion of the coali­tion Gov­ern­ment.

As I wrote a cou­ple of weeks ago, half of the most re­cent Col­mar Brun­ton poll pub­lished on TVNZ in which Na­tional sup­port was barely dented was con­ducted be­fore the Jami-Lee Ross fi­asco ex­ploded but the in­ter­nal poll taken be­tween Oc­to­ber 24 and 31 was able to cap­ture the full fall­out of this on­go­ing she­moz­zle.

This poll had Na­tional slump­ing four points on pre­vi­ous polls to 37 per cent, while both Labour and New Zea­land First picked up two points each to reg­is­ter 46 per cent and 7 per cent re­spec­tively. The Green Party was steady on 7 per cent.

The sur­vey also cap­tured ris­ing back­ing for Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern and fur­ther ero­sion of sup­port for Na­tional’s Si­mon Bridges.

This poll re­flects a wellde­served con­sol­i­da­tion of sup­port for the gov­ern­ing par­ties and an equally well-de­served slap on the hand for the Na­tional Party, which has been tread­ing wa­ter for months and which al­lowed the Jami-Lee Ross mat­ter to fes­ter to the point of det­o­na­tion.

If this kind of re­sult is re­flected in the now rare pub­lic polls, Si­mon Bridges’ hold on the Na­tional Party lead­er­ship will weaken rapidly.

On th­ese num­bers, Na­tional would not only lose up to nine list MPs, as­sum­ing their elec­torate MPs can hold on, but those same un­der-threat list MPs would be­gin hop­ing that some elec­torate MPs in mar­ginal elec­torates will lose their seats so that they can hang on.

This is a sit­u­a­tion that makes in­ter­nal unity very chal­leng­ing and MPs in mar­ginal seats like Tuk­i­tuki’s Lawrence Yule will start look­ing around for a new leader that might get the Na­tional Party back to its 44 per cent gen­eral elec­tion tally and save their ca­reers.

Still, as the Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Harold Wil­son was re­puted to have once said, “a week is a long time in pol­i­tics” and in th­ese volatile times, who knows what might hap­pen next. Jami-Lee Ross has leaked a sec­ond phone call and with his for­mer leader firmly in his sights, this may be a long-run­ning and ru­inous sideshow for Si­mon Bridges and Na­tional.

With the ben­e­fit of some in­tel­lec­tual space be­tween now and the 2017 gen­eral elec­tion, it is pos­si­ble to di­vine some key lessons for the fu­ture and to re­dis­cover some old lessons from the past.

The elec­tion should re­mind all politi­cians that par­ties mat­ter and not just Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment.

Par­ties — vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tions that con­trib­ute to pol­icy, se­lect can­di­dates and mount elec­tion cam­paigns — have a key role in win­ning elec­tions, as I be­lieve we again saw last year.

It was telling that Jacinda Ardern in her first speech to a Labour Party con­fer­ence as prime min­is­ter, made a spe­cial ef­fort to thank her on-the-ground troops. It was the suc­cess­ful ef­forts of th­ese peo­ple that con­tributed a cru­cial elec­tion de­cid­ing ad­van­tage, a de­ci­sive win in the spe­cial votes.

It seemed to me that nei­ther for­mer Prime Min­is­ter John Key nor Na­tional’s cam­paign man­ager Steven Joyce came into Par­lia­ment via the Na­tional Party or­gan­i­sa­tion and they didn’t have much ex­pe­ri­ence of, or use for, on-the­ground or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Th­ese lo­cal el­e­ments of the Na­tional Party have in years gone by and, in my long ex­pe­ri­ence, been strong and ef­fec­tive but have dwin­dled in both size and clout over re­cent years.

Na­tional lost two seats it won on elec­tion night on spe­cial votes, an area they once dom­i­nated.

Spe­cial votes are squarely the re­spon­si­bil­ity of lo­cal party or­gan­i­sa­tions and the num­bers tell us that Na­tional’s lo­cal branches were beaten by both Labour’s and the Green’s.

The loss of th­ese two seats turned an elec­tion night deficit of one seat into three and al­lowed Win­ston the breath­ing space to ex­clude Na­tional from his cal­cu­la­tions.

Mike Wil­liams grew up in Hawke’s Bay. He is CEO of the NZ Howard League and a for­mer Labour Party pres­i­dent. All opin­ions are his and not those of Hawke’s BayTo­day.

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