John Key has finally put the kettle on for Act's John Banks in Epsom, in an attempt to give National a coalition insurance policy - although not much of one given Act's current polling. The minnow party, in turn, will be hoping that this will reassure voters who were scared off by the prospect of their vote being wasted should Banks have failed. Given that these votes would have almost certainly gone to National, it's hard to see much electoral advantage for National - at most, a seat or two in a really tight race. And so the political right are circling the wagons around Epsom. John Banks is talking up Winston Peters' chances in an attempt to terrify National voters into voting for him to save Key's government and David Farrar has a Herald column today clearly aimed at invoking National voters worst nightmares - see: What a Labour-led coalition might look like.
The big question is, of course, whether the National voters of Epsom will heed Key's directive and the Banks/Farrar scare tactics. If Act's polling remains low, many of them will wonder whether it's worth it. Matthew Hooton notes in today's NBR that National does not have the monopoly on tactical voting. As Hooton points out, around 30% of Epsom voters are Labour or Green, and if they back Goldsmith, it will take very few National voters to vote for Goldsmith to see Banks defeated. Expect, then, to see local Epsom candidates David Parker (Labour), David Hay (Greens) and Pat O'Dea (Mana) with a thermos desperately trying to locate Paul Goldsmith so they can offer him a cup of tea and their endorsement - see Isaac Davison's Goldsmith's invisible act all for the sake of Banks.
One of MMP's big advantages is the freedom to vote for parties and candidates we really support, rather than having to choose between 'the lesser of two evils'. In Epsom in 2011 it seems everyone except the dwindling number of Act supporters is being told to hold their nose when they vote on November 26.
National must be hoping that John Key's cup of tea with Don Brash will divert some media attention away from their asset sales policy, which is their Achilles heel in this campaign. There is no doubt the policy is unpopular across most of the political spectrum, and crucially with the swinging voters Labour needs to pull off National. If Labour is to make any headway, it will be on this issue.
National's addition of hospitals to the growing list of recipients of asset sales money smells a little of desperation - see Andrea Vance's Labour attacks Nats health promises. While they are accusing Labour of being fiscally irresponsible, the charge that National are spending the same money many times over is beginning to get traction.
That Key refuses to rule out further sales in future opens up another line of attack for Labour - see Duncan Garner's Key won't rule out more asset sales. Key is under pressure to deliver for the rightwing of the National Party who consider that they have been very patient over the last three years, but going too far will endanger his government. National will not want this to be the main issue in the final two weeks.
Todays' Herald Digipoll "Poll shock as Nats drop under 50%" is showing things either turning against National or playing into their hands, depending on which way you look at it. Winston Peters' rise and National dipping below 50% is clearly making National very nervous, but as long as those trends don't continue it may be a timely jolt to soft National supporters. Some voters who may want a National government but aren't keen on them having an absolute majority may be frightened into voting National anyway, if that's what it takes to save them from a Peters/Goff government. But other polls out in the last 24 hours, continue to put National miles ahead of Labour - see: TVNZ: Drop in support for National and Labour - poll and Roy Morgan's Latest poll shows Nats could govern alone.
Other must read items today include Patrick Gower's revelation that Treasury advised the Government 18 months ago that raising the minimum wage would not cost any jobs - see: Key's figures dodgy on minimum wage - blog. This, of course, undermines National's main argument for not raising the minimum wage and lends credence to claims that John Key has been less than straight with the electorate. Also check out economist/blogger Eric Crampton's disagreement with Gower: Minimum wage nonsense.
Other interesting or important items today include: Unity Aotearoa's blog post, Epsom debate: Banks attacks Brash, Andrea Vance's Who's taking the gloss off the campaign?, Jon Johansson's It's all about 2014, Chris Trotter's National may need to blend in a little Green?, Tim Watkin's Lucky Winston the winner, National Party winning largest share of media coverage - study, and two accounts of last night's Wellington Central electorate debate - Gordon Campbell's A political star in the making and Dom Post's Aro Valley meet the candidates evening: 7200 seconds of democracy. For a more frivolous example of political 'news', check out Stuff's Purr-litical attack: Cats that look like David Cunliffe. Finally, Toby Manhire deserves praise for his daily online Listener 'live' election blogging - here's yesterday's version: Thursday 10 November: Epsom in the spotlight.
Key endorses Banks
Adam Bennett (NZH): Political cups of tea shared
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Key and Banks to talk Epsom over tea
Vernon Small (Stuff): Key's cuppa is a mistake
Andrea Vance (Stuff): ACT may be back - but with what future?
Isaac Davison (NZH): Goldsmith's invisible act all for the sake of Banks
Unity Aotearoa: Epsom debate: Banks attacks Brash
Colin Williscroft (NBR): Latest poll shows Nats could govern alone
John Armstrong (NZH): Poll pushes electoral cat among the pigeons
Audrey Young (NZH): Poll shock as Nats' support falls under 50%
Audrey Young (NZH): National supporters prefer Act as partner
David Farrar (Stuff): The polls this week
Jon Johansson (TVNZ): It's all about 201
Ian Llewellyn (electionresults): Polls Begin To Catch Up With iPredict
Kiwipolitico: Poll dancing