State of the parties

The election campaign has effectively kicked off in earnest. The next six months will be a long time in politics. It’s difficult to predict many things. Everything remains up for grabs.

Two polls yesterday had similar results for the three main parties, and the recent Roy Morgan is also included.
RM=Roy Morgan, CB=One News/Colmar, RR=3 News/Reid Research

National
RM 45.5, CB 47, RR 45.9

Polls have ranged in the low forties to low fifties, averaging around the current levels which are similar to National’s last election 47%. They seem to have survived recent Labour attacks on Judith Collins and Hekia Parata reasonably unscathed.

It’s very unlikely National will get a majority of seats alone so is as much reliant on small party results as it is on keeping it’s own support up in the high forties. The Maori Party, ACT and UnitedFuture are all in doubt but stand a reasonable chance of getting several seats between them. It’s doubtful if the Conservatives will get into the mix.

An improving economy is in National’s favour which will be balanced against second term attrition.

John Key remains reasonably popular although down from the last term. He usually does well in one on one debates but has to be careful to not appear arrogant or dismissive.

If they avoid major scandals (especially involving Key) National should hold up but will be hoping for weak partners to step up.

Labour
RM 31.5, CB 31, RR 31.2

Polls have settled down in the low thirties after a brief surge after David Cunliffe took over the leadership. Recent attacks on National have failed to lift Labour, negative politics may knock the opposing party a little but it’s usually not good for gaining support, which Labour desperately needs to do.

Labour are totally reliant on a partnership with the Greens. A plus is that Greens look solid. A minus is that Labour remains unconvincing. Labour may also need NZ First and possible Mana and/or the Internet Party. A party that still looks in disarray with a difficult to manage combination of parties makes Labour’s job of convincing voters they are ready to govern again challenging.

After an initial surge of support Cunliffe keeps slipping, getting 8-9% in the latest Preferred Prime Minister polls. He struggles to look authentic and is often missing in action. Labour have not yet succeeding in recovering from the departure of the Helen Clark and Michael Cullen partnership  both a party and with leadership.

It’s possible Labour could end up cobbling together a coalition but the election and the post election negotiations will both be difficult for them. A chance of a collapse in support hovers should the voters give up on Labour’s various vulnerabilities.

Green Party
RM 14, CB 11, RR 11.3

Greens had a recent poll of 8% but that looks to be an outlier, they have otherwise ranged between 10 and 14 averaging 11-12 which means they are holding their last election support (but they often poll higher than they get in elections).

The Greens are looking very well organised and are into campaign mode. They are the one solid party of this term and if they avoid campaign disasters should come to close to maintaining their current MP numbers, and could increase them.

Their main problem is not their own, it’s their essential coalition partner, Labour. If Labour fail then so do the Greens no matter what they achieve.  NZ First are also a threat because if Winston Peters returns he will hold stronger cards then the Greens, being able to play off National against Labour. The Internet Party may take some Green vote.

Russel Norman has often looked like the Leader of the Opposition this term. He is experienced, focussed and ambitious. He is a consistent strength for Greens but his ambitions on economic matters worry some and may end up playing against him. He is being promoted as possible Deputy Prime Minister.

Metiria Turei is co-leader and is currently ranked number one in Green ranking. She tends to work with the Green base more than the wider public. The traditional media seem to dismiss her chances as Deputy Prime Minister but the Greens will decide who they want to put forward. Their official stance is co-leadership but two deputies will be out of balance in a coalition. Turei would provide an interesting dynamic in an old school Labour dominated cabinet.

Greens should do well but their fate is out of their hands, they are reliant on Labour looking like a credible Government and they would prefer NZ First and the Internet Party drop out of the picture.

NZ First
RM 3.5, CB 7, RR 4.9

NZ First is fluctuating in the polls but maintains a healthy average and looks a reasonable chance of beating the 5% threshold again. They are benefiting from National slips and Labour’s lack of traction.

The NZ First MPs are very low profile and as usual look like relying on Winston Peters. The old campaigner pops up occasionally but is mostly out of the news – but he knows how to campaign and will time his run.

