National numbers on the decline.
Which numbers will concern National, and which ones will really freak them out?
Last night there was a One News political poll which was welcomed by the left and will cause some concern in the opposition camp. A poll that showed no path to victory for ACT and National and which would likely result in another Labour/Greens government, possibly with the inclusion, or support from, Te Pāti Māori (TPM).
Over a series of polls we’ve seen very close numbers between the right and left blocs, with a likelihood that either TPM or New Zealand First (NZF), if they return to parliament, may hold the balance of power.
Back in January it looked like the right bloc of National and ACT might be pulling away, with a poll showing them able to form a government without the need for a third party. But now the momentum appears to be in the other direction with this result showing Labour and the Greens right on the cusp of having the numbers between them.
In addition to the “major” parties above there was also support for those parties that almost certainly won’t be in parliament post the election. The Opportunities Party (TOP), Democracy NZ (Matt King), and the New Conservatives (New Cons) all registering 1%. Nothing from Brian Tamaki’s mob though.
Prior to results I always see people claiming the polls are rigged. Although once they’re announced, and they like the results, they celebrate them. Apparently as new found believers of the polling methodology.
I don’t believe the polls are rigged, as I wrote in a Stats 101 type explainer last month:
So what do those party percentages translate to in terms of seats in the house, MPs in the next parliament?
It really does leave TPM as the king maker, although unlike Winston - who may still get back in, it seems unlikely they would go into coalition with National. And even more unlikely that they would join ACT and National together in government. At this stage Winston might be Christopher Luxon’s most likely path to becoming Prime Minister, and that is not a place anyone wants to be.
In addition to the seats shown above the minor parties are getting roughly 5% of the vote combined. Enough on last night’s numbers to decide the election. Will that many people really waste their vote? Or as we get closer will supporters see that this election is fundamentally a choice between an ACT/National government or a Labour/Greens one.
Minor party support might ebb away as people realise their vote really counts in such a tight election, but not if they vote for one of the parties unlikely to get into parliament. Mind you when you consider the people that support some of these parties the only thing you can rely on is that they’ll be unhappy no matter the result.
I don’t usually pay too much stead in the preferred Prime Minister (PPM) numbers. We vote in a proportional party system, not a presidential one. But those numbers have been grabbing headlines, so let’s take a look.
That really is not good news for Mr Luxon this close to an election. National would want to see him continuing to make gains in popularity - not sliding backwards.
This is part of National’s problem, they are a very broad church of groups that don’t necessarily sit well together. In fact some of them seem diametrically opposed to other factions.
From a socially liberal Chris Bishop to a hardline religious fundamentalist and anti-abortionist like Simon O’Connor. From old school Nats from a farming background, like Barbara Kuriger to true free market libertarians like Paul Goldsmith, neoliberals dreaming of a Ruth Richardson renaissance. Every choice in National leader is going to be a compromise.
I don’t really think National will change leader at this point in the election cycle, that would represent absolute panic despite Luxon’s mediocre performance. I’ve been saying for a long time I think the most likely outcome at this year’s election is a narrow loss for National with Nicola Willis taking over the leadership and leading them into the 2026 election.
But there will be some panic in the ranks. Reality is if Luxon continues the way he is then National are going to slide to a third election loss and that will be a very unattractive prospect for their MPs and supporters - so who knows what could occur out of desperation.
One of the things that is interesting about political polls is the response of the politicians. So how would Luxon reply to the questions following the poll? Surprisingly with an announcement that he has COVID.
At 5pm he was criticising the Government following the post cabinet announcements of large, inflation level, increases to pensions, benefits, student allowances etc. 6pm the polls were announced, although you’d have to assume that politicians are given some warning of the results so they can respond. Before 9pm it was announced that Luxon had come down with COVID.
A case of the COVIDs or a case of the Mullers?
You might remember Todd Muller, he took the party leadership for about 45 minutes a few years back An increasingly absent leader who had to leave all the heavy lifting to his deputy while he discovered that politics was a damned site harder than being a senior manager in a Corporation. For one, people will actually question what you say.
Any of that sound familiar?
Although I’m obviously not a fan of the National Party, or of Christopher Luxon, I can't wish him anything but a quick recovery from this horrible virus. I think the only person I was genuinely glad that got COVID was Trump.
The really interesting numbers last night though weren’t the party ones or the PPM, it was the things people said were their priority.
You can read more about that here.
Former MP Gareth Hughes had the following to say:
“This will be the cost of living election for sure.
“People are reminded every time they go to the supermarket, fill up the tank, pay a mortgage or fix a mortgage.” He said Labour’s 2022 cost of living payment would now be “a long time ago in voters’ memories” and the May Budget would be where voters would look for real action.
Hughes, who was no longer a member of any political party, said he was “not surprised” climate change came second, however. [Climate change] is no longer academic or happening at the poles of the Earth, this is something happening to people’s backyards.”
He said while crime was “still a significant issue” it was “maybe not as big as some parties have been making out”. Hughes said voters knew now was not the time for tax cuts.
National have thus far focused much of their efforts on Crime and Tax Cuts. But only 5% cared most about tax cuts and 10% crime. Assuming the opposition already has most of those voters they aren’t doing much to appeal to the rest of the voters who said other things were more important.
They aren’t likely to win votes from those that prioritise Climate Change, Health, or Education, so that really does leave the election all about the Cost of Living. Which comes down to household incomes and outgoings.
If we look at income National can claim that the tax changes they are proposing will give people more in their back pockets. But the well discussed reality of those changes is that most of the benefit goes to those comparatively well off.
Whereas many groups will know that Labour have increased their incomes far more than National ever would have - be it pensioners, those on welfare, people on the minimum wage, or even public servants like teachers and nurse who although they deserve much more have already gotten more from this government than they did during nine years of National.
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For goodness sake if you’re a party that literally opposes the increases we’ve seen to the minimum wage it is hard to claim you are addressing the cost of living through increasing incomes.
Costs are difficult to influence without major intervention in markets, and I can’t imagine anyone would think National and ACT more likely to intervene at excessive profit taking and price gouging than Labour and the Greens. Be it the profits of supermarkets, energy companies, or the banks, the opposition parties will not intervene on behalf of tax payers.
If I was a member of the National party I would be quite concerned about last night’s poll. Not as a one off but in terms of the trend back in favour of the government. Of the last eight polls over the last couple of months six have had Labour ahead of National, one had them even, and only one had National ahead.
Couple this with the fact that people do not seem to be warming to Christopher Luxon now they’ve gotten to know him, in fact the reverse. He has had a very poor start to the year and once he has recovered from COVID is going to have to find a different gear, or persona, or set of policies, to appeal to people because he isn’t winning from here against a rejuvenated Labour Party fighting for centre voters and a Green Party focussing on Climate Change with more of the same.
unless somrthing miraculous happens, like luxon developing a likeable persona - the natcoids are stuck in a very grim space. realistically the 6 below luxon will not be able to charm the electorate any better than he can.
Good stuff Nick. I also wondered about the Muller syndrome.