Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: PM keeping his job a surer bet than the Cup

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In three months the World Cup will be over and all focus will be on the other competition this year - the general election.

A mate of mine was confidently predicting to me that if the All Blacks lost, Prime Minister John Key was toast. I've heard this sort of crystal ball gazing in every election.

Labour will need a lot more than an All Black loss to dent Key's chances of re-election.

They'd need our rugby team knocked out in the first round; followed by mayhem on a scale of this week's English riots; unemployment to soar past 10 per cent; and interest rates to go through the roof.

Even then I suspect none of it would stick to Key.

So before the World Cup drowns out politics, I thought it might be interesting to analyse the chances of each of the political teams.

National: The only question is whether they can rule alone or will need a coalition partner.

Anything less than 46 per cent of the vote will be seen as a defeat for Key. If he gets more than 50 per cent he's the new Keith Holyoake and will remain Prime Minister for as long as he likes.

Labour: Phil Goff's people are spinning that they could get 38 per cent.

Even if they got to 35 per cent he deserves another shot. Labour's problem is that voters have already made up their minds about the next election. The danger is that Labour's vote could collapse to fewer than 30 per cent, which would mean they'd be out of power for at least a couple of terms.

Act: The boast from Don Brash that he'd lead the party out of oblivion hasn't happened.

Insiders say the party is in a mess. But John Banks will win Epsom courtesy of the National Party and should bring in enough MPs to bolster Key.

United Future: Peter Dunne should romp home in his Ohariu-Belmont seat. I'm not sure he will pull any other MPs with him but he's National's man.

Maori Party: This is National's only vulnerability. Tai Tonga has definitely gone.

Presumably Tariana Turia will win again, but both Pita Sharples and Te Ururoa Flavell were vulnerable in their seats even before Mana said they would compete against them.

Greens: Labour's only reliable ally. It's been touch and go electorally for most of their political life, but they now have a solid constituency.

They have a chance of reaching 10 per cent of the vote. No matter what, they'll get over the 5 per cent threshold. They are likely to remain on the opposition benches.

Mana: Hone Harawira will keep his seat. This means that any list vote Mana wins greater than 1.5 per cent converts into list MPs.

If Willy Jackson or Annette Sykes agree to run then the Maori seats become a genuine three-way contest where anything could happen.

NZ First: No one really knows whether Winston Peters can pull off the impossible of getting over the 5 per cent threshold to get back into Parliament.

Because Key ruled Peters out of any coalition, most of his conservative constituency won't vote for him. I suspect any votes he gets will come at the expense of Labour.

It's hard to get any other result but a victory for Key.

It's a bit like the World Cup where the All Blacks are so dominant that everyone just assumes they will win.

Even if the Greens, Mana and NZ First all pick up seats you'd have to be an optimist to think we will have a new prime minster in November.

I guess the left can get some solace in that the All Blacks have been favourites before and lost. But political success doesn't come in a 90-minute game. Politics is a three-year contest and despite hype closer to election day, past results have been fairly predictable three months before.

So even though my optimistic soothsayer made a wager that the All Blacks would lose the World Cup, even he wouldn't risk any money that National would lose the general election.

- Herald on Sunday

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