Peters is a master of manipulating media and will be looking for any opportunity to jump on a defining issue in the last few weeks of the campaign. National will be doing their best to avoid another cup of tea disaster but the media seem addicted to boosting their ratings with Peters and therefore boosting his chances.

At this stage NZ First looks a good bet to succeed this election. The big question mark is what that means for any coalition possibilities and there will be fears of Winston induced instabilities. This is more likely to limit their numbers rather than drop them below 5%.

Maori Party
RM 2.0, CB 0.9, RR 1,5

Party support in polls and elections hasn’t been a significant factor for the Maori Party in the past because their strength has been in electorate seats, but this may change this year.

The Maori Party has a battle on it’s hands to retain any of it’s three electorate seats this time but the odds are good to keep at least one of it’s current three. If it only keeps one or two then their party vote may become a factor in their final count.

New leader Te Ururoa Flavell is out there trying to build a profile but is an unknown at this level. He needs to step up and find a way of getting some media attention, which could be difficult because he is (so far) uncontroversial.

The Maori Party should return but will have to battle hard to keep their numbers up. Labour’s struggles may help them

ACT Party
RM 0,5, CB 0.3, RR 1.1

ACT have recovered from poll zeroes but it’s early in their attempted recovery. All will depend on Epsom. If they succeed there they could help National retain power.

The ACT party vote could lift from their 2011 debacle when Don Brash ousted Rodney Hide and took over, and installed an unlikely John Banks in Epsom.

New leader Jamie Whyte is intelligent but intellectual. He will struggle to interest the media unless he stuffs up. He will also struggle to appeal to voters. As he builds experience and if he can appear confident he may lift things a bit.

ACT’s best chances may come from National spin-off. If enough voters want National returned but don’t want to reward National too much or don’t want a single party majority  then ACT may benefit.

Mana Party
RM 0, CB 0, RR 1.1

You can’t take much from the polls for Mana, their supporters may be the hardest to find for pollsters.

On their own Mana are unlikely to lift much in party support. This is probably why they are considering a deal with Kim Dotcom, realising lifting their own party vote will be difficult. This may help them, but it could just as easily damage their brand.

Hone Harawira is the obvious essential for Mana and should retain his Te Tai Tokerau electorate – unless there’s a backlash against the Dotcom dalliance. This is a real risk for Mana. Labour have got the respected Kelvin Davis as candidate again, he has been closing the gap on Harawira in previous elections.

Mana are a good bet to retain an electorate but the Internet Party is a risky punt.

UnitedFuture
RM 0.5, CB 0.1, RR 0.1

United Future have really struggled to impress in polls for two terms. To the voting public the party is non existent, although a surge of membership last year when UnitedFuture was de-registered shows there is still some interest out there.

Peter Dunne’s chances in Ohariu look reasonable. Labour and Greens no longer have candidates with public profiles. National are likely to assist with a low profile candidate. Dunne knows how to work his electorate.

Otherwise the prospects for UnitedFuture simply aren’t there. They don’t have a very active party and they have no people other than Dunne with any profile.

Dunne is a good bet to retain Ohariu and may help National stay in power but that is the best that can be expected.

Conservative Party
RM 1.5, CB 2.3, RR 1,9

The Conservative Party has maintained an average of around 2% with a range of 1-3. They should be able to maintain this – but doubling support to make the 5% threshold will be very difficult, despite being one of the best financed parties.

Colin Craig is determined and rich, and he has some appeal but he is also seen as wacky and is sometimes unfairly called Crazy Colin.

An easy electorate ride has been talked about but it remains elusive for Craig. National would be taking a big risk gifting him a seat and look lukewarm on it at the moment.

The jury is out on Craig’s chances. The Conservatives may pick up some ‘alternative to National’ votes but 5% looks a high hurdle. The media probably won’t do them any favours like the do for Peters.

Internet Party
RM 0, CB 0, RR 0.4

The polls were too soon for the Internet Party launch this week so don’t mean much. Roy Morgan had them on 0.5% for two polls when the first launch attempt was aborted but they got publicity. They are likely to feature in polls from now because the media will give them coverage.

It’s far too soon to tell how the Internet Party will go. Kim Dotcom will attract some support from his substantial existing following but he will put others off – and he can’t stand so either has to fade into the background or he will be seen to be interfering.

