It has been a stressful period for the Government. The Sky City Casino deal, the worsening economy and slower than expected Christchurch rebuild are just some of the gathering storm clouds for this National-led Government of Prime Minister John Key. Some of the more recent political polls have suggested that a change in Government would be likely. Despite the polls, if an election were called today, I think the outcome would be something along these lines:
- Labour 39 seats
- Greens 12 seats
- NZ First 8 seats
- National 59 seats
- United F. 1 seat
- Maori P. 1 seat
- Mana P. 1 seat
The numbers above assume the result is based on a 121 seat Parliament.
Essentially we would have a hung Parliament. It is generally too early in the new Parliamentary term for political parties to be contemplating elections. But growing levels of disquiet about Government policies, the increasing discontent about the economy, the lack of an apparent plan to move New Zealand forward and potential challenges to key policy planks in the Government’s policy platform mean it is certainly not impossible.
A.C.T. will be history. It will probably get swallowed up by National, despite the latter trying to throw it a lifeline. A.C.T. have just simply made too many mistakes to deserve to remain in Parliament. The long and at times often controversial career of John Banks will be irretrievably over.
Due to differences on the Treaty of Waitangi, asset sales, I seriously doubt that Hone Harawira would vote with a coalition that National assembles. Mr Harawira is likely to remain a one man band in Parliament because of the obnoxious nature of many of his supporters, his lack of ease with non-Maori and the fractious nature of Maori politics.
The Maori Party would be likely to continue its decline into obscurity. Tariana Turia and Peter Sharples are both in their early 70’s, and the Party that was born out of disgruntlement with Labour over the foreshore and seabed issue only has about 600 people on its register of members.
I expect that despite many people wishing for his retirement, National will support the one man band of Peter Dunne because thus far in him they have found a useful ally who is not fussy. United Future’s decline however is well documented, and at the annual convention of the United Future Party in 2012, media almost out numbered delegates. Mr Dunne’s tendency to deal with relatively fringe issues such as party herbals and an at times apparent lack of charisma, have also cost United Future. How long he remains in Parliament after the next election remains to be seen.
Despite the Richard Prosser incident, I imagine that New Zealand First would hold its ground on the level of distrust about Prime Minister John Key’s National-led Government. Its role in trying to prevent asset sales and raising concerns about relaxing investment rules for non-New Zealanders makes it a major asset for the centre-left, and it has made credible progress trying to become more inclusive of other cultures. It has up and coming Members of Parliament like Tracey Martin, who is number two on their list and is well clued to the issues confronting the education sector.
The Greens will probably lose a couple of seats with a minor revival in Labours fortunes. But the loss of those seats will not be in any way fatal, as concerns about the environment, loss of democratic rights, asset sales and the economy all point to them having a significant role in future Parliaments. Aside from the able Metiria Turei and Russel Norman, it also has rising stars like Julie Anne Genter, who in a past profession was a transport planner, and Gareth Hughes.
Labours minor revival will be not so much a reflection of increased confidence in it, but a symptom of growing dissatisfaction with the performance of Prime Minister John Key’s government. A couple of days ago, it announced a significant reshuffle of its caucus line up. If Labour is going to win the next election, David Shearer is going to have to become a lot more potent. Young guns like Jacinda Ardern are showing promise, but on their own will not be enough. Are Labours leadership spats really over, or is the beast of revolt just a slumbering dog?
As for National, the performance of Hekia Parata in the last few months as Minister of Education has been a cause for considerable alarm. Lurching effortlessly from one problem to the next, her time as a Minister of the Crown seems likely to be frowned upon by history. Some of her Ministerial colleagues are no better. Paula Bennett has been widely derided for her perceived arrogance and lack of accountability over the Minister of Social Development portfolio, whilst Prime Minister John Key appears to treat Parliament with contempt over the Sky City affair. If National win the next election, it won’t be because they were truly deserving, but because one or more of the Opposition parties did not get their act together.