Fourth term would be a very rare feat
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’’.