The Internet Party needs some credible candidates. They’ve said they won’t be announcing them until June but have claimed to have an existing electorate MP ready to join. There’s a lot of doubt about this, and even if they did it would be extremely difficult for such a candidate to hold their seat, they would be competing with their ex party and risk splitting the vote.

If they secure a high profile candidate I would expect the Internet party to announce it as soon as possible. Otherwise a leaderless candidate-less party will struggle to impress.

The Dotcom financed party could play a significant part in the election. It’s possible (but unlikely) they boost Mana’s seats to two or three. They may take some National vote and are likely to pick up some protest vote.

But as Russel Norman openly fears they could take votes from the left and waste them by failing to reach 5%. The Internet Party make their primary goal of defeating John Key harder for the left.

Other Parties

There are no other parties with profiles.

The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party keeps getting some support but is generally looked on as a protest or wacky baccy party. They have competed with Greens on cannabis law reform and could get some traction on this – Russel Norman said on The Nation in the weekend that cannabis law remained a Green policy but it would not be one they would be promoting.

The Alliance and Democrats for Social Credit keep chugging away but will continue to be ignored by the media so have no show. Losers are already picked regardless of their merit.

Focus New Zealand registered in January and are targeting the rural vote but will struggle with that.

Brendan Horan has been trying to get an Independent Candidates party off the ground but his own chances of retaining a seat and any party chances have been written off already. The media doesn’t do different approaches to democracy. And Horan doesn’t seem to have a significant following.

This simple fact is that it’s a near impossible for new parties without rich founders able to buy attention.

After the MMP review the threshold has stayed at an insurmountable 5%. The review recommend a drop to 4% which would have made no difference for small parties wanting to add themselves to the mix.

The large parties seem to actively avoid allowing nuisance parties to interfere with their ambitions and shut down their chances. Ironically more small parties would give the large parties more options and more bargaining power.

Summary

National may slip in support a bit but are still looking reasonably in charge. Greens are looking strong. But the rest is up for grabs, which means this year’s election is still very open – with more complicating factors than usual.

The Colmar Brunton poll showed a large wild card (or cards): Don’t know 13%, Refused 5%

The media play a major role and can make major stories out of the trivial. It’s a major concern that the balance of our democracy could swing on the whim of journalists. They have become very powerful, and they know it. And they are accountable to no one but their ratings and egos.

Our elections risk being more superficial lottery than a contest of policies and parties.

Unfortunately this year’s election may be decided on the least worst option as the positives in our politics are paltry. The parties, press and people are all culpable.

Herald Digipoll – National up, Labour crash

The latest Herald Digipoll shows National rising 4 to 50.8% despite the Judith Collins issue happening during the polling period, and Labour is down 6 to 29.5%. This is not good for David Cunliffe, who also drops 5 in ‘preferred PM’ to 11.1, lower than David Shearer ever got.

  • National 50.8% (up 4 from Dec 2013)
  • Labour 29.5% (down 5.9)
  • Greens 13.1% (up 2.3)
  • NZ First 3.6% (down 0.3)
  • Conservative 1.3% (no change)
  • Act 0.8% (up 0.8%)
  • Other 0.5% (up 0.1)
  • Maori 0.2% (down 1.1)
  • Mana 0.1% (up 0.1)
  • Undecided 11.4%

750 eligible voters were polled from Thursday March 6 to Sunday March 16. That was a period of major negative coverage of Cunliffe but only some of the Collins milk issue.

The margin of error is 3.6% (presumably at a confidence of 95%) – note that +/-3.6 only applies at a polling level of 50%, see Poll ‘margin of error’ explained.

Preferred PM:

  • John Key 66.5% (up 4.6)
  • David Cunliffe 11.1% (down 5.4)
  • Winston Peters 6.5 (down 0.8)
  • Russel Norman 4.5 (up 1.1)
  • Helen Clark 3.3 (up 0.1)
  • David Shearer 1.1 (up 0.3)
  • Shane Jones 1.1 (up 1.1)
  • Jacinda Ardern 0.8 (up 0.2)
  • Metiria Turei 0.6 (down 0.3)
  • Grant Robertson 0.5 (down 0.2)
  • Tariana Turia 0.4 (unchanged)
  • Annette King 0.2% (down 0.5)

Key is far more supported than National (16%).

