Chris Trotter thinks the election is all over bar the counting:
UNLESS SOMETHING HUGELY DRAMATIC HAPPENS between now and polling day, 20 September, the General Election of 2014 is all but over. The National-led government of Prime Minister, John Key, looks set to be returned for a third term by a margin that may surprise many of those currently insisting that the result will be very close. What may also surprise is the sheer scale and comprehensiveness of the Left’s (especially Labour’s) electoral humiliation.
By which dark paths must one travel to reach these gloomy (for the Left!) conclusions? Simply stated, one has only to follow the basic precepts of psephology (the study of elections and electors).
No matter whether you approach the forthcoming election from the perspective of the socio-economic context of the contest; contrasting styles of political leadership; the policies of the major players; the parties’ organisational heft and their respective financial resources; or the many factors influencing turnout; the advantage lies decisively with the National Party. . .
The advantage does lie with National.
It can campaign on its achievements, Prime Minister John Key is the most popular leader in recent political history, National’s caucus is united, several retirements mean the new one will be refreshed, and it will be presenting some big new ideas with small price tags.
The unity isn’t only in caucus, the membership is also united and supportive of the parliamentary wing of the party.
Labour by contrast has achieved little in opposition, has a leader who is less popular than the unpopular one he replaced and who doesn’t have the confidence of his caucus which is divided. With only one retirement announced it looks old and stale, and policies presented so far have been botched in their presentation and come with big price tags.
If we were voting under First Past the Post, National could be looking forward to a landslide.
But under MMP, it’s not enough for the major party to do well, it will almost certainly need coalition partners and none of those who might fit in a National-led government are particularly strong.
It hasn’t happened yet in New Zealand, but the smaller of the big parties could cobble together enough votes to trump the bigger one and lead a government, albeit a potentially very unstable one.
The six months to the election isn’t long for a divided and dismal Labour to climb higher, but it’s plenty of time for even a very popular government to falter.
If a week is a long time in politics, six months is far longer.
National has the record, the talent and the policies to win a third term and Labour does not.
But there is no complacency about the election outcome.
Good things might come in threes, but there’s absolutely no guarantee enough voters will support a third term.
The omens are good for another National-led government, but there’s no certainty.