Peter Dunne says the main questions in this campaign surround the future of the Greens, while it's all plain sailing for ACT

Peter Dunne says the main questions in this campaign surround the future of the Greens, while it's all plain sailing for ACT
'David Seymour is presently the most impressive party leader outside the Prime Minister'

By Peter Dunne*

With just over three weeks until the General Election, the release of the first major pre-election opinion poll this week confirmed what was already being reported about this year’s campaign.

Although the gap between Labour and National has narrowed slightly it remains substantial and is unlikely to be overturned by election day. That means that, whatever else happens, National is likely to be looking at the loss of up to 15 seats, including 14 sitting (mainly list) MPs.

Already, polling is showing National set to lose the Auckland Central seat it has held since 2008, and there are whispers that other seats like Whanganui and Wairarapa are poised to fall as well. A reduction in numbers of that size will have significant implications for both the Party’s resourcing in the next Parliament, which will be proportionately reduced, and will also remove the dominance National has had of select committees in the last Parliament, because of its high numbers of MPs.

Labour, on the other hand, stands to gain up to 16 additional MPs, over and above those being elected to replace Labour MPs who are retiring, which will present its own challenges in the coming Parliament.

For many, their election, on the party list, will come as an unexpected surprise to both themselves and the Party itself. Undoubtedly, some of these will subsequently prove not up to the task of being MPs and will need to be hidden away lest they become embarrassments.

Others will quickly become frustrated that in a Caucus potentially that large, there will be little opportunity for them to make any significant impact, especially as policymaking and major decisions will continue, as is the case in all governments, to be made by the Cabinet, and within that, the core of Ministers close to the Prime Minister.

In addition, there will be those from the 2017 intake frustrated that after a term in government, there is no place in the Ministry for them, and they remain just backbenchers. Managing these egos and thwarted ambitions will take some skill and will be a major challenge for the Party’s Whips and officials in the term ahead.

On the other hand, Labour will gain significant additional Parliamentary resources because of this windfall and should have no difficulty in ensuring a reliable government majority on all select committees.

While the Greens will be breathing a sigh of relief that on the basis of this week’s poll, they are across the party vote threshold, they still face some major uncertainties.

Historically, the Greens have always done better in opinion polls than on election day itself, so being just over the threshold at this stage means, on the basis of past performance they cannot yet take their re-election as a given.

Previously, they have always received a big bump in their support from overseas votes, but with many Zealanders having come home because of Covid-19, there may be fewer of these, and in any case, the likelihood is that Labour will be the main beneficiary of them this year.

Moreover, even if the Greens are returned, there is no guarantee what role they will play in the next Parliament. It was significant that the during the leaders’ debate this week the Prime Minister was very coy about the prospects of the Greens continuing to play a role in government if Labour wins an outright majority.

For New Zealand First, the news continues to be bad. Despite a national tour and a number of regional policy announcements the Party’s support has barely shifted above the 2% or thereabouts it has been trapped upon for some time.

With both Labour and the Greens making negative noises about New Zealand First’s contribution to government since 2017 it is hard to see things changing significantly for them over the next three weeks or so.

Even Shane Jones seems to have thrown in the towel at least as far as winning the Northland seat is concerned.

In all these circumstances, the Party’s campaign appeal to be the handbrake on Labour and the Greens is ineffectual for two reasons. Some would regard New Zealand First’s behaviour as a classic case of the tail already going too far in wagging the dog, while others would note that it is difficult to be an effective handbrake on anything if the Party is not in Parliament at all. And lurking in the background behind all of this is the report of the Serious Fraud Office into the operations of the New Zealand First Foundation that was promised before the first election date of September 19, but has yet to see the light of day.

Meanwhile, it continues to be smooth sailing for ACT. David Seymour is presently the most impressive party leader outside the Prime Minister and his party is well on track to record perhaps its best result ever, and certainly its best for at least 15 years.

While he may feel frustrated that his reinvigorated party is unlikely to end up a government partner this time, he should perhaps feel relieved. Three years on the crossbenches, as a vocal Opposition party, will give him the opportunity both to weld his new team together, and also to carve out a significant niche to National’s right which ACT can then credibly claim as their own, shutting out more extremist pretenders like the New Conservatives and Advance New Zealand.

At this stage of the campaign, therefore, the only outstanding questions surround the Greens. Will they actually get over the threshold, and if they do, will Labour want to partner with them again in government if it does not need to? The rest of the election jigsaw is beginning to look remarkably settled which is why the campaign so far has been so uninspiring.    


*Peter Dunne is the former leader of UnitedFuture, an ex-Labour Party MP, and a former cabinet minister. This article first ran here and is used with permission.

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42 Comments

12
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It is grinding out NZ First majorly and National somewhat minorly. Greens completely, it seems.
ACT is a huge winner, it looks like, if they don't blow it up before the elections. Seymour looks like the Big Winner of 2020.

10
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Pretty sad for NZ that in times like these, there is growing voter interest in a party campaigning on trickle-down, free-market policies.

Reduce taxes, and cut regulation on overseas investments and emissions letting global market players decide how they wish to do commerce in NZ - what could possibly go wrong? Clearly worked wonders in the Key era.

The "Libertarianism for me, Authoritarianism for thee" party, unfortunately.

Zero evidence behind this spurious claim.
I sense some here are getting worried about ACT doing well.

He deserves it. However, Peter missed that the new ACT people are mostly unknowns and there will likely be some embarrassments there too. His whip will need to be chosen carefully.

Act is the party of continual scandals.

I wouldn't be too quick to throw around the word scandal mate, those of your beloved Labour party are still fresh in memory of the electorate.

