Women appear to be increasingly turned off John Key, but at least they notice him. In contrast, David Shearer seems to be part of the wallpaper for many voters. That's according to a Fairfax/Ipsos political poll which Tracy Watkins and Kate Chapman report on in 'Polarising' PM losing gloss: 'Women were quickest to fall out of love with Key - also worrying for National, which has capitalised on his appeal to females as a softer face for a party traditionally seen as flinty. Women were also more likely to feel anxious about their own prospects, and unhappy about the country's direction'. The crucial issues were identified as 'core services like education and health, asset sales, the economy, Prime Minister John Key's leadership and a growing sense of "us and them"' - see: Key battle lines drawn in early political poll.
This presents quite a dilemma for National heading into the next election. The party relied heavily on Key's personality in the 2008 and 2011 election campaigns and will need it more than ever in 2014. Being more aggressive and pro-active in pushing through policies will improve their image amongst those looking for strong leadership but will probably worsen the gender gap.
It's important to remember that National's record levels of support in 2011 were actually a result of non-National voters staying home rather than any real increase in the number of National voters. If the negatives become enough to drive those 2011 abstainers back to the polls then it will spell real trouble for the Government, irrespective of how the opposition is perceived.
That's the conclusion Vernon Small reaches from the poll: 'He was Labour's accidental leader and now David Shearer seems to be on a glide path that could see him anointed the accidental prime minister' - see: New anti-Key trend Shearer's best friend.
The poll isn't comforting reading for Shearer by any means: 'Labour voters thought the same: "Untried, nice but unsure, invisible, maybe more honest, and don't know anything about him", were the first words that sprang to mind for the first five we surveyed' - see: David Shearer has battle to gain some colour.
They are, apparently, working on it with the help of Ian Fraser - see: Anna Cross' Shearer undergoing media training.
The problem for Labour is that, even if the negatives keep piling up against the Government, the Greens present an attractive and effective option, especially if voters have a hard job identifying real differences between Labour and National. One business leader is reported to have said of Finance spokesperson David Parker, 'if you closed your eyes and just listened to Parker speaking - it could just as easily have been someone from National' - see: Fran O'Sullivan's Labour mouse's roar has business listening. This is a standard rightwing trick that the party will not fall for - 'a pernicious process - a political stick-and-carrot designed to channel Labour in desired directions, and capon it' according to Robert Winter - see: O'Sullivan on Parker: nudging Labour owards the centre (http://bit.ly/OwjF39). But Greg Presland is not so sure, and is particularly upset at Parker's statement that Labour's approach to mining was not that different to National's: 'No matter how you analyze or think about this issue the choice of words was as bad as you can get. To say that Labour is close to National is a real turn off for activists and suggests to voters that there is no reason to change. The Greens must be grinning from ear to ear' - see: What was David Parker thinking?.
Louisa Wall's bill continues to generate much comment and speculation. John Key has 'come out' to say he will most likely vote for the bill (see Gay marriage gets PM's full support vote) - probably ensuring its success if Patrick Gower's assessment of sheep-like behaviour from National MPs is correct. It could be an attempt to head off David Shearer making political gains in the way that John Hartevelt suggests in The chaos of the conscience.
Scott Yorke takes an empirical look at some of the more extreme predictions of those opposed and concludes that that it doesn't appear to be a gateway to people wanting to marry their goats - see: Marriage Equality: Do We Dare Take The Risk?.
Phil Twyford is seen as being one of the most left in Labour's caucus but is being very cautious about the bill - to the annoyance of many according to Cathy Odgers - see: Twyford In For A Gay Old Kicking.
Rob Hosking from the NBR picks up on the idea that the legislation may ulitimately benefit National the most - see: Lesbian Labour MP hands National a post-2014 support partner. That may be true but would be based on deception writes Cameron Slater - see: Colin Craig needs to come out of the closet. Slater challenges Craig to make the repeal of marriage equality and the anti-smacking law a bottom line policy for future coalition negotiations. Craig continues to lead the charge against the legislation saying it would be bad for kids - see: 'Gay parents not good role models'.
In the excitement over the drawing of the marriage equality bill David Clark's bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 got overshadowed. Clark was on TVNZ's Q&A where he was criticised for not knowing how much the increase would cost employers - see: TVNZ: Q+A: Transcript of David Clark interview. The information isn't that hard to find - the Department of Labour does a report every year and lately has included the $15 rate as an option. According to them it could increase annual economy-wide wages by $477 million (although that is based on the $13 an hour minimum when the report was done) - see: Regulatory Impact Statement (PDF file). Although it says such a rise could cost the government itself $55 million the taxpayers would probably save more through reductions in transfer payments to low income workers.
Meanwhile, evidence of a growing rich-poor gap continues to mount - see: Simon Collins' Income gap between the races gets wider and Tim Hunter's Growing pay gap between CEOs, staff. This was one of the issues of increasing importance for voters identified by the Fairfax/Ipsos political poll.
The asset sales policy 'fits National's long held belief that boosting an individual's ownership of capital inevitably induces a slow, but perceptible transfer of political allegiance from left to right' writes John Armstrong (see: Sales a political ploy in economic clothing), but he warns that similar hopes went unfulfilled with the sale of Contact Energy shares in the 90s.
The taxpayer funded incentives to hold on to the sales are simply unfair writes Kerre Woodham in Only the wealthy benefit from this one, but Brian Gaynor sees them as vital to a successful outcome - see: Incentives key to luring lots of asset buyers.
John Banks is being denied by Police the right to clear his name in the same way 'Teapot Tapes' cameraman Bradley Ambrose was says Graeme Edgeler - see: Presuming innocence.
Veteran activist and Mana Vice-president John Minto is willing to take direct action to rid poor communities of pokie machines - see: Minto: Smash poker machines.
Our national orchestra deserves to be saved writes Dave Armstrong, but the original aim of making it affordable and accessible to all is slipping away - see: Let our NZSO keep making high-quality music.
Is political corruption increasing in the world's least corrupt country? Andrea Vance catalogs recent political scandals in New Zealand and warns that our reputation for corruption-free politics could be akin to our well-publicised 'clean and green' image i.e. overstated and under threat - see: Grubby scandals threaten NZ's reputation.
Finally, Steve Braunius looks at the down to earth wisdom of the member for North Shore - see the Secret diary of Maggie Barry.By Bryce Edwards Email Bryce