If this election has been my medicine then I am now off my meds.
There are three weeks still to go before this election is “officially” over but for me it ended this morning when I saw daffodils in Hagley Park.
“Daffodils?” You ask (somewhat puzzled). “Yes, daffodils” I reply.
Daffodils: a quintessential symbol of spring, a whole gaggle of daffodils shooting forth from the grass along the river bank and under the trees. Daffodils: signalling the end of the cold damp winter and heralding the eventual return of warmer, balmy summer days.
See where this metaphor is going?
Spring is in the air, yes we have had a few showers now and then but there is a definite warming and I no longer find my cat hidden under my duvet, looking at me with indignant eyes that say “do you mind, your letting the heat out”*.
Of course spring does not mean summer just yet but it’s those little barometers of nature which know better than the weatherman which way things are going.
And it was in that unguarded moment when I saw those daffodils that its image struck straight through the crust of the conscious mind in into the deep depths of my subconscious, when I realised that even with three weeks to go this election was over.
It’s over, dear reader, not because the calendar says it’s so, not because the polls say it’s so (although they are looking rather daffodil-like at this time) and not because the politicians say it’s so but because the daffodils say it is so.
But before I announce the winner let us consider the losers first.
To say that David Seymour and ACT have been irrelevant this election is completely incorrect as David has been politically irrelevant since the day he got gifted his seat in the house and the party has been irrelevant since the mid-2000s.
Nothing he or the party does has any meaning or bearing on the political landscape of NZ and they know it.
I don’t even consider them when I look at poll results and apart from a few obligatory pieces I see in the media, written to give the illusion of “equal coverage”, there is nothing he can say or do that will prevent him and the party from being identified as a bunch of misguided zealots with the same dangerous and outdated ideas that got NZ into this mess in the first place.
Also with the numbers looking close there might not even be the safety of National standing aside in Epsom to get him back into parliament as ACT poll so far below the margin of error that its clear they exists only by the grace of National.
So ACT gets a giant L for “looser” stamped on its hand and we can consign them to the dustbin of history.
For a while the alliance of the Maori Party and Mana seemed like a good idea as its avoided splitting any potential votes and pooled resources for the coming campaign.
However Tuku Morgan’s plan to use Labour as whipping boy for all of the their ill fortune only worked somewhat even when Andrew Little was still leading Labour, as even then their polling still never climbed above 2%, but took a complete nose dive when Jacinda Ardern took over.
The Maori Party irrepably soiled its name when it hitched its waka to National for one season too many and even the recent comments by Marama Fox that they would be willing to work Labour are not going to help it get back all those Maori seats Labour holds.
If National is gone in government then so too will the Maori party be gone. They might retain their current seat or even pull back a seat or two from Labour (although I have yet to see anything which indicates that) but there will be no seat at the cabinet table for them in a Labour government after both the Party and the Maori King (at the urging of Tuku) decided to denounce Labour in no uncertain terms.
Gone by Monday the 25th of September.
There is not much left to say about the sad and sorry saga that has been the Green party in the last 12 months so I will simply summarize here by saying that James Shaw ran an unsuccessful internal coup on the party to seize control which tore the party apart and destroyed the Green brand as the only principled party in NZ politics.
Shaw now gets to be leader in all but name (as he is still calling himself “co-leader” but he is fooling nobody) but he is the leader of a party that had a 15% poll rating only two months ago and is now hovering around the 5% threshold like a soap bubble circling the drain.
Probably worst of all is that Shaw might survive this election but under his leadership the party is doomed to be seen as nothing more than a bunch of Champagne environmentalists playing at politics rather than a genuine political party.
Back to the compost heap.
Oh yes, NZ First faithful, even Winston is going to lose this election because despite being the potential “kingmaker” again this election it’s clear that his mojo aint what it used to be and the recent slip in the polls show the party also hovering only slightly higher than the Greens at the 5% threshold.
But what about Winston power to anoint the new PM I hear you cry?
So what? Winston gets to choose the king but he will never get to be the king and that’s what he wants. Also this election will be Winston’s last tilt at the windmill and in order to secure his legacy in NZ politics he has to avoid making the ruinous choices he made in 1996 and 2005 when he backed the wrong horse and saw him being cursed rather than heaped in hosannas.
This election Winston has to make the right choice and while he is not in the looser category like ACT, the GREENS or MAORI/MANA at best he gets to redeem himself rather than reap the rewards that this election could have brought.
It’s not his polling or his cruddy party members that put him in this bracket but the simple fact that when he goes NZ First goes also and