by Geoffrey Churchman

There are two main ‘like it or not’s in NZ politics:

  1. The leader of either major party is the potential next Prime Minister
  2. Personalities matter as much as policies in getting elected.

That was clearly demontrated in the 2017 election lead-up when the Labour Party decided that Jacinda would do a lot more for them at the polls than Andrew Little, and they were right, although at 37% of the vote they still finished significantly behind National’s 44.5%.

The change with the Nats’ leaders last Friday should put them on a level playing field with Jacinda-Mania when it comes to identity and popular peronality stakes — Nikki Kaye beat Jacinda in the Auckland Central electorate seat contests in both 2011 and 2014 (Jacinda took over from Helen Clark in the Mt Albert electorate in a February 2017 byelection) and is only a few months older than her, while the hitherto almost unknown Todd Muller will appeal to the types of voter that Jacinda turns off.

My own preferred Prime Minister at present is ACT leader David Seymour who may bring a couple of fellow MPs with him in September, but the most he can expect in a National Party-led government is a cabinet seat.

It’s fairly obvious from the Mainstream Media polls last week that the party leaders’ personality probably accounts for about a third of all votes cast, and the perceptions of those personalities are shaped to a large extent by the sound bites they get on the MSM and the longer portrayals by their presenters.

We know what the Hard Left and their sympathisers in NZME/Stuff/TV3 are going to say for the next four months — that awful MAGA cap that Todd has in his office shows he is conservative, boring, intolerant, racist, stupid, etc., etc. — even though he actually attended the Democrats National Convention in 2016, when Hillary got their nomination, out of his interest in American politics generally.

What really should matter, of course, is what National will do differently from Labour (and what the smaller parties would do differently from both) — hopefully the MSM will give adequate coverage to that.