MMP muddies polling waters


Colin James says National’s lead in the polls isn’t as decisive as it looks:

Rolling average of 4 most recent polls.

Rolling average of 4 most recent polls.

In a two horse race National is well ahead but if the Maori Party wins more seats than its part vote entitles it too there could be an overhang of three seats.

Jim Anderton and Peter Dunne might add to that by gaining fewer party votes than their seats entitle them to, too.

The party with the most votes usually forms the government under MMP but if 62 seats or more, rather than 61, is needed for a majority that makes it more difficult.

While the gap between National and Labour could tighten the odds are against National falling behind Labour. However, with the overhang it’s possible that National, Act and United Future couldn’t muster the 63 seats needed to get a majority which puts the Maori Party in a position of great power.

And if it goes left rather than right we could end up with a six headed monster with Labour, Greens, Maori Party, NZ First, United and Progressive.

I don’t want to think about what that would do to the country.

Never good time to be in opposition


Colin James thinks the next term is not going to be a good time to be in government.

It will be a difficult time to be in government.

But there is never a good time to be in opposition.

Nat win probable – Colin James


Political commentator Colin James has correctly predicted the outcome of 12 of the last 13 elections and is expecting a National win this time.

However, the uncertainties of a two-month campaign rule out making more “definitive” claims.

“It’s not a prediction. It’s a forecast. I’m forecasting a National-led government and I haven’t changed that [forecast] since shortly after the last election,” he said last night.

. . . Mr James said the odds were on a National-led government, given concerns about the economy, households being squeezed and a “black” mood felt throughout the country during autumn and winter.

There had also been “wear and tear” on a three-term Labour-led government, and the Government’s political management had slipped last year but had recently improved.

National was back in shape, was disciplined and had a new attractive leader who was of the rising political generation, and had enjoyed a “huge poll lead for 18 months”.

However, some recent polls, including one showing strong gains in economic confidence, provided some hope for Labour.

Mr James, whose political column appears in the Otago Daily Times each Tuesday, said he had been mistaken in 1996 when he had not foreseen New Zealand First’s decision to support a National-led Government.

He can confidently predict that there is no risk of that happening this time.

Labour list a test for Clark


Ranking a party list is never easy, but it is even more difficult when polls suggest that the election might result in a party having fewer MPs in parliament.

Colin James  discusses the test facing Helen Clark over Labour’s list in this morning’s Herald:

The question for Clark is whether she will assert her authority to insist on a bold list that cleans out has-beens and injects the abundant energy ready in the wings or leaves too much of it waiting for 2011. And will that list reflect closely her politics or can she inject diversity (by, for example, getting business-experienced Stuart Nash, Epsom candidate in 2005, well placed)?

Clark has promoted 40-somethings in her Cabinet and they are starting to show through, though too late to impress voters. Of the 15 MPs elected in 2005 who are retiring one way or another, seven vacate electorate seats. New candidates should win at least six. All but two of those candidates are 47 or under, which is the rising half of the electorate.

But if all sitting MPs are given priority places on the list, there is little room for new blood there unless Labour gets 38 per cent – 35 per cent if New Zealand First doesn’t make it back into Parliament and 1 per cent less if Damien O’Connor loses West Coast-Tasman.

For Labour to be sure of getting people like Chinese lawyer Raymond Huo, ex-Oxfam heavy Phil Twyford (slotted eventually to follow Clark into Mt Albert), rising youngster Jacinda Ardern, promising Maori Kelvin Davies and Nash, some of the half-dozen or so underwhelming list MPs need demotion.

But demoting sitting MPs risks destabilising caucus and the last thing Clark needs is tetchy MPs whose high opinion of themselves is not reflected by their places on the list.

But a leader’s legacy is not just action while leader. It is also what is set up for the next leader. Clark sometimes surprises. Her list will be a test.

And it will show if how she handles her short term political needs when they’re in conflict with the long term health of the party.

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