Mal­lard’s glim­mer of hope in poll

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION/NEWS -

Long-serv­ing Hutt South Labour MP Trevor Mal­lard is re­al­is­tic that Labour’s cur­rent polling and the lessons of his­tory make an op­po­si­tion vic­tory in Novem­ber some­thing of a long shot.

‘‘Na­tional,’’ he points out, ‘‘has never not won a sec­ond term, ever.’’

So, what’s an achiev­able re­sult that would con­sti­tute a job pretty well done in the cir­cum­stances? Winning, noth­ing less.

‘‘Coming in sec­ond, when there’s no sil­ver medal is never nice, and it can’t be the ob­jec­tive.

‘‘There­fore, do­ing some­thing like us get­ting to 38 to 39 per cent of the vote and the Greens at 9 to 11 per cent is not un­re­al­is­tic.

‘‘That’s a po­si­tion where we could have more than the Nats and Act to­gether. It does in­volve a drop for Na­tional and an in­crease for us, and a small in­crease for the Greens but again, to use the sport­ing anal­ogy, who would have picked Samoa to beat Aus­tralia at rugby? It does hap­pen.’’

What Labour has to do, he be­lieves, is cap­i­talise on the polling ev­i­dence that Key is more pop­u­lar than his gov­ern­ment – which, in turn, is more pop­u­lar than its poli­cies.

‘‘For us the chal­lenge is to frame the de­bate as not be­ing about Key, but about the poli­cies likely to flow out of an elec­tion re­sult.

‘‘If we can do that, we have a shot of winning. If we can frame it as be­ing a de­bate about ideas, then we have a much bet­ter chance.’’

A bet­ter chance cer­tainly, than at­tack­ing Key per­son­ally – ‘‘He’s a celebrity Prime Min­is­ter, he’s on a pedestal.’’

Sup­pos­edly, this elec­tion is a re­peat of 2002, with Labour’s at­tempts un­der Phil Goff to re­build trust and sup­port (after nine years in power) be­ing a mir­ror im­age of Na­tional’s ear­lier strug­gle to do the same.

In 2002, Na­tional leader Bill English was reduced to box­ing for char­ity to boost his cred­i­bil­ity with the man-on-the-street. Re­gard­less, con­ser­va­tive vot­ers flocked to Peter Dunne.

Is there a sim­i­lar risk that cen­tre-left vot­ers will con­clude Labour is a dead duck, and choose the Greens?

‘‘There is a dan­ger of that. In fact, there was an early trend that hap­pened about a month ago, then it bounced back again.’’

Also, some ‘‘soft Nats’’ were at­tracted by the cap­i­tal gains tax pack­age – but in sim­i­lar yo-yo fash­ion, the pack­age also cost Labour some sup­port among cen­tre-left en­trepreneurs. ‘‘Yeah, we lost some land­lords.’’ Peo­ple with only two rental prop­er­ties, Mal­lard ex­plains, aren’t nec­es­sar­ily Na­tional sup­port­ers. In his view, there’s an op­ti­mistic side to the 2002 com­par­i­son.

‘‘One of the re­ally in­ter­est­ing bits of 2002 was the fact that Labour, then in gov­ern­ment, lost 10 points in the last four weeks [be­fore vot­ing day]. Corn­gate, we think, was the ma­jor fac­tor in that.’’

More to the point, vot­ers only grad­u­ally re­alised they weren’t keen on any sin­gle party hav­ing an out­right ma­jor­ity.

‘‘[There­fore], quite a few peo­ple on the mar­gins went to Dunne.’’

No, he con­cludes, the Rugby World Cup will not nec­es­sar­ily com­press the elec­tion cam­paign into just one month. While tele­vi­sion news will be dom­i­nated by rugby, the tour­na­ment will bring friends, rel­a­tives, neigh­bours and strangers to­gether.

‘‘What we’re go­ing to see is peo­ple mov­ing around over Rugby World Cup, talk­ing to peo­ple they don’t nor­mally talk to. My view is, they won’t only be talk­ing about rugby.’’

Gor­don Camp­bell is an ex­pe­ri­enced po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ist and colum­nist who has writ­ten for The Lis­tener and Scoop.

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