Cunliffe is far less supported than Labour. Cunliffe+Clark+Shearer+Jones+Ardern+Robertson+King=18.1%

Russel Norman rates significantly higher than Metiria Turei – in the draft Green list released yesterday Turei was ranked number 1 for Greens so that would presumably put her at the top of the list for a position in a Labour/Green coalition. I’d expect Greens to be pushing for a deputy PM spot, especially on these poll results.

Comprehensive poll results including regional and gender breakdowns at NZ Herald – National, Greens up, Labour at new low.

Craig copies Green plea for donations

Several days ago the Greens started asking for donations for a legal find to fight Colin Craig’s defamation action.

Donate to defend free speech

Kia Ora

All New Zealanders should be treated equally and with respect.

A few weeks ago I spoke at the Big Gay Out and in my speech I made some remarks about the Conservative Party leader Colin Craig’s views about women and gay people.

Now Mr Craig is taking me to court for defamation.

I am proud of the comments I made, and I stand by them.

I am proud of the record my party has advancing the rights of women and gay people.

And I believe it is vital to democracy that political leaders are able to challenge and scrutinise each others views – this robust debate is vital to a healthy democracy.

Donate to our legal fund to defend a healthy democracy – a democracy that allows the Greens and other political parties to champion the rights of all New Zealanders..

Don’t allow Mr Craig, a millionaire, to silence the Green Party and anyone else who speaks up against his party’s 1950s mind-set.

It’s not the first time Mr Craig has taken legal action to silence those that speak up against his party’s views. Our democracy is threatened by this litigious approach to silencing dissent and debate.

We need to raise $70,000. Please make a donation today.

If you want us to keep speaking up for a fairer and more compassionate New Zealand then any donation you can make will help.

By making a donation to our legal fund you’ll be part of something big – fighting for our freedom of speech.

I hope you’ll stand with me to ensure that we are not silenced by those with deep pockets and divisive agendas.

For every dollar you give, you are helping us to take an important stand.

Russel Norman

* You should know that any funds not used in the court case will go towards the Green Party’s work to create a smarter, cleaner, more compassionate New Zealand for all of us.

Craig has used the Green page as a template and he is asking for the same from his supporters.

DONATE TO DEFEND HONESTY

 All New Zealanders deserve at the very least honesty and integrity from their politicians.

A few weeks ago at the Big Gay Out, Russell Norman said during a speech, “A vote for John Key is a vote for Colin Craig, and we all know that Colin Craig wants Gays in the closet and women in the kitchen.” This statement is a lie in both respects, in terms of my views.

Now I am suing Russell Norman for defamation. I have never held either of those views and it is my strong belief that New Zealanders want a much greater level of debate from their politicians. No one should be able to tell outright lies about anyone else and not be challenged.

I believe it is vital to Democracy that honesty is the cornerstone of public debate in this country and I will defend the NZ voter’s right to the highest standard of honesty and integrity from their elected representatives.

DONATE TO OUR LEGAL FUND TO DEFEND THE DEMAND FOR HONESTY FROM ALL POLITICIANS, TO ENSURE VOTERS ARE TREATED WITH THE RESPECT THEY DESERVE.

Don’t allow the Greens to mislead the public by blatant dishonesty about anyone who disagrees with their very liberal views.

It is not the first time I have taken legal action to correct blatant lies and I have been very successful in doing so. I believe we must stand up to all bullies or this very unacceptable situation will continue its rapid escalation.

WE NEED TO RAISE $70 000.

Please make a donation today if you want to stand up for Honesty, Decency, and Integrity in NZ politics. Any donation you can make will help.

BY DONATING TO OUR LEGAL FUND YOU WILL BE PART OF SOMETHING BIG- YOU WILL BE FIGHTING FOR HONESTY FROM OUR POLITICIANS.

I hope you will stand with me to ensure that bullies don’t get away with fabricating lies while claiming the freedom to denigrate anyone they take exception to.

BY EVERY DOLLAR YOU GIVE YOU ARE HELPING US TAKE AN IMPORTANT STAND.