Labour aren't my beloved party, they're the best of a bad bunch (in Parliament). I'm expecting to vote TOP this year.

Your vote should reflect what you are believe in and your moral. Well a vote for act is basically saying "f*** the poor"!

How's that benefit reform coming along?

Do we need reform? Or is it designed to cull it further?

And a vote for any other is a vote for more poor

They are, but so will the new labour MP’s.

“and they will be hidden away lest they become an embarrassment.” How come they have got this far then and been selected in the first place. Surely there have been enough embarrassments and consequences of late, and before too. Why can’t any of our parties have a selection criteria that excludes fools and horses? Do they not respect the electorate? Do they not believe to be a member of parliament is reasonably serious stuff, it is position of considerable prestige and responsibility. At the dawn of MMP the Royal Commission stated there was no need to increase the number of MPs from the then 90. My god, how right they were. Believe it would not be difficult at all to find 30 or so no hopers, non performers and joy riders across the parliamentary board.

Well said Fox, I believe we should just drop back to electorate seats and ditch the "list cling ons". With the list MPs we just get a bunch of half @rsed unknowns

Better yet why not keep the list mp seats but with no human operator at all??? After all the list mps have no voice of their own and is only a extension of the party leader.... A cardboard cutout to replace them would save money paying people to just sit there during meetings.

Foxy - will a little effort I could find 50+

Why do people still believe that the election can change anything in NZ?

The development path for NZ is party irrelevant, and that is NZ will sell more agriculture products and land, import more people, explore more offshore area for oil and gas, and build more town houses.

"build more town houses" you forgot with cheap, foreign labour and raw materials imported cheapy from far east!

Well if people chose not to buy 'cheap' stuff then there would not be any sell. Is that right?

You and many others' logic have been very funny -- always accusing China produce 'cheap' stuff and dump it to NZ but not saying anything on why most NZers go to Warehouse to thing they can actually afford.

no more kneeling mate, stand up as a Chinese.

errr.. I am not from China.. Not all asians look the same, it's myth!

To all readers... In other words what comrade Wang is trying to say is CCP already owned you all. So stop this democracy nonsense and bow to your new communist master.

And yet you continue to live here? Am I right in recalling you said you're a citizen and thus would've annulled your Chinese citizenship - or just a permanent resident?

Mind you, you went on & on for a while about your proposed NZ PUP party and that turned out to be as empty as everything else you post on here.

I am looking forward for your vote once NZPUP is setup.

It'll never be a registered as a political party, except in your head. I'm 100% certain of that.

Why not just named it NZCCP comrade??

'Polls', like politicians, habitually lie. As in the US, it is likely that many respondents disguise, subvert or otherwise obfuscate their own preferences, precisely to throw a little sand in the gears. We'll know in a month or so what they Actually think, and even then, the spectre of strategic voting is always lurking in the booths....

Some people don’t like telling people they vote for NZ First as they are embarrassed.

Actually for the most part polls are pretty accurate, including in the US. Although polling in the UK has been pretty shocking.

A well balanced article.
Perhaps the biggest surprise will be turnout. nobody seems interested in talking about the election , everyone is assuming labour will fly in . How many will bother to vote. If it were not for 2 hot topic referendums , I think turnout would be quite low.

16
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My only wish for this election is to see NZ First and the Greens lose and never return.

And hopefully in the future a true Green party will emerge focused solely on the environment rather than social justice.

Yes the PM was coy too, on the other hand, about having to have the Greens in coalition. In fact the PM completely evaded the question of likely tax implications resulting there from. No coincidence then that immediately the Greens shrill out that their wealth tax is a bottom line and they won’t join a government without it being implemented. The PM & the Finance Minister need to come out now and reassure the electorate unequivocally that the assurances by the latter that the tax policy he announced as being set for the next government term at least, will not be compromised by any coalition niceties.

If Labour were forced into a coalition with the Greens I hope they agree to an amount of Green policy that is proportionate to the percentage of votes they got, ie 6%.

However I'm not too concerned as Greens voted against the Kermadec ocean sanctuary which proves they'll be a pushover in coalition negotiations anyway.

delboy,

I voted green in the last 2 elections based on their environmental credentials, but not this time. It seems clear that the left-wing of the party has captured its policy making. Yes, I believe that NZ needs some form of tax on capital, but I could not go along with their wealth tax and their proposed income tax hikes. I could have supported an inheritance tax.
I too would like to see a new truly Green party emerge.

You cannot have a sustainable environment under our current consumptive economic model. Maybe look at "the environment party" for yourself, they seem to handle the pro environment pro right wing economics dichotomy somehow.

The painting (?) does not look like David Seymour at all .

looks a bit like Russel Norman

Just needs more ginger.

Organically certified ginger!

I agree ACT is in the best position they've been in years. Maybe, and only just maybe, they could be the party to keep Labour honest. These days it's never a smart idea to call an election upfront, but I believe the current trend is starting to favour National. Judith is running a colorful and straight-shooting campaign. Superior, I believe to Labour's. Who still have the benefit of incumbency. If the Greens are out, it's anyone's game.

Doubtful on both counts. Labour is a shoe-in for sole Governing party, unless there is a major faux pas which is very unlikely. With the Greens out and NZF gone the unassigned votes will be assigned by vote percentage to those parties gaining over 5% - Labour still wins hands down. Better practice being "kind" and "inclusive". I'll reserve the hugs for the dog - he deserves them more than any human I know

As I say wherever I can, and confirmed by the announcement Thursday, Labour want a hate speech law, which is just a woke blasphemy law in drag