Latest poll = a turning point?

By Roger Childs

John KeyRoy Morgan’s latest poll poll is bad news for John Key. The Nats seemed to be sleep walking to a third term in office on the back of a growing economy, high business confidence, a fawning media and the popularity of JK. But with National down, Labour and NZ First up and Internet/Mana possibly in with a chance of more than one seat, the game may have changed. However, one poll does not make an election victory and the margin for error is as unscientific as ever. Nevertheless having recently ruled out a deal with the flakey Colin Craig, JK might not be sleeping easy in his bed.

Ministers not helping the leader

The prime minister will be getting exasperated with the antics and arrogance of some of his cabinet colleagues. Over the last few months there has been

Gerry Brownlee~ Judith Collins failing to reveal the full extent of her support for Oravida on the infamous China trip

~ Maurice Williamson’s resignation over his involvement with Donghua Liu’s criminal case

~ Hekia Parata’s on-going mismanagement of the education portfolio

~ Nick Smith’s spat with Fish and Game and his unsubstantiated support for increased use of 1080 poison in our green and pleasant land

~ Gerry Brownlee arrogantly boarding a plane without going through security

~ Steven Joyce’s inability to provide the public with any acceptable reassurances about the Novopay monkey on his back

~ Murray McCully being out to lunch when the Malaysian diplomat was claiming immunity for suspected crimes and fleeing the country.

Maybe the public is at last seeing past the nice Mr Key with his ready smile and topical quips. There are also plenty of serious concerns about his standard evasiveness  regarding security matters and our cooperation with the Americans which the public has the right to know about.

Even some of the previously very supportive media who had written off Labour and the Greens forming the next government, are starting to question whether National will comfortably retain the treasury benches.

Leadership on the left: some worries

David CunliffeFor the voting public, leadership is a critical factor in the appeal of parties. David Cunliffe had made some serious errors since he assumed the Labour leadership earlier in the year.

Revelations about having a trust fund for his leadership bid, playing down the value of his expensive Auckland home, the well intentioned but unwise gender apology and the recent holiday break in Queenstown, haven’t helped the Labour cause.

David Cunliffe will need to be very careful in the  run up to the election and supporters of a centre-left government will be hoping that he

  • avoids any further verbal gaffes
  • is seen to be working as hard, if not harder, than his electorate candidates
  • keeps the emphasis on policy rather than personality, but gives due credit to the talent in his team
  • accepts some of National’s policies which are widely supported, such as roads of national significance
  • makes a strong showing in forums which suit him, such as the leaders debates.

National resting on its record?

National seems to be resting on its laurels and financial management, as well as widespread business confidence. However, during its two terms economic growth had favoured National’s natural constituency: the better heeled in society, and there are serious issues which the government has not effectively addressed:

~ widespread poverty

~ a widening income gap

~ a lack of affordable housing

~ the need for a living wage for all working people

~ power prices which need to be reined in.

Over the last few months Labour has been progressively announcing policy initiatives, some of which even Bill English has said might work! Labour needs to be careful that any proposals are carefully costed, otherwise the prime minister will repeat the killer punch he delivered to Phil Goff the last time: show us the money!

Labour has the policy initiative

David ParkerIf voters can take their focus off leadership and onto policy, they will see that Labour offers some real alternatives to the steady as she goes National approach. Bill English has promised a return to surplus in the country’s books next year and a lot of people will be delighted with that, even though the outcome is unproven.

Shadow Finance Minister, David Parker’s alternative budget is innovative and seemingly feasible. It also addresses the widening gap between rich and poor. Key features include

~ increasing tax on incomes over $150,000
~ aligning trust taxation with the highest rate
~ a capital gains tax of 15%, but excluding the family home
~ reducing tax avoidance, especially by multi-national companies. (A hard one!)

This … will allow the Labour-led Government to run surpluses and pay down National’s record debt by the end of our second term, David Cunliffe says.

Add these to Labour’s proposals for lowering power prices by setting up NZ Power, to act as a single buyer of power for households, affordable housing schemes, compulsory and increased contributions to Kiwisaver and an increase in the minimum wage, and you have a workable strategy for improving the living standards of  lower income earners.

Turning the corner?

kim dotcomThe Roy Morgan poll is good news for the left, but time will tell whether it is a game changer. Certainly the election is not a foregone conclusion and there are many unknowns.

One is whether the indefatigable Winston Peters will again play his Earl of Warwick role. And who would have thought that the unpredictable Kim Dotcom would align with Hone Harawira and that Laila Harre would come out of the political woodwork?

John Key is probably still in the box seat and will take every opportunity to take, with apparent sincerity, the right and popular stance on issues and events as they arise. He has even recently made a rare criticism of Israel over its attacks on the Gaza Strip.

What is certain is that the voting public definitely has valid choices as the election approaches. Expect the unexpected over the next seven weeks: it is game on!