Colin Craig

You should know that any funds not used in the court case will go towards the Conservative Party’s work to create a true democracy where all points of view are respected and where honesty and integrity prevails in politics.

Tit for tat. Craig has even used a similar photo.

honest_donateGreens:

for-free-speech-donate

 

Greens want in on Key-Cunliffe debates

Radio NZ reports that the Greens have asked TV1 and TV3 to include them in the main leaders debates in this year’s leadership debate.

The Green Party wants television networks to include one of its party leaders in the main leaders’ debates in the lead-up to the election – alongside John Key and David Cunliffe.

The Greens have made a formal request to TV One and TV3 for a co-leader to join the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition, rather than take part in the minor parties debate – which has been the typical election format.

The Greens say their 12 percent polling position puts them in a different league to the other smaller parties which are polling around 5 percent or less.

The timing isn’t the best for the poll claim, today’s One News/Colmar Brunton poll has greens down from 14 to 8%. That may be a one-off aberration or temporary, although they might not bounce right back up.

But that’s a side issue.

Should Turei or Norman join in with the main leader’s debates? There’s some justification. While Greens are polling about 1/3 of Labour levels they have been as active in opposition, probably more active. And Greens have ambitions of being a major player.

But there are things against this too, including:

  • Media like the presidential two opponent format.
  • If they let the Greens step up to the big time in debates Winston Peters is certain to claim a right as well.

But perhaps the biggest issue that requires some careful thought – it would effectively mean that Key was up against double barrelled opponents of Cunliffe plus either Turei or Norman.

Would two against one be a fair contest?

Turei signals deap-sea drilling goal

Metiria Turei gave a strong hint at the Green strategy on off-shore drilling yesterday. She began by reiterating her opposition to drilling off the Otago Coast by promoting Oil Free Otago via Twitter and Facebook.

Metiria Turei@metiria 

Labour is clear now that deep sea oil drilling is ok with them. How about you?

Linking too…

Oil Free Otago
Oil Free Otago is a group of Otago residents who aim to protect our oceans and climate by preventing deep-sea oil drilling and further oil exploration off our coasts through nonviolent, community-led action.

…and commenting…

Now that Labour are clear in their support for deep sea oil, it’s even more important that we join together to fight against this destructive industry.

And…

Metiria Turei@metiria

Now that Labour are clear in their support for deep sea oil, it’s even more important that we join together to…

Linking too…

Metiria Turei shared Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand‘s photo.

Labour is clear now that deep sea oil drilling is ok with them. How about you?

It was pointed out that deep-sea drilling and clean beaches

Her tweets led to exchanges that clarified her and the Green position.

Metiria Turei@metiria

Labour is clear now that deep sea oil drilling is ok with them. How about you?

David Rei Miller@DavidReiMiller

How about playing nice with your coalition partner? They will make stricter regulations. National are doing far worse things.

Metiria Turei@metiria

Just pointing out an important policy difference. Not sure what they will do actually. You know exactly what we would.

@PeteDGeorge 

I’m not clear on exactly what you would do. Stop all fossil fuel exploration and extraction in New Zealand?

Metiria Turei@metiria

Stop deep sea drilling.

Metiria Turei@metiria

Everything’s on the table, that’s what negotiations are for. The voters will decide our negotiating power.

Very much aware that under MMP negotiating power is all important. Greens and Labour combined are a strong chance in the election this year. If they can put together a coalition the balance of power between them will be important in deciding what to do on points of difference.

David Cunliffe has signalled that Labour supports deep-sea drilling (with safety provisos) so the numbers game may be all important.

Unless Labour and National find common ground on offshore drilling. If they did that would that be a deal breaker for a Labour-Green coalition?

Turei acknowledges the importance of negotiating power but won’t be drawn on bottom lines.

Turei on offshore exploration

Green co-leader Metiria Turei makes here position on offshore exploration clear on Facebook, commenting on Oil Free Future Summit Registration 2014 she said:

Definitely going and supporting, a much needed chance for us all to send a message that deep sea oil drilling is NOT WELCOME in Dunedin.

I asked her “Who are you speaking for? I think you’ll find that there is a wide range of opinions and there is quite a bit of support for business opportunities and jobs from drilling in Dunedin.”

