Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: Sideshows and polls

TV One's first poll for the year will have reduced the fear levels for National after a terrible start to their second term. Photo / Greg Bowker
TV One's first poll for the year will have reduced the fear levels for National after a terrible start to their second term. Photo / Greg Bowker

Having nothing to fear but fear itself is particularly true in modern day politics, where opinion polls and focus group results have more influence than reality. TV One's first poll for the year will have reduced the fear levels for National after a terrible start to their second term. A good poll will not make all the problems go away but it will allow calmer heads to prevail and lessen the distraction of worrying about job security.

John Armstrong and Tracy Watkins both outline the considerable negatives that the Government is dealing with at the moment see: Body blows have National reeling and National digs through nuclear fallout. Armstrong says that National is looking like 'tired third-term Government' and that it is having the agenda set for it by others. Watkins views Collins' defamation action as evidence that National still feels 'bullet proof'. She says that it is inevitable that while National will accumulate more such baggage while in power, Labour will shed theirs, and that a 'crossover' point may come: 'That point may not have been reached yet - but it has a way of sneaking up on governments as they become increasingly pre-occupied by side shows.

And at the moment, National is the side show'.

It's unlikely that anyone in the Government believes that it can endure another three months like the last without significant impact on popularity. As well as being a distraction to the Government's agenda and message, it is a huge boost to Opposition morale, as Matt McCarten writes see: ACC, media mess puts left on right track at last.

But who is benefiting most? Certainly Labour is showing no significant movement in the polls and Brian Edwards thinks Shearer's strategy of travelling the heartland making speeches while Mallard, Little and Robertson do the heavy hitting in parliament is 'misguided'. Edwards says that 'Out of sight really can mean out of mind'. The title of his blogpost asks, Is New Zealand ready for its first gay Prime Minister? and Edwards answers by picking Grant Robertson as the most likely successor should Shearer fail to improve Labour's poll ratings.

Tim Watkin (Poll kick in the pants for Labour) wonders if Labour can't make hay now, when can they? He says Labour's problem is that 'even a damaged National Party still looks more attractive to most voters than Labour'.

Poll results aside, the ACC scandal rumbles on with even commentators on the right urging Key for a broader inquiry. Fran O'Sullivan continues to be a must-read commentator on the issue see her latest opinion piece: ACC inquiry only choice for PM of integrity. On TVNZs Q+A, O'Sullivan also challenged Key's assertion that Bronwyn Pullar's ten year campaign proves there was no undue influence: 'I want to challenge the notion that the prime minister put there that, you know, there's been no undue influence because this things gone on for 10 years and hasnt been settled. Well, actually, it may have gone on for 10 years because of undue influence. It seems a very long time for somebody to be on an ACC benefit whos already had a large pay-out from an insurance company as well' see: TVNZ: Q+A: Transcript of panel discussion of John Key's interview.

Deborah Coddington is far from satisfied that all the important questions have been answered see: Too much doesn't add up in this ACC security story and Michelle Boag herself points to the damaging leaks coming from inside the National Party see RNZ's Boag hints at leaks from within National.

There is very little support for public funding of Collins' defamation action (see: Michael Cumming's Manawatu Standard Editorial - Collins' legal threat ill-considered), particularly as she is the plaintiff a crucial difference according to David Farrar see: Who pays?. See also Adam Bennett's Big bucks at stake if Cabinet votes to fund Collins' lawsuit.

Within the blogosphere, the focus has turned to National's supposed factions and future leadership contenders see for example, Chris Ford's The War of the National Party Succession begins, Robert Winter's National and its Factions, and the Standard's Nat Civil War: Key backs Boag over Collins. The Standard also has an interesting blogpost reviewing the scandal: Confused? A guide to the letters & leaks in the Nats' Civil War.

In the whole ACC controversy, the central protagonist, Bronwyn Pullar, has remained fairly invisible, as she has mostly refused to comment. But Cameron Slater has blogged some details of various emails he's received from Pullar in the past see, for example, Want privacy? Be private and Standing over Vodafone.

It could be argued that the focus on scandal is to the detriment of real policy issues, but as John Gibb shows in today's ODT, the saga has helped raise issues around whether some members of the country's elite receive 'preferential treatment' by government agencies. His article, ACC VIPs get 'preferential treatment' examines the existence within ACC of a separate claims service for 'VIP' clients. And finally, on a more humourous level, Steve Braunias has some fun with The Secret Diary of Judith Collins, although he clearly thinks fun is in short supply in the minister's office.

As John Key foreshadows a 'zero budget' with no new spending, Bernard Hickey gets angry accusing the Government of borrowing in order to fund their tax cuts. He says 'It is an act of economic treason and generational selfishness' see: Numbers reveal National disgrace. Greens co-leader Russel Norman shares this view (see: Tax cuts blamed for 'zero' Budget admission) while David Farrar says the figures are misleading as the drop in tax revenue includes Labour's 200 cuts see: Repeating Labour's lines.

The silliness over Finland last week, has two writers suggesting that New Zealanders place too much emphasis on international comparators. The Listener editorial details the recent history of politicians faddishly pushing places like Ireland, Finland, Singapore and Israel (The grass is not greener in Finland), while Tapu Misa says we should look closer to home for excellence (Search for role model insult to NZ's global leadership).

Finally, it's worth checking out Liam Dann's examination of the status of the Ports of Auckland dispute (Campbell's exit big blow for ports board), and two articles analysing rising electricity prices John Hartevelt's Electricity prices tipped to rise steeply and Charles Anderson's More heat in power struggle as prices go up.

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Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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