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Saturday, 4 February 2017

Elections 2017: Paging Dr Unpredictability

Be careful what you wish for...

Two months ago when I wrote about NZ politics being locked into stasis by the dark magic of John Key I noted that for anything to change a "shift" was needed, and boy did we get one.

In the two months or so since that post two major things have happened which have flipped the locked in Dynamic of John key and National for a fourth term on its head and opened the floodgates to what could be a decades worth of pent up political change.

The first, and most obvious, was the resignation of John Key as PM. Keys immense mana and popularity as PM was the bedrock on which a fourth term National government was based, and all and sundry knew it.

Andrew Little would have been annihilated on the hustings had he faced Key and, which in part, was what contributed to the psychological block that seemed to impede his development as Labour Party leader.

Of course opposition inside his own party and his general low key personality seemed to contribute but he must have worried about going head to head in a leaders debate against Key.

Its not hard to imagine Little lying awake at night, on sweat stained sheets, tossing and turning, crying out phrases like "Labour will build 10,000 new homes" in the voice of a drowning man while helplessly watching the ship sail away.

So with Key gone, Little has taken the glasses off (in a move which has all the symbolism of Clark Kent taking off his) and suddenly seems to be more "resourceful and dynamic" when he appears in the media but with the caveat that if Key (or Lex Luthor) were to suddenly reappear he would put them straight back on.

But lets not bash Andrew Little too much because this is the moment he has been waiting for as while he was never going to able to beat Key he now has a fighting chance against the cadaverous looking Bill English (as we have previously noted if Key was the Necromancer King of NZ politics keeping the zombies of National animated through his dark magic then Bill English was the shuffling husk of the man he once was, stripped of all life and doing the evil bidding of his dark master with no thoughts of his own) and Paula "has the same facial expression as a Labrador which just got promoted to deputy PM" Bennett.

Against these two and a Keyless National Little and Labour have a fighting chance.

The second factor which has now left the political log flume open for business is the introduction of Gareth Morgan as a contender for the middle NZ vote and its subsequent effect on Winston Peters and NZ First.

To be sure Winston still is the popular choice but Morgans attack on him at Ratana has set the stage for a struggle the likes of which Winston has never really faced: A head to head brawl with another contender for the middle voter without any of the niceties that would usually accompany such a situation due to the need to consider possible coalition partners.

Nope, Morgan wants it all and to do that he must eliminate Peters in the same manner as the adage about the first step in any revolution is to get rid of all competing revolutionaries. As I noted in a recent post there is not room enough for both of them in that space so Morgan has nothing to loose by going hard.

And these two factors have changed the dynamics of the coming 2017 election as a dead, dull and dry election with the inevitable outcome of Key and National for another three years.

All that is gone now, blown away, like a planet in the path of the death stars destructo beam.

What we have left are the glittering fragments of a political million possibilities and permutations raining down out of the sky like pennies from heaven.

The most obvious of these is the fact that National is no longer a shoe in for Government, that ship sailed the moment Key handed in his resignation as PM.

But that is just the first of many.

Another is that in the wake of Keys leaving the top job a whole lot of other National Party MPs as well as others in Labour and the Greens (and NZ First), also decided to take a hint and leave politics. Some are list MPs and their passing wont be felt so much but many are electorate MPS and that leaves a lot of electorate seats up for grabs.

To be fair some of those seats (like Nationals in Canterbury or Mt Roskill for Labour) are safe seats and can probably survive loosing one particular personality without going over to the other side.

On the other hand there are seats out there that are possibly not going to survive the passing of one particular personality or another (like Hutt South where Trevor Mallard has been MP but who will not stand in 2017) and that means that a fresh face in one parties color or another is not a guaranteed measure of electoral success.

Then there those seats which are weakly held by one party, such as Greg O'connor targeting Peter Dunne's seat in Ohariu Belmont on behalf of Labour (something which I suggested Labour should do last year when I first started blogging at KP).

Seats like this and possibly Epsom in Auckland are prime targets for any party wishing to chip away at the soft edges of National or in Epsom's case, National deciding not to stand aside and let ACT win it and taking it for itself if things look desperate (which they may start to do soon if National start slipping in the polls).

In addition there is the fun factor of a brand new, first time political party (the Opportunities Party) lead by Gareth Morgan doing a kiwi version of Donald Trump by threatening to upset the cosy relationship of Establishment politicians (and this includes the Greens, Labour and NZ First as well as National) and potentially end up with the balance of power come September 24.

Also, if they can get it together, Mana and Maori are making a big play for the Maori seats currently held by Labour (which if they did would make them a major force in any split government).

Such a situation would be an all bets are off, all hands on deck and highly unpredictable situation for the rather dull dynamic that NZ politics had become. The last time such dice were rolled was in 1996 with Winston Peters, and look where that got us.

But wait there is more

How about the potentially toxic situation of the Greens and Labour splitting votes by campaigning in the same electorate or Bill English recently downplaying the prospect of being in government with NZ First or the "crazy but in this environment anything goes" idea that The Greens will do a backdoor deal with National if Labour is not able to give over some power in the event of a Greens/Labour win.

Then there is the potential for scandal hitting the current government and torpedoing the National garbage scow in deep water without any life jackets.

Bill English managed to keep his chin up and avoid any major scars with the Peter Theil "lets give NZ citizenship to the ultra rich" two tier immigration system sandal but September 23 is eight months away and that is plenty of time for the Housing Hernia to go, another scandal with health or tourism or dairy or something completely out of left field to swoop in and wreck any carefully laid plans.

So what we have now is a very fluid, very unpredictable situation where the two crucial factors which were ensuring the political stasis of this day and age are gone and all sorts of permutations have started to blossom in their wake.

In may ways this is NZ's Brexit or Trump moment. The die is not cast and with such obvious restrictions removed the political will may manifest itself in unexpected colors and shapes. The frustrations that have boiled away under the surface under a scummy layer of government denials, ignorance and inaction for the last nine years are going to surface on September 23 if not sooner, that much we know.

What we don't know yet is what form (or forms) this energy will take but if results in the US, England and elsewhere are to be considered then anything can and may happen.

We might get a Greens/National Coalition government, or Labour governing alone (probably not but such  imagination is free and harmless), we could see some sort of grand cabal with TOP holding away and not giving any side permanent support but using its position to swing things and do deals.

Maori and Mana might be able to bury the bad vibes given the sweet pickings on offer and kick off a Maori political renaissance (something that is long overdue).

We could even get a fourth term National thanks to Gareth Morgan, Winston Peters and anyone else.

At this point anything could happen as the sparks struck from Keys leaving and Morgan's entrance have ignited a fire and not some casual suburban BBQ or blaze but a potential firestorm.

NOTE - If any readers have their own particular versions of what will happen I would love to know as no combination or permutation is too far out in such circumstances.


  1. "Versions of what will happen"
    You will see a NAT Government and a fight with Winston Peters in which Bill conmes of badly.
    Mad mouth Morgan is not interesting to the centre. He represents taxation of anything which moves and which does not move and the Co-Governance which most New Zealand despises. Beteween Mad mouth and Mana Home Maori the voters will be scared back to NAT like they were in 2014.

  2. Ah summoning the ghost of Jim Bolger and the spirit of 96, Good option. I had actually forgotten the potential for what would happen if Winston does support the Nats.

    Just curious what you think Morgan will poll come election day (all things pending of course).