New Zealand: Nats on course for an overall majority

Latest poll puts the senior Coalition partner ahead by a margin and Labour drops off into obscurity. Will Brash or Goff upset the apple-cart?

Unlikely. John Key is so far in front in the preferred PM stakes as to make it almost embarrassing (57% to Phil Goff's 8%). Does New Zealand have an opposition as such? Clearly not much of one, with the latest analysis by Colmar Brunton OneNews of voting intentions before the November 26 election, putting National on 56% and Labour trailing on a paltry 29%. The Greens will be smiling with an improved rating of 9%. Samples are small in New Zealand and margins of error quite high, it seems. The minor 'MMP' parties are polling so badly as to not make a difference to the outcome: there will most likely be a National Party government with a commanding majority.

Don Brash of ACT, an MMP team, is embarrassed by three recent events:
  • The entire existing parliamentary party is retiring at the election, including its leader John Boscawen, purportedly for different reasons.
  • He opened up to public scrutiny a disagreement with his second-ranked colleague, John Banks, over marijuana legalisation 
  • And his recently acquired leadership hasn't stemmed the relentless downward drift in party support.

Phil Goff of Labour, the Official Opposition, has suffered from bad press ever since he took on the mantle of leadership from a retiring previous PM, Helen Clark. His party's and indeed his own standing has dropped to almost irrelevant status.

Is this good for New Zealand? Probably not very. The National-led government over the past three years has behaved as a responsible steward of the economy without delivering innovative policies. No change looms. With the world in a significantly precarious state, well thought-through concepts are needed. None are forthcoming. National appears to be a dull party with a pleasant if uninspiring leader. The economy is not that of Greece, in a dire (will we get the next bail-out from Germany, but how do we collect our own taxes?) state. But neither is it that of Singapore or Norway, countries with similar populations to that of New Zealand.

The country requires dynamic, realistic leadership. New Zealand has seen little of that yet. Of course, all might become apparent to the easy-going yet increasingly concerned New Zealanders in the fullness of time. Seven weeks to go before the election date. Maybe Kiwis will learn something new from these parties, but I very much doubt it. 

Goff would need to come up with progressive policies which both engage and delight New Zealanders. He could do himself a favour by listening to Elizabeth Warren, a candidate for a Massachusetts senate seat. For Goff's demeanour portrays an individual who demands rather than commands authority within his caucus. And his parliamentary performance has been far from spectacular, in fact baracking might be apt. His instinct appears to be to shore up core support without consideration for winning over the wider public. 

With a sluggish domestic economy and an export drive dependant on ever-more precarious China and Australia, the New Zealand Labour Party might be detailing policies designed to change the dynamics of the political debate, rather than re-hash old left programmes or bolster employment through yet another enlargement in the bureaucratic bit of the state. 

Labour's social policy should be driven by the desperate need to upskill the people: the unskilled to the productive skilled; the educated into the knowledge-economy. At present Labour is stuck placating the concerns of the impoverished. Labour's stance towards the ethnic minorities has been one of acquiescence at best and misinterpretation at worst.

It appears that a change of leader after the election might be essential to re-invigorate a disenchanted party. An extended spell in opposition awaits them. However, whether the energetic Shane Jones or anyone else has it in them to appreciate the enormity of the challenges facing New Zealanders is questonable.

Don Brash must be wondering why he returned from the political wilderness to effect a coup on ACT, a tainted party. He might be kicking himself for not having started that new party he talked of a while back. This election campaign will likely be his last, and others on the ACT party list are either relative unknowns or re-treads. ACT might now be destined to fade into memory.

The standard of people entering parliament in New Zealand is now in the spotlight. Are there any faces at all which will brighten the debate? An election is due alright, but it promises to be a low-key affair.

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