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.

Fairfax exclude small parties from poll results

Fairfax released their latest IPSOS poll on Saturday. How did the small parties fare? It’s been difficult to find out.

If you go to Stuff’s See the latest Fairfax-Ipsos poll you’ll find detailed breakdowns of support for National, Labour, Greens and NZ First, but nothing at all for other parties (apart from a mention in the projected make up of Parliament.

I did manage to find a mention of all parties in a non-Fairfax report, so they must have shared the results.

So I’ve included all parties here: Fairfax/IPSOS poll good for National.

But in what appears to be the main Stuff coverage of the poll - National on wave of optimism – poll – the Conservative and Internet Parties get a mention (neither are currently in Parliament and the Internet Party isn’t official yet and Kim DotCom has promised to self-destruct it if as expected it fails to poll above 5%) . But there is nothing for Maori Party, Mana Party, ACT and UnitedFuture.

I tweeted my disappointment on the exclusion of over have the parties:

@dpfdpf @tracy_watkins @avancenz @VernonSmall @michaelfoxnz Very poor not publishing full party results.

One of them responded:

@tracy_watkins
Not poor. Party vote breakdown in the paper and on Stuff. Where were you looking?

I didn’t see the print version, but I’ve searched Stuff and can’t find it. I asked Tracey:

I’ve looked on Stuff in all the references to the poll I can find. Can you give me a link?

I didn’t get a reply to that.

The small parties don’t get much support in polls, including this one, and this won’t be helped when major media exclude them. The Fairfax poll coverage favours the large parties and larger small parties.

UPDATE: an Australian tweet with a link to an Australian news site has the full results.

Roy Morgan@roymorganonline

NZ PM’s National could govern alone: poll http://www.news.com.au/world/breaking-news/nz-pms-national-could-govern-alone-poll/story-e6frfkui-1226827958906  via @newscomauHQ

 

Peter Dunne and Dotcom – nichts

With growing concerns over the party leader procession to Dotcom’s mansion – see Winston Peters and Kim Dotcom - I put the question to Peter Dunne.

Dunne responded “I have neither been invited nor gone to any meeting with Dotcom!”

He confirmed this publicly on Twitter:

For the record, I have not joined this homage queue.

@ImperatorFish

Not even a quick swim in the pool?

@PeterDunneMP

Nichts!

Toby Manhire@toby_etc ( NZ Listener):

Have you been invited?

@PeterDunneMP

No

Dotcom has been critical of Dunne’s support of the GCSB bill.

Nichts – nothing, not anything.

Small party trends with Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan polls far more often than other pollsters. While some polls can be outliers they give the best idea of trends. They graph trends…

…but this doesn’t show small party trends. Here they are in separate party charts. Note that these are rounded to the nearest 0.5% so aren’t smooth, 0% could be anything up to 0.24%.

Roy Morgan NZ First

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Roy Morgan Maori Party

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Roy Morgan Mana Party

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Roy Morgan Act Party

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Roy Morgan UF

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Roy Morgan ConservativesPolling started for the Conservatives in July 2012.

Key offers United Future an opportunity…

John Key has given United Future as much help and encouragement he could at this stage of election year. It is up to the party to take advantage of this.

It was surprising to see Peter Dunne reinstated by John Key as minister yesterday – it wasn’t surprising that he was given ministerial back duties, that was expected, but it was much sooner than most had thought.

Key also gave a clear indication that United Future were a preferred party for National to work with.

PM sets out parties National could work with

Prime Minister John Key today set out his decision on which parties National will consider working with following this year’s General Election.

Since November 2008, we have shown that we can lead a stable Government with other political parties involved, even when those parties have different outlooks and policies.Mr Key says that given the right electoral circumstances, his preference would be to continue working with the current three partners to the Government, which are ACT, the Māori Party and United Future.

“While National has of course had differences with ACT, the Māori Party and United Future, together our four parties have formed a stable and successful Government since late 2008,” Mr Key says.

That plus reinstating Dunne as a minister has given a clear signal that Dunne is a trusted and reliable partner for National.

Dunne has a reasonable chance of holding his Ohariu electorate, especially if National don’t contest it (as in previous elections). So there is a good chance of United Future being a one MP party into the next term, and a reasonable chance of that being an intergral part of Government.

This early signalling should give Dunne’s party all the incentive it needs to put forward a part option that goes beyond Dunne. A stable centrist party with a good chance of playing a part in Government should be able to attract voter support.

