Will Peters be held to account?

August 18, 2008

A Fairfax Media Neilson poll shows that the public is already holding Winston Peters to account.

The poll findings come as Mr Peters and his lawyer Brian Henry prepare to front up to a privileges hearing tonight into allegations surrounding a $100,000 donation from billionaire Owen Glenn to Mr Peters’ legal fund.

Mr Peters also faces questions over the secretive Spencer Trust, the existence of which only came to light after The Dominion Post revealed a $25,000 cheque from millionaire Sir Robert Jones was deposited in the trust and never declared.

Today’s poll for The Dominion Post suggests that the affair has dented Mr Peters’ credibility, with 48 per cent of voters believing Prime Minister Helen Clark should stand him down from his ministerial positions over questions surrounding donations to NZ First.

Thirty-seven per cent of voters disagreed, and 15 per cent had no opinion. The findings are more damning when it comes to voters’ views on whether NZ First should be involved in discussions after the election about the formation of the next government – just 39 per cent of voters think Labour should do another deal with NZ First, compared with 52 per cent who say no. The result was similar when it came to NZ First doing a deal with National – just 36 per cent said yes, and 54 per cent said no.

The polls leave no doubt about what people think but as the Herald editorial  points out he doesn’t need a lot of support.

Ultimately, of course, Mr Peters’ fate rests on the court of public opinion. But MMP allows him to be acquitted on the verdict of a tiny minority, one voter in 20 to be precise. He can survive with the support of just 5 per cent of voters nationwide. And even that pitiful support could enable him to decide which of the two main parties forms the next government. Hence, neither of them has tried to question his financial arrangements too closely.

Labour and National members dominate the privileges committee and there, too, they might not press him for answers. It is a worry that the committee has not bothered to contact Mr Glenn, who thought his donation went to NZ First. Like the Prime Minister, it might prefer to accept Mr Peters’ assurances that nothing untoward has been done.

We would all like to accept those assurances, if only to cease handing Mr Peters more attention, but somebody has to hold him to account, as he likes to hold others. If his peers cannot do it, who will?

It’s up to the voters. If NZ First passes the 5% threshold and holds the balance of power both Labour and National may be forced to seek their support.

Keeping Stock wants John Key to make it clear Peters won’t be welcome in a National-led government. But neither Key nor Clark can afford to write him off, just in case the voters deliver a result which forces them to negotiate with him.

The only way to ensure Peters isn’t in government (or a Minister outside cabinet or whatever other all care-no responsiblity role he’s able to negotiate) is to ensure NZ First doesn’t pass the 5% threshold and none of its MPs win a seat.


Plan A isn’t working

August 18, 2008

Last night’s One News Colmar Brunton  poll was not quite as bad for Labour as Saturday’s Fairfax Media Neilson one but talking about National  isn’t working for them.

From the Government’s point of view, it might be a good idea to stop talking about the National Party.

The uproar stoked up over the secret tapes, claimed by Labour as evidence of National’s secret agenda, doesn’t seem to have registered with voters.

… National’s leader, John Key, thinks there might have been a negative reaction to Labour’s strategy of using the tapes to attack his party.

And he could be right when he says it might have been perceived as a piece of parliamentary theatre, with no direct impact on anyone outside it.

“It doesn’t affect their daily lives…the economy is still front and centre stage,” said Key.

He has said that before, pushing the message that voters aren’t interested in sideshows and would like politicians to get on with debating issues that do affect their daily lives.

Like interest rates, the rising level of unemployment and the economic slowdown.

If the secret agenda assault really isn’t working, Labour is going to lose one of its main campaign weapons – persuading voters that they can’t trust National in government because it might inflict on them the sort of drastic and unpopular changes that marked the early 1990s.

Key is acutely aware of this tactic, to the extent that he has vowed to resign as Prime Minister and quit Parliament if superannuation is tampered with under his watch.

And in another counter move last week, he said National would legislate to ensure benefits increased in line with inflation.

They do now, but there isn’t a law that says they have to.

Key is trying to neutralise Labour’s “you can’t trust National” strategy, which worked in 2005 when it came out with its “don’t risk throwing it all away” slogan.

The way things are going, it won’t work twice. Voters don’t seem to be taking any notice of Labour’s warnings, they might be waiting to hear something real about how the Government is going to help them through the hard times many are experiencing.

When you are interested in politics it’s easy to think it matters. And while it does it most people have real lives with day to day conerns which matter far more to them.

Mud sticks to the hand that throws it and people worried about making ends meet aren’t impressed that playing if Labour is more concerned about playing in the dirt than working on running the country.


Poll tightens

July 19, 2008

The latest Roy Morgan Poll show an increase in support for both National at 52% and Labour at 31% – both up .5. But a new Fairfax Media- Neilson poll  shows National down 3 to 51% and Labour up 5 to 35%.

A rolling average of polls has had National about 20 points ahead of Labour for months and the Fairfax poll is the smallest gap since last year.

John Key’s rating as preferred PM dropped from 43% to 39% and Helen Clark’s rose from 30 to 32.

I am not surprised the gap has tightened but I am surprised it has done so now when the truckers’ protest gained so much support which suggested a high proportion of anti-government sentiment; and when we’re facing recession.

Labour can’t be blamed for external factors including the price of oil, but had they not squandered the good times we’ve been experiencing the country would be better positioned to weather the bad.

The Morgan poll results were:

National Party support at 52% (up 0.5%) clearly ahead of the Labour Party 31% (up 0.5%), if an election were held now the National Party would win. Support for the Greens was 7.5% (down 0.5%), NZ First 6.5% (up 2.5% to its highest level since September 2006), Maori Party 1% (down 1.5%), United Future 1% (unchanged) and ACT NZ 0.5% (down 1.5%).

If ever there was a case for requiring people to take a comprehension test before they vote, it’s in that increase for NZ First 🙂

The Fairfax poll result in percentages: National 51 (54 last month) Labour 35 (30) Green 5 (7) NZ First 4 (3) Maori Party 2 (2) Act 1 (1) United Future 0 (1).

Preferred PM: John Key 39 (43)  Helen Clark 35 (30)  Winston Peters 3 (2).

The trend is more important than a single poll and this will not spook National. But it will hearten Labour and if Clark thinks her attacks on Key have been working we can expect them to not only continue but worsen.


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