National is still defying gravity in the first polls of the campaign proper. But there are  talking points emerging on the right and potential decisions looming for John Key

Ok, two polls late today, but one clear message. While the green shoots of spring are popping up around the country, it's still winter in Labour-land. While the party can't have expected a serious swing so soon, it must feel as if someone has just burst its balloon. It would have hoped for some sign of change.

Instead, it got the status quo. National defies gravity for another week, at 56 percent in the One News-Colmar Brunton poll and 54 percent in the NZ Herald DigiPoll. Worse news for Labour is that in the One News poll, the undecideds had fallen from eight percent to four percent.

That's a sign that some folk who are now taking a closer look at Labour aren't liking what they see. With Phil Goff winning just 12 percent support in answer to the preferred Prime Minister question, you've got to think leadership is a major factor in that.

The assumption is that these numbers seem a bit too high; that National must slip below 50 percent sometime soon. But let's remember, depending on the over-hang in parliament and wasted vote, under MMP it's not a simple 50 percent that determines a party's ability to govern alone.

National may only need 48 percent to govern alone, so at some stage we may have to consider that John Key may follow in Sid Holland's footsteps and win, if not a majority, then the MMP equivalent.

Even our Poll of Polls has National comfortably above 50 percent and no sign the left has been growing its collective slice of the pie.

I don't think these numbers undermine the analysis of the past week, that Labour started strongly and set the agenda at first. It may well be that the strong start and the narrative its chosen – that Labour is a party of ideas and one willing to take the tough decisions – has ensured Labour won't suffer the sort of defeat Bill English's National did in 2002. And it serves Labour well for 2014.

But it's not looking like it's been able to break the circuit yet for this race. Thing is people don't vote for tough decisions, unless they think there's no alternative. They vote for rainbows and puppies and interest-free student loans.

Key's "show me the money" line was a strong one that has put National back on the front foot this campaign. But I don't think it's got any special magic.

Frankly, forecasts at the moment, be they Labour's, National's, Treasury's, or Bill's from down the dairy mean sod-all in this global environment. Who has any serious confidence of New Zealand being back in the black in 2014/15?

As I see newsflashes this evening that the Greek government may have lost it majority and we see Berlusconi at risk of being rolled in Italy next week, you may we well pluck numbers from the phone book.

What about the minor parties? The Green Party too is staying high, thus far avoiding its tradtional campaign slide. But the really interesting action is on the right.

It's margin of error stuff, but both polls have ACT at 0.9 percent. That result on election day would mean that if John Banks won Epsom, he would be the lone ACT MP. Which is a twisted move by the political gods, if ever there was one.

Thing is, if Banks can't bring in a second MP, then he's useless to National; it may as well have another MP from its own ranks as a single MP technically representing another party. At what point, if any, does Key choose to cut him adrift?

Not yet. The Poll of Polls, before these two results, still has ACT at 1.6 percent, enough for Banks and Brash. But let's see in another week.

And there in the Herald poll is an intriguing wee number – the Conservative Party making its first appearance in a serious poll as stand-alone party. It's at 1.1 percent, higher than ACT, United Future and Mana.

One poll, of course, means nothing. And the Conservatives don't feature in the One News numbers. Still, there's definitely a narrative that the Conservatives can sell about National's need for a right-wing coalition partner. And Colin Craig has the means to throw some serious money at advertising.

It comes down to Craig winning Rodney. Would Key do to his Mark Mitchell, his Rodney candidate, what Jim Bolger did to Mark Thomas in Wellington Central? He may not need to, but it's now something to consider.

Comments (22)

by Andrew P Nichols on November 04, 2011
Andrew P Nichols

The thing I cant get is how polls consitently show vehement opposition to the daft asset sell down but this doesnt stop large numbers of the same people still giving their preference to the party that says it will proceed with it - first apparrently to pay off debt and now in a populist move to build schools and other warm fuzzy stuff.

This shows that it is clearly an election that is not about issues but about who one would most like to have at the barby....Heaven help future generations when therés nothing left to flog off and we're still deep in debt....

Even more reason to stay away for good.

by Andrew P Nichols on November 04, 2011
Andrew P Nichols

The thing I cant get is how polls consistently show vehement opposition to the daft asset sell down but this doesnt stop large numbers of the same people still giving their preference to the party that says it will proceed with it - first apparrently to pay off debt and now in a populist move to build schools and other warm fuzzy stuff.

This shows that it is clearly an election that is not about issues but about who one would most like to have at the barby....Heaven help future generations when therés nothing left to flog off and we're still deep in debt....

Even more reason to stay away for good.

by Andrew P Nichols on November 04, 2011
Andrew P Nichols

Bum double posting - sorry

by Mr Magoo on November 04, 2011
Mr Magoo

Wew all know that policy announcements and such take a few weeks to seep into the polls. Why is it that we go off half cocked?

Key has raised the spectre of the "17 billion hole" and I think this would give pause to people because currently they think the "debate" is "even". (with the assumption that Key's smarmy claims have merit)

However as the other new article on this website shows, Key's figures are a joke. If labour manage to show this (media interpretations of anything the left say being what they are...) then this could be what labour need.

by Tim Watkin on November 04, 2011
Tim Watkin

Magoo, what makes you say policy announcements take a few weeks to seep in? I was wondering the same thing, and obviously it remains to me seen... but not sure of any evidence to suggest that. Surely it's just as likely that polls would pick up on and reflect any popular policy...

by Craig Ranapia on November 04, 2011
Craig Ranapia

Mr. Magoo:

Look, I know standard line for any opposition not doing well in the polls is "the stupid peasants take a while to get stuff (if the totally biased media lets them)".  Been to the River Denial, took a long dip - I'm a Tory who can't repress memories of 2002, when National got its lowest share of the vote in the party's history.

But the simple fact is, at the Press debate Goff could have been briefed to rebutt an attack line National had been running for years.  Especially when Labour's own full frontal assault has been "This government is a pack of borrow-and-spend-on-tax-cuts-for-the-rich do-nothings lead by an incompetent pathological liar. National doesn't have a plan, and it doesn't give a rodent's rectum about you."

Instead we got "the costings are in the mail" and an admission that Labour would actually borrow MORE than those evil Tories mortgaging our future to China and selling everything that moves to evil foreigners, or something.  Instead of shredding National's credibility, Goff put a flashing neon question mark over his own party's for two days.  Calling Key "smarmy" doesn't really cut it, Magoo.

by James Green on November 04, 2011
James Green

I haven't calculated these asymmetrically, but the specific margins of error are:

ACT: 0.9% +/-0.6

Conservative: 1.1% +/-0.7

Even the upper ends of these ranges are still dismally low.

by Frank Macskasy on November 04, 2011
Frank Macskasy

It'd be insanely funny (if we weren't going to have to pay it back), that borrowing around $9 billion to fund our re cent tax cuts is deemed fiscally appropriate by National - but  if Labour borrows a similar amount to fund job creation, that's a naughty thing?!

If this seems remotely sensible, then no wonder  New Zealanders voted to elect Muldoon in 1975, to can Labour's superannuation scheme.

We have a remarkable ability to vote for entirely the wrong things. And National understands this perfectly.

As for National being a better economic "manager" than Labour - this is demonstrably false, as I pointed out in Rob Salmond's piece, "How big is the hole in Key’s “$17b hole”?"

But hey, what the feck I know. I'm just one of the Great Unwashed Masses... *shrugs*

 

 

by Matthew Percival on November 04, 2011
Matthew Percival

Colin Craig is in a fascinating political position. Let me explain.

I'm a little surpirsed the likes of United Future and the Maori Party haven't campaigned on their ability to moderate a National government by setting no Asset sales as a bottom line. Because lets be honest here, a vote for Labour or the Greens is not going to stop Asset sales.

There is a real opportunity for Colin Craig and The Conservative Party to come in as a "National lite". i.e Vote for us if you want a National government without the Asset sales. The advantage for Craig is that he doesn't have a past in national politics so doesn't carry any baggage with him.

However the best change for Craig & Co to get into parliament would surely be a John Key endorsement for Craig to win Rodney. I don't think that will happen if Craig would take up a public campaign to stop Asset sales.

by Tim Watkin on November 04, 2011
Tim Watkin

It's a great idea Matthew - the thing is it comes down to a) convincing the people of Rodney, because Craig needs a seat. He's not going to make 5%. and b) National not being able to govern alone (or with just UF). The implied position of the Maori Party is that if it holds the balance of power, iwi are going to have to get some sort of share preference when it comes to selling the assets.

by Pete George on November 05, 2011
Pete George

I commented here last night and it's gone - explanation?

by Tim Watkin on November 05, 2011
Tim Watkin

Pete... You've probably noted we've been under a sustained spam attack for a while now, so we're purging the site every day and night, deleting the fakes. My guess is that your comment got caught up in a purge. Sorry about that.

 

 

by Pete George on November 05, 2011
Pete George

Thanks Tim.

I was responding to Matthew, saying that United Future are campaigning on our ability to moderate National, but that moderate messages don't get much media attention.

by Tim Watkin on November 05, 2011
Tim Watkin

Yes, United Future has been arguing that case all year. But Matthew was more specific. He wondered why UF wasn't campaigning on moderating National by making no asset sales a bottom line.

Why not take that position? It's clearly what the middle wants.

by Pete George on November 05, 2011
Pete George

No asset sales which relinquishes government control is a bottom line. Part asset sales with mixed ownership shouldn't be ruled out, they can help build an asset more easily than 100% ownership.

by Richard Aston on November 05, 2011
Richard Aston

"we've been under a sustained spam attack for a while now"

Wow any idea where its coming from ? Politically motivated or just plain spam?

 

by Pete George on November 05, 2011
Pete George

An influx of spam on my blogs again today, looks to be all from offshore.

by Tim Watkin on November 05, 2011
Tim Watkin

It's offshore and it's commercial... all these ads for NHL jerseys and hair-straightener that pop up.

That's why we're requiring people to read a code when the join and encourage them to use a full name and add a brief profile, to avoid confusion.

by Matthew Percival on November 05, 2011
Matthew Percival

Pete, United Future need to make it clearer in what areas they intend to moderate the National Party.

Simply campaigning on bringing National to the center doesn't convey which policies this applies to. United Future also needs to understand the average man in the street doesn't understand left vs center vs right politics so will struggle to understand United Future's position.

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