But there’s a big question mark about whether UnitedFuture is up to it. There is no public sign (and no sign to me) that the party has anything compelling to offer. Actually there’s no sign they are offering anything.

There’s two key things that need to be seen in United Future.

One is a succession plan in Ohariu. Dunne has chosen to contest another election but there must be a visible sign of replacing him. Not by another long in the tooth old school but a sign of renewal looking at the future.

That just deals with holding the vital electorate seat.

Two is the party vote. To make any mark on polls and subsequently in the election party vote UF needs to be seen as more than Dunne and Ohariu.

Ideally that means having at least one prominent candidate that gives voters an incentive to vote for the party. And ideally this candidate (or candidates) needs to look capable of taking over leadership of the party.

Add to that something that will not be seen by the wider public – the party needs to get it’s act together communicating with it’s members. From an adverse situation last year there was a significant boost in membership which enabled the party to re-register. This hasn’t been followed up on.

I’m still a member of United Future, I joined for three years when I stood for the party last election. That membership runs out in a few months.

I have seen nothing to encourage me to renew that membership. That’s very disappointing.

United Future could be, should be a small by significant player in Parliament and potentially in Government. Key has given them a vote of confidence.

But the party will have to start earning votes from the public (and members). Soon. again.

The opportunity is there. Is the party there? Is the determination? Or is United Future just an electorate committee for Ohariu?

Centre/right party preferences

After John Key’s heads up for possible coalition partners Dave@caffeine_addict has detailed all the party preferences.

John Key: “Yep!” to Peter Dunne and ACT, “Yes” to Maori Party, “Yeah OK”, to Colin Craig, “maybe” to Winston Peters.

Dunne: “Yep!” to Key, “Yes” to Maori Party ” Nope ” to Winston and Colin Craig, “maybe” to Act.

Colin Craig: “Yep” to everyone.

ACT “Yep” to Key, “Yes” to everyone else, if Key agrees.

Maori Party “Yes Sir” to Key, “Yes” to Dunne “No” to Winston, unless Key says yes, “Whatever” to Colin Craig.

Winston: “Yep” to everyone who agrees with him, “Yes” to those that might, “OK, then ” to those that won’t.

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.

Gareth Hughes not standing in Ohariu

Gareth Hughes won’t stand in Ohariu in next year’s election, according to a Stuff report.

GREENS GIVE HUGHES THE NOD TO REMAIN UNSEATED

The Greens have given MP Gareth Hughes an exemption from the party’s usual rule that candidates must stand in electorate seats. Instead, he will run in 2014 as a list-only candidate so he can focus on boosting the party’s youth vote. He stood in Ohariu in 2011, but the party has chosen Tane Woodley to stand there next year. Mr Woodley is a planner with Civil Defence and an army reservist. He has had 22 years in the army as a regular and as a reservist.

Hughes contested Ohariu in 2011 against Peter Dunne (United Future), Katrina Shanks (National) and Charles Chauvel (Labour). Tacticval voting by National supporters helped Dunne retain the seat. Chauvel and Hughes totalled a little more than Dunne’s votes.

Chauvel has already resigned and now works for the UN in New York. Shanks has announced she won’t be standing again.

Dunne has said he will be standing again next year. He will have a fresh set of challengers. How National approach the electorate contest could have a major bearing on the result and possibly (like this term) that could have a significant effect on the balance of Parliament.

What sort of candidate Labour put up and how much Labour and Greens promote tactical voting could also be significant.

Greens have already indicated Tane Woodley will be standing for them. he was 24 on the Green list in 2011.

Woodley stood in Rimutaka in 2011 with relatively modest results – his electorate vote 5.98%, the Green party vote 9.97% which was less than their overall party vote.

United Future’s future?

United Future held their annual conference in the weekend. There have been the usual put downs and false claims about attendance. @TovaOBrien was covering the conference for 3 News and reported:

Gearing up for the United Future conference. Head count stands at 30

Another journalist commented on Kiwiblog:

given that I am probably the only one on this thread who WAS at the United Future annual conference (albeit for a short time) I counted just over 30 in attendance – plus about 9 other journalists and camera people. And, for 30 or so people, what a lot of media coverage it got, eh.

If Peter Dunne had stuck to sensible and sensible little else would have got much attention, but he managed to get some reaction from a couple of sound bites. @TovaOBrien tweeted:

Peter Dunne talking about the political left and the ‘Green Taleban’

Greens responded on Twitter and: Green MP offended by ‘dispespectful’ Taliban comments

Peter Dunne calls Colin Craig’s Conservatives ‘untested crackpots’

Someof the Conservative ‘crackpots’ have actually tested Dunne in the past, having been United Future MPs (Larry Baldock and Gordon Copeland, the latter jumping the waka mid-term).

