With just under seven weeks to go to Election Day, what was promising to be a walkover for Jacinda Ardern's Labour-based coalition Government is becoming even more of a certainty following a recent 1News Colmar Brunton poll with Labour sitting on 53 per cent or the vote and National languishing at 32 per cent. Of course this far out the polls will change weekly, possibly a lot.
National is in a pickle with a long list of members deciding to leave politics or being booted out in the past couple of weeks for various peccadilloes. Judith Collins's more right-leaning combative style of politics is probably winning back some older right-wing voters who were beginning to look to New Zealand First for strong immigration policies, but will this be enough to give National the necessary rise in the polls to the late-40s needed for them to lead a National-Act coalition government?
With NZ First floundering at about 2 per cent in the polls as of writing, they are on the way into history unless the Champion Of The Provinces and holder of the purse strings Shane Jones manages to wrest Northland away from incumbent Matt King - an unlikely event. Jones has never won an electorate seat but I suppose there is always a first time. To be fair to Winston Peters and his party, they have not bled useless ministers as Labour has in the past three years.
Despite Jones's superior and somewhat condescending manner, he seems to cope quite well with his ministries: Infrastructure, the Provincial Growth Fund and Forestry. Ron Mark is happy at home in the Defence and Veterans portfolios and I have come to respect Tracey Martin for her competence in dealing with her three portfolios: Internal Affairs, Children and Social Development. Peters is a natural as Minister of Foreign Affairs, comfortable hobnobbing with the diplomatic wine and cheese set around the globe.
The Greens are at 5 per cent so I predict they could scrape back into in Parliament, albeit in reduced numbers. Again all their ministers have shown competence compared to Labour who have only about four ministers apart from Robertson and Ardern, who can be relied upon to carry the load. Shaw has a safe pair of hands with Climate Change, his passion, Eugenie Sage copes well with Conservation and seems more of a pragmatic realist than her more radical and activist voting base would like. Julie Anne Genter loves cycling and cycle lanes and seems to think everyone else does but is fairly harmless as an Associate Transport Minister although the activist in her is always just under the surface, not a good thing in the debating chamber.
National is a bit like the Warriors at the moment, in a constant state of rebuilding. A cynic would say they have ditched this election already, with their eyes on 2023 as a game-changer. If they do manage to put a deal together after Election Day the current rate of social spending on hospitals, health, social housing and Māori employment will evaporate quickly.
The elderly and the poor can probably kiss goodbye to the winter energy payment in its present form, as well as cheaper GP visits. National needs a lot of money for infrastructure plans.
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Ardern is short of talent on her front bench, loading up the few competent ministers with portfolios others have lost. She can only do this for so long before she starts losing what talent she has. Robertson, Woods, Faafoi, Hipkins and Parker are five who lead the charge in competence, the reward for being good at your job in Cabinet is to be given more work. They must look at the mutts surrounding them and shake their heads in amazement.
Then we have Act and David Seymour, the lone voice at the end of the room. With recent polls showing Act sitting around 5 per cent, with an electorate MP Seymour could have some company in the near future. Seymour has come along in recent times. He is a brave debater and not afraid to take the fight to the Government on any issue. He spends a lot of time incurring the wrath of Speaker Mallard, a bit like a cheeky school-boy, but he gets noticed.
So, what will happen? Well, if NZ First survives, and that's a huge "if" just now, we will not have a government for at least six weeks post-election while Winston tries to get the best deal for Winston, not so much for New Zealand. Remember last time, folks?
A National/Act/NZ First coalition would bring in an interesting time for New Zealand, and probably not in a good way for many.
This far out, I predict a Labour-Green coalition but I have been very wrong before and a lot can happen before we vote. Could Labour govern alone?