The last Colmar Brunton poll before the election screened on TV1 on 15 October — the figures for the minor parties were pretty accurate, but not so much for Labour and National.

by Geoffrey Churchman

There are four main lessons which aren’t new ones:

  • Being both photogenic and articulate helps win elections
  • Practicing the politics of envy can help
  • A ‘fear factor’ can also help, in this case a quite overrated coronavirus
  • Having biased Mainstream News Media on your side definitely helps
Newshub and Tova O’Brien were unabashed Jacinda cheerleaders — like Stuff they must have congratulated themselves on their success last Saturday night.

We can surmise fairly accurately why the movements in popular support between 2017 and 2020 happened:

  • Labour picked up a lot of centrist support from National and NZ First voters in 2017 for various reasons, lifting it from 37% to 49%
  • The Greens picked up support from the Hard Left who felt Labour wasn’t left wing enough, lifting them slightly from 6.3% to 7.6%
  • ACT picked up libertarian-right minded people over National’s failure to oppose the police attacks on law-abiding gun owners last year and and their raids on opponents of the government’s ideology — up from 0.5% to 8%.
  • National didn’t appear, rightly or wrongly, as a party that had a consistent vision and had performed well as the Opposition — its support dropped massively from 45% to 27%.
  • Winston with his NZ First as part of the government just appeared as another Guru of Kapiti — say things to get elected, do nothing about them when in office, in fact do the opposite. Goodbye.

Looking ahead

National has been lower than 27% of the vote — in 2002 it only managed 21%. Also, in 2014, Labour got less than National did this time — 25%. So things can change. Jacinda is intelligent enough to know that the large block of centrists who switched from National to Labour could just as easily switch back again next time; that probably means no more overtly Hard Left measures in the next 3 years, although further hits to civil liberties are quite likely.

The economic outlook

In a nutshell it’s much reduced GDP, but big increases in property prices, growth in Public Servant numbers, substantial handouts to the government’s favoured people, big increases in public and private debt, and there will be no tax cuts.

It’s not a happy prospect for first home buyers and the many who are worried have been snapping up houses as soon as they become available; but speculators and developers have been doing that, too.

Jacinda & Co. have found out that a government bureaucracy can’t build affordable houses like the private sector can, so maybe they’ll opt instead for giving first time home buyers grants for deposits — perhaps $100,000 each?

The Reserve Bank will keep interest rates at close to zero for the next three years, but much more debt will be notched up in real estate than in productive enterprises.

Things Jacinda could do to show solidarity with countries ruled by her Comrades

I’m not talking about China — its leaders are autocratic like her, but it’s a Communist country in name only and capitalists get very wealthy there. No, there are some others that qualify:

Venezuela — why not a barter deal: food for oil. Venezuela is short of the former and has plenty of the latter. We shouldn’t continue to trade with the Saudi’s: they may be Muslims, but they are also wealthy gangsters who have no interest in workers’ and women’s rights, except what the international community can shame them into granting.

Cuba — it’s a poor country so take the tax off Cuban cigars, rum and tequila!

North Korea — it is also ruled by a Dear Leader and wages for its workers are very low; there must be some mutual economic benefit by doing barter deals surreptitiously via China?

by Roger Childs

The Covid 19 contest

It was always going to be the Coronavirus election and, as expected, Labour rode the Covid wave to a landslide victory on Saturday. Did tens of thousands shift their allegiance because of the government’s success in limiting the virus damage in New Zealand while it continued to rage overseas? That is only part of the answer. 

Much has been made of the daily publicity Labour received as Jacinda Ardern spoke to the nation on cases, progress and policies. The prime minister’s critics have indulged in plenty of “hindsight history” and pointed out flaws in the response to Covid-19, but the fact remains we have done very well compared with most countries and states overseas. Ardern had to get it right in her daily television appearances and, using her excellent communication skills, she did. People were impressed by her compassion, and the messages of showing unity and demonstrating kindness, appealed to most. She was ably assisted by super-star Director General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, whose unruffled approach to delivering the Covid-19 updates won widespread praise. (Is there a knighthood coming in the New Year honours?)

Another positive for Labour was Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s astute handling of the economic fallout of Covid 19. Some critics spoke of Jacinda “smashing the economy” and, out on the right, Bob Jones predicted a depression. It didn’t happen and so far there has been a relatively “soft landing”. The sensible government messages of “shop local” and “see the country” have been taken to heart and have undoubtedly helped the recovery. 

National woes

These unquestionably helped the cause of the left. Simon Bridges did not succeed in having a consistent message on the virus crisis and once he was rolled by Todd Muller, National’s problems compounded. Within a few weeks he and Nikki Kaye were gone and Judith Collins, who had long coveted the leadership, took over. It was a big ask, but she put her heart and soul into the campaign. She performed well in the first leaders’ debate, received favoured treatment from the interviewer in the second but lost the final one.

However, she seemed uncertain about what persona to adopt – “Crusher Collins” or “Joyful Judith” – and there were some embarrassing missteps.

  • In the second debate she called Jacinda “dear”.
  • Her husband unwisely used social media to demean the prime minister such as referring to her as “Cindy the Sulk”.
  • Then she made some insensitive remarks about obese people which were ironic as she is herself over-weight and her deputy Gerry Brownlee has a serious problem.
  • She also came out with some policies on the campaign which many of her candidates, such as Simon Bridges, were seemingly not aware of.

Was she harassed by the media such as Newshub ferret Tova O’Brien? Possibly, however, all the parties and candidates were in the firing line.  Collins herself is an old hand at handling the media. A number of columnists in the papers gave her credit and were not slow to highlight mistakes made in the government’s Covid-19 response. 

The rise and rise of ACT

David Seymour had an armchair ride into parliament in 2014 as John Key did a deal to virtually hand him the safe National seat of Epsom. However, this election’s ACT party vote has given him 9 colleagues. Seymour has been able to garner plenty of publicity in the last couple of years and he comes across as being youthful, confident and practical. Being sponsor of the End of Life Choice bill was a godsend. It is debatable whether ACT would have done so well on Saturday if there hadn’t been a referendum on this crucial piece of legislation.

Obviously with the leadership problems being faced by National, many voters on the right gave their party vote to Seymour’s team. These folk may well return to the Tory fold in 2023.

What to do about the Greens?

The Greens recovered from co-leader James Shaw’s brinkmanship in allocating millions to a Green private school in Taranaki. On Saturday they won Auckland Central and gathered 8% of the party vote. Will they have a role in the new government? In the 2017–2020 coalition they had some ministers outside cabinet.

Labour has enough MPs to govern alone and most of those who supported them on Saturday would like to see that happen. The Coalition was hamstrung by New Zealand First, in particular, and the Greens, holding up some policies which Labour wanted to pursue. Winston gave the thumbs down to much needed tax reform and the development of light rail in Auckland.

My feeling is that the new government will want to avoid possible clashes on policy e.g. infrastructure and agriculture, which could happen if the Greens get some cabinet posts. There will be a great sigh of relief (by all your editors and many conservationists) if Eugenie Sage, who likes poisoning the environment and killing wild animals, is not re-appointed as Minister of Conservation.

To hold on to their unusual 2020 mix of supporters, Labour should, and hopefully will, rule alone, with perhaps some sort of loose consultative arrangement with the Greens.