Dunne also virtually confirmed what has been said before, a coalition with Labour is very unlikely:

Peter Dunne’s pretty much ruled out working with Labour next election

Labour would have to ditch flagships like capital gains tax for UF to work with them – not going to happen.

It’s not certain where David Cunliffe will take Labour policies but it’s looking like a core incompatibility. So that leaves…

Steadily improving economy and PM’s mana still mean next year’s election is National’s to lose

Dunne’s political future is closely linked to National’s future, and Dunne has been promoting those links. He stands a chance of surviving and holding his Ohariu seat.

But that’s Dunne. The latest 3 News poll (taken before the conference coverage and reported last night) had United Future at 0.1%. That’s one out of a thousand, or one response in the poll.

Dunne is determined and doing what he can to promote his prospects, but his party is showing little sign of stepping up and making it’s mark. Sure, the membership got a big boost (over a thousand) after the deregistration debacle, but there is no sign of candidates emerging that will get any attention.

There is no sign of any leadership succession.

Unless something major changes Dunne will be pretty much doing it solo in the public political arena.

Dunne’s challenge will be to sell himself as relevant for what would be his third decade in Parliament.

The party’s challenge will be to be seen as relevant at all.

A @TovaOBrien tweet may have aptly summed up the conference and the party.

Dunne Dunne Dunne Dunne

(I have been a distant observer of the conference).

Dunne’s election signals

Peter Dunne has been signalling his intent over the past week.

On The Nation last Saturday Dunne confirmed his intention to stand again in next year’s election – see Dunne not done:

United Future leader, Peter Dunne has said he plans to stand for election again next year. Speaking on TV3′s The Nation, Mr Dunne said he saw “no reason why not” to stand for re-election.

“At this stage I see no reason why not. It’s a year away, I’m getting really good support locally – so yeah, why not?”

He also talk about coalition options.

If elected Mr Dunne says United Future will work with parties who have “policy compatibility”.

However, Mr Dunne says his party’s opposition to capital gains tax was a non-negotiable, meaning forming government alongside a Labour-Greens coalition unlikely.

“Now you had a discussion earlier, for instance, about a capital gains tax, which the Labour Party proposes, and something we strongly oppose, so I wouldn’t want to be part of a Government that is bringing in policies like that, that I was opposed to.”

In an Address to Rotary Club of Mangere on Wednesday Dunne looked in his most likely coalition direction.

Although National’s performance in a number of areas has been less than stellar in the last couple of years, and while Labour may present a more cohesive challenge than previously, the steadily improving economy and the Prime Minister’s mana still mean next year’s election is National’s  to lose.

That assertion comes with a number of qualifications, the principal one being whether National will be able to secure the support of a majority in the next Parliament to form a government.

An obvious preference for National…

According to (the commentariat), National’s current partners – the Māori Party, ACT and UnitedFuture – are today no more than political funerals waiting for the celebrant to turn up.

While each of those parties has experienced some difficulties during this term the reality is that they all have worked well with the National-led government since 2008, and, while they have had their disagreements, have each been able to achieve significant aspects of their individual programmes, as well as contribute to the progression of stable government overall.

And therein lies the key to resolving the dilemma of the formation of the next government – if National is prepared to recognise it.

And looking to the left:

So, where else might a Labour/Greens Government turn if it is short of a majority.

UnitedFuture could be another option – given the fact that I have had more experience of working with Labour than anyone else in Parliament – but that would require major policy shifts the coalition would be unlikely to make.

For a start, Labour would need to abandon its plans for a capital gains tax, higher taxes for higher income earners, abolition of the Families Commission and opposition to the establishment of the Game Animal Council.

That virtually rules out a coalition with Labour, there is no sign of them changing their position on those policies.

The next day Jacinda Ardern reiterated Labour’s opposition to one of those – Labour wants to do away with Families Commission.

Labour is announcing it will do away with the Families Commission if it gets the chance.

MP Jacinda Ardern says they want to scrap the commission and instead prioritise spending on reducing child poverty.

“We don’t believe that the Families Commission now is playing the kind of role that we need it to be playing in a modern New Zealand.

Apart from Dunn’es first clear indication he is likely to stand again next election this confirms what was fairly obvious – United Future would continue to work with National but Dunne has virtually ruled out a coalition with Labour as they are more intent on leaning towards the Greens.

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