Fourth term would be a very rare feat

South Waikato News - - Your Local News - MIKE YARD­LEY

What a wild old car­ni­val ride the 2017 cam­paign has been. As this tan­ta­liser turns for home the reams of wrap­pers from this lolly scram­ble lit­ter the trail like con­fetti. It’s been quite the sugar-rush, with the best-buys and bribery dished out with the fer­vour of a Box­ing Day Sale at Har­vey Nor­man.

Tax re­lief, free tu­ition for stu­dents, bid­ding wars on paid parental leave and cut-price GP vis­its. The im­mor­tal words of Sel­wyn Too­good ring out: ‘‘What do you say New Zealand?’’

Nei­ther party has this elec­tion in the bag. Ad­vance vot­ing num­bers are shat­ter­ing records, with over 300,000 peo­ple hav­ing had their say by Fri­day. That’s dou­ble the early vot­ing turn-out, over the same pe­riod three years ago and nearly six times up on 2011.

The elec­torate is plugged-in and en­thused, a vic­tory in it­self. What a pity so many young Ki­wis haven’t got off their chuff to get amongst it. As of Fri­day, over 230,000 el­i­gi­ble un­der 30 year olds haven’t en­rolled. Se­ri­ous coin has been lav­ished on try­ing to con­nect with them, yet nearly 20,000 fewer un­der 30 year olds have reg­is­tered to vote, com­pared to 2014.

The fail­ure of so many un­der 30 year olds to en­gage in the elec­tion will be trou­bling Labour, who as­sumed that the sud­den in­stal­la­tion of a bright and shiny leader, who speaks their lan­guage, would hoover up their mass-af­fec­tion and mo­bil­i­sa­tion.

The fact that there’s no ev­i­dence such a gen­er­a­tional up­ris­ing is hap­pen­ing is keep­ing Na­tional in this race and the Greens on a rather sharp precipice. My hunch is the Greens will squeak back in, de­spite Me­tiria Turei, whose un­re­pen­tant sense of wel­fare-abus­ing en­ti­tle­ment blud­geoned her party.

Win­ston Peters has been at his iras­ci­ble best and worst dur­ing this cam­paign, which has been a rugged quest for rel­e­vancy for New Zealand First, given Labour’s dra­matic as­cen­dance. I sus­pect they will still eclipse the Greens as the third big­gest party in Par­lia­ment.

The wild swings and in­con­sis­tences in the po­lit­i­cal polls has bor­dered on the car­toon­ish.

The best guide on where this elec­tion is head­ing can be de­duced from the in­ter­nal polling from Na­tional and Labour. And both par­ties be­lieve they’re es­sen­tially in a dead-heat.

Win or lose on Satur­day, Jacinda Ardern has brought her party back from zom­bieland. She was plunged head-first into the un­wa­ver­ing heat of an ex­tended elec­tion cam­paign and has per­formed with ex­tra­or­di­nary pose and aplomb. We have learnt a lot about her at break-neck speed and she con­nects with vot­ers like few can.

Her only sig­nif­i­cant lapse was the ill-fated ‘‘Cap­tain’s Call’’ over im­ple­ment­ing the tax work­ing group’s rec­om­men­da­tions prior to the next elec­tion, creat­ing a vast void of vague­ness that Na­tional ploughed their big blue bus through and milked like a cen­tral pivot-ir­ri­gated dairy cow.

Ardern has met­tle and even if the big prize al­ludes her this Satur­day, she is surely de­serv­ing of an­other tilt in 2020.

Bill English has per­formed with a new-found zeal through­out this cam­paign, si­lenc­ing his crit­ics.

Are the winds of change blow­ing a gale? No. But there is a spring ze­phyr in the air. Let’s be hon­est, win­ning a fourth term in power is an im­prob­a­ble, Her­culean ask for any party. Na­tional hasn’t achieved it since Holyoake’s tri­umph, 48 years ago.

We are very for­tu­itous, and should be grate­ful to have two de­cent, smart and ut­terly re­spectable Prime Min­is­te­rial con­tenders. Go vote.

Mike Yard­ley’s hunch is the Greens will ‘‘squeak back in’’.

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