National’s chances of winning this election were always reasonably good.
New Zealand has few one term governments and there was general acceptance that John Key and his team had faced an unprecedented series of natural and financial disasters beyond their control.
The next election will be much tougher to win.
I wouldn’t go as far as Jane Clifton who says the punchline to this election is that National has probably already lost the 2014 election.
But I agree with the reasons she gives that will make it difficult:
Aside from the obvious bummer, that the global economy’s ructions will make this a pig of a term to be in the Beehive, National faces so many unavoidable no-win decisions it beggars belief that it can maintain its current high level of popularity. And unless it can do at least as well again next election – and no government in history ever has – it’ll be a rare two-term administration.
Then there’s MMP which:
will always favour the formation of Labour-led governments because of the way our enduring political parties tend to fillet up. That National, overwhelmingly the most popular party, only just scraped back into office, underlines this tendency. This is not because New Zealanders are more left-leaning than right. By world standards, we have high voter mobility between our two major parties. The left’s edge is down to a confluence of now fairly entrenched tendencies regarding the smaller parties.
The most striking is the propensity of the grumpies, undecideds and elderly to migrate in meaningful numbers, almost overnight – typically to Winston Peters. . .
However, National is starting from a much stronger position than Labour.
No political party ever has too much money, but National’s accounts are in the black. Labour was in debt after the 2008 campaign, it is very unlikely it found it any easier to raise enough money for this one.
National has a leader popular in the party and outside; it has a unified and loyal caucus that is agreed on policy.
Labour is going through a leadership contest and once that’s settled the leader will face the Herculean tasks of uniting a divided caucus, winning loyalty from those who didn’t want him, getting members back on board and developing policy which finds favour not only with the party but with voters.
National has by far the most members of any party in the country, and its membership is increasing.
Labour’s membership is low and falling.
Some National supporters want it to go further and faster but most are happy with the direction its going – less spending, more savings, investment and export-led growth.
Many Labour supporters aren’t sure where it is and are divided over where it should be going.
National is leading a government.
Labour will be competing with the Green Party, New Zealand First and Mana in opposition. It has to make a decent fist of that and sort out its many internal problems before it will look like a government in waiting.
National’s challenge is to provide strong, stable government, hold its vote and then find sufficient votes among potential coalition partners to gain a third term.
No-one’s pretending that will be easy but at this stage Labour’s challenges are greater.
They are both internal and external and until it sorts them out its chance of wooing voters back from the centre right are slim.
The outcome of the 2014 election is by no means assured but in spite of the challenges it will face in government and MMP it’s far too soon to write-off National’s chances of a third term.