Two people indicated she spoke for them. Turei didn’t respond directly but added a general comment:

Well, as much as I like to keep my opinions to myself… I am quite disgusted with the oil industry attempt to divide and rule both within Dunedin/Otago and between Otago and Southland.

According to the ODT, they haven’t decided which Southern city is most deserving of their economic largesse, Dunedin or Invercargill. We have to compete for their financial affections apparently. I am aware of a couple of finger gestures that would indicate an appropriate response…

That’s a curious angle. There is very divided opinion on whether exploration should happen or not but I don’t think that’s driven by the oil industry, it’s driven by an anti-oil lobby, a pro-business lobby and a general wish for more jobs in Dunedin and Otago.

A two fingered salute from Greens isn’t surprising, but they don’t speak for all of Dunedin or all of Otago. From feedback I’ve had a few two fingered salutes are being returned.

An ‘Anadarko – Wish You Weren’t Here’ campaign was launched in Dunedin yesterday. It was attended by Green energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes – and about eleven other people according to an ODT report – Campaign against oil drilling launched.

That small ‘not welcome’ message was only from a small part of Dunedin, with a political import.

Nash: It’s not what you say

At  The Daily Blog ex Labour MP Stuart Nash tries to hide reality in It’s not what you say, but what they hear

We always hear about the Labour-Green coalition v the National government. I cannot remember if this was coined by the National party and adopted by the media or vice versa, but however it came about, it’s damaging to Labour’s brand. Labour has to start talking about ‘the next Labour-led government’ and get right away from talk of a Labour-Green coalition.

Labour has hitched their fortunes to the Green cart. Pretending the Labour-only horse hasn’t well and truly bolted is far too late and futile.

Nash’s prediction for the Greens:

The Green party received 11.1% at the last election. History will show this is the high-water mark for them. I expect them to get around the 6.7% they polled in 2008; or even close to the 5.3% they got in 2005.

He makes some good points about Labour’s problems being associated too much with the Greens, but the damage has been done.And there’s a small issue of 30-35% poll support. Labour can’t do it without the Greens unless that changes substantially, and there’s no indication yet that it will.

Futile framing:

With Cunliffe firing, the Labour caucus united and the growing perception that Key is only there for his rich mates, the battle for 2014 is between a Labour-led opposition and a National-Conservative coalition.

Labour need Greens far more than National need the Conservatives. Cunliffe needs to fire, but in one direction. So far both his barrels are pointing in different directions.

Nash’s post is getting a very negative reaction in the Daily Blog comments.

It’s not what you say, but what they hear – and they hear reality far better than Nash says.

Update: and Nash gets the bash at The Standard as well, from:  http://thestandard.org.nz/open-mike-10012014/#comment-755527

Greens overstating oil spill risk

Following the Shell announcement they will test drill off the Otago coast the Green opposition is quick off the mark overstating the risks of an oil spill.

There is very little chance of finding oil. They are looking for gas. Great South Basin oil find very unlikely:

  • Chance of finding no hydrocarbons = 70%
  • Chance of finding gas = 30%
  • Chance of finding oil = <1%

But this hasn’t stopped Greens with their predictable opposition. Gareth Hughes in Mixed response to Shell drill announcement:

Green MP Gareth Hughes says it’s an extremely rough location – and a risky one.

“Big storms wash though, it’s far from the worlds oil infrastructure and help if needed and I think many New Zealanders would struggle to believe that New Zealand waters could cope with a large scale oil spill.”

Mr Hughes says the announcement is “deeply concerning” for the local environment.

It is risky for sure (although big storms are common around the world, not just here), but there’s a very low risk of an oil spill, especially a large scale spill.

NZ Power double whammy?

It has been widely suggested that the price of Mighty River Power and Meridian shares where severely impacted by the Labour-Green-NZ First announcement of radical NZ Power reforms of the wholesale power market. It has been referred to by some as economic sabotage. See:

It’s unknown by how much but it seems to be generally accepted that it had some impact on both the share prices and the number of people interested in purchasing.

A comment by Akld Commercial Lawyer at Kiwiblog suggests there was a double whammy from the NZ Power policy announcement.

And incidentally, I continue to hear over the barbecue that the Power NZ snowjob cost the taxpayers more than just the depressed price and demand for MRP & Meridian. Anecdotally, the level of hedge fund activity that this tragically naive crusade engendered – meant that many of us were fleeced twice at least. So they made the folk they profess to hate – even richer. How ironic.

Ordinary New Zealanders are pawns in the big political and business power plays.

Party prospects for 2014

National will try to keep what they push through Parliament as uncontroversial as possible and be promoting the improving economic outlook as much as possible. They will sell Genesis shares and then try to consign their Mixed Ownership Model to the past. A number of their MPs have already announced their retirement at the next election, leaving openings for new talent.

Their ideal aim would be to get a majority on their own but this is very unlikely to happen (and National know this). Last election their +50% poll support eased back to a near majority but the electorate ensured they would need other party support. Their options for other parties this time are looking shaky but options are likely to emerge.

John Key will continue to hold up National support. He remains popular and despite some mistakes and lapses is mostly a masterful politician with an ordinary touch.

National would be doing extremely well to match their 2011 result (59 MPs) but are likely to ease back off this unless coalition options look unlikely and voters are scared too much by a lurch left alternative.

Labour have struggled to recover post Clark/Cullen. Goff never enthused the electorate and the Shearer experiment was a failure that took to long to rectify.

David Cunliffe did well to win the leadership battle but he has struggled to define himself clearly. He has become known for yeah/nah and talking out of both sides of his mouth to different audiences. This highlights one of his biggest challenges, how to satisfy the more left leaning party activists but attract the bigger centre-left vote. Tying Labour’s chances closely to the Greens makes this more challenging.

Labour are still very light on policies and what they have announced don’t look like election winners. Their power policy looked more like an anti-National anti-asset sale keep up with the Greens reaction rather than a well thought through policy. Their massive house building programme will worry voters about spending despite Labour’s claims the policy will eventually self-fund, and it also has a risk of appearing to be a housing lolly scramble that will only benefit the lucky.

Cunliffe had a few months to find his way followed by a timely holiday break. He has most of the year to define himself, his leadership and his party. Finding the right tone and an electable balance will test him.

Labour also have to grapple with the harder left and much closer association with the Greens – they have changed over this term from a major party competing one-to-one with National to a party dependent on the Greens as a minimum and possibly also Mana and NZ First.

Even if Cunliffe manages his own party’s political mix well Labour has to also hope that other parties to their left don’t scare the voters too much.

Labour should improve on their last election record low result (27%), but they have already conceded they won’t compete on their own with National. They will do well to make the high forties.

The Green Party Improved very well in their last term to fourteen MPs and had hoped to continue an upward trend, but polls have shown this may not be easy for them. They have pretty much flatlined – and this has been substantially helped by Labour’s lack of traction. If Labour rise then Greens will struggle to go up with them, they could even slip a bit.

The Green rise has created a problem. They have changed from a quirky environmental party with substantial partial support to a power player with aims of major financial influence in the next government. This scares many voters who otherwise like to see someone speaking up for the environment.

Russel Norman did well to appear as the de facto opposition  leader through most of the year but slipped back as Cunliffe stepped up. Norman has fought some good fights but there’s significant resistance to his economic leanings.

Co-leader Metiria Turei highlights a major Green contradiction – an obviously well dressed well fed academic upper middle class party fighting for the poor and fighting against poverty. They appear to be speaking for but not with their target constituency. Do-gooders out of touch reality.

And even on their environmental campaigns Greens are annoying some of their potential support. Most people don’t see a prosperous future for cyclists without jobs.

Green ideals of green energy and green jobs and green printed money look like little more than slick marketing.

And too much talk of taxing more to hand out more, of equal everything regardless of effort, is worrying many people.

Greens may do well to hold their number of MPs but may be disappointed in a lack of improvement, especially if Labour reverse their lacklustre efforts and make a bold showing.

NZ First are an unknown – will they make 5% or won’t they? Apart from Winston Peters their MPs haven’t made much of an impression, living in their leader’s shadow toeing his line ensures that.

Peters is showing his age and his lack of being anything other than a scattergun spoiler with far more failures than successes. Even his success last year were hardly election saving, some scored him for his attacks on Peter Dunne but his failure to back up his accusations with any evidence at all left a major taint.

In Parliament Peters is still prominent but it isn’t always pretty. He often seems to be struggling. He is fading.

And Peters cannot bet on being gifted the media attention he wangled over the cup of tea fiasco last election. His opportunism requires opportunities and he may not get them on a plate next time.

Last term Peters could devote all his time to campaigning. This time he has to share that with appearing to be credible in Parliament and running a party. It will be tough for him, and his toughness is waning.

Making the threshold is possible but will be difficult, especially if voters are scared off a Peters dictated coalition.

The Maori Party continue to struggle. They have to battle against their close association with the current Government even though they more often vote against National. And they have struggled with leadership transition.

Te Ururoa Flavell will have to step up as Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia retire. And the party will have to compete against strong Labour attacks on their electorates.

They should hold a seat or two, but that would be slipping from their current three.

The Mana Party should be safe with Hone Harawira’s seat and could manage to rise to also get a list seat but that’s as far as they are likely to get. On numbers that may not be a big improvement but it could put Mana into a powerful position of having the votes that decide a coalition, and also the votes that decide a lot of legislation if a Labour lead left bloc succeed.

This may help Mana’s chances of improving their party vote. But it may also make it harder for a left bloc to get enough votes to form a coalition – there is much wariness of a possible Labour-Green government but those concerns increase substantially with Labour-Green-Mana.

The Act Party is in disarray again. John Banks was a ring in that managed to succeed, but he is now dropping out under a major cloud. As has been the case for the last couple of elections Act is being written off by many.

But they have a chance of surviving. John Boscawen is working hard in the background and is determined to revive their fortunes.

If Act can come up with a viable candidate for Epsom they could hold that electorate (with National’s help). And if that candidate looks genuinely Act and they can put up a strong list they could be seen by voters as a legitimate alternative to National to get another seat or two. But it’s a big task.

United Future are again totally reliant on Peter Dunne. Last year was disastrous apart from the surge in membership, but if the party doesn’t get it’s act together that may hope may have been in vain.

Dunne has a reasonable chance of holding Ohariu. This will depend a lot on how much help he gets from National (it seems likely he’ll get some) and how strong a candidate Labour pout up and how strongly they contest the electorate. Greens have effectively left the electorate up to Labour by withdrawing Gareth Hughes from contention reducing the chance of splitting the left vote.

Dunne will have a big battle on his hands but seems determined to have a go at redeeming himself. He may succeed.

But United Future continues to have a major problem appealing to voters. The party is not doing a good job of even appealing to their new member base. Unless there’s a major change in approach, or unless they manage to recruit more high profile electable candidates, United Future will remain, at best, a single MP party.

The Conservative Party currently has every opportunity of making a mark. John Key has indicated he may boost their chances to help National, and late last year the media flocked to Colin Craig. This gave the party a huge lift in exposure, but it wasn’t always good exposure. The party didn’t lift in the polls.

How much help National give the Conservatives will determine their chances, especially if Craig is given a win-able electorate by National. That could get them one MP. And it could help their chances of making the 5% threshold. But that is still a huge target for an MP-less party that has stayed in the 1-3% range in the polls.

If money can buy power then Colin Craig make make it, but a huge budget failed last time. This time round it’s too soon to call.

The Civilian Party is a wild card. It has been promised by Ben Uffindell, riding on the success of his satirical blog. Starting a political party from scratch is a much bigger task, but Uffindell has proven he is innovative and smart, and has made a lot of friends in the media.

Uffindell’s biggest challenge will be motivating a younger constituency to vote, and to vote for non-status quo. How he approaches this will be interesting. How the party is positioned may matter in the balance of votes, even if The Civilian Party fails to make the threshold.

There’s huge disillusionment in New Zealand politics. If Uffindell sell something different and tap this huge voter base it could get interesting. Of course this depends on whether Uffindell launches a serious party or not.

Offering something entirely different has far more chance of interesting a few of the many who opt out of voting, and The Civilian Party may have a much better chance of doing this than the Labour-Green approach of convincing the dis-enfranchised that the same old socialism is worth voting for.

It will be an interesting year. It could be very interesting.

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