The conventional wisdom is that Phil Goff can not become Prime Minister. The market has his odds at 5.7% in iPredict. Labour is currently polling 6% lower than what they got in 2008 and National is currently polling 9% higher than what they got in 2008.

So you might think that there is no chance New Zealanders will wake up on Sunday 27 November and find out that Phil Goff, preferred by just 6% of New Zealanders, has deposed the country's most popular ever Prime Minister from the top job.

But the events of this week have shown, that this could happen.

Even if Labour gets a worse result than they did in 2008, and even if National gets a better result than they did in 2008, the country may end up with Prime Minister Phil Goff.

Advertisement

How could this happen you might ask? Well take this not impossible scenario. National gets 48%, slightly more they got in the landslide of 1990. This is 3% better than in 2008.

Labour drops from 34% to 32%. The Greens get 9%. National is still 7% ahead of Labour/Greens.

However what if ACT only gets 1 MP being John Banks in Epsom, Charles Chauvel takes Ohariu off United Future's Peter Dunne and Winston Peters makes 5%. Then the coalitions are 49% centre-right to 46% centre-left.

And then add to that that the Maori and Mana parties win five of the Maori seats, but their party vote only earns them 2 seats (say they both get 1%).

National has 60 seats, 20 more than Labour on 40 seats. But then Goff strikes deals with the Greens and Winston Peters. That gives then 57 seats. The Mana Party makes it 58 seats.

The Maori Party then hold the balance of power. They know that if they put National back in, the Mana Party will spend three years attacking them. Labour promises to introduce Maori seats into all 67 territorial authorities and the deal is done.

You then have Phil Goff with 62 seats to 61 seats for National/ACT.

The scenario is not impossible. It illustrates the danger National is in if it does not have any viable partners. More on that later.

Advertisement

The interesting thing with this scenario is that National/ACT would have secured more votes than the Goff Government. National/ACT could get 49% and Labour/Green/NZ First/Maori/Mana 48% in total. But the over-hang for the Maori seats would deliver power to the parties that got fewer votes. Any protests would be futile, as the MMP referendum would have just concluded, probably confirming MMP.

So even 48% party vote may not be enough for National, unless it has coalition partners who are more than one MP parties. Hence how ACT does, is of interest to National. And the events of this week will have heightened concerns over how ACT will do.

The idea of having Don Brash question the wisdom of our current drug laws, which cause the Police to spend $100 million a year enforcing, was not at all a bad one in my opinion. It was entirely consistent with ACT's founding liberal principles, and also made the point for the law & order brigade that if the Police were spending less time busting 19 year olds for smoking dope, they'd be arresting far more rapists, muggers and thugs.

However an idea is only as good as its implementation and it soon transpired that the contents of Dr Brash's speech were not shared in advance with Epsom candidate John Banks, parliamentary leader John Boscawen or party president Chris Simmons. They all expressed doubt on the suggestion, and the story turned very negative for ACT, as they got lashed in editorials.

The television polls this Sunday may give some idea of if ACT support has been damaged by the controversy. If they have been, then it is possible that Phil Goff could be propelled to power due to the cannabis issue. Not massively likely, but plausibly possible.

This is even more ironic than readers may realise. While today's Phil Goff claims to be against decriminalising cannabis, the Young Labour Phil Goff in 1976 slated the drug laws as outdated and discredited. The older Phil Goff may be very grateful that Don Brash followed the advice of his younger self.

* David Farrar is a centre-right blogger and affiliated with the National Party. A disclosure statement on his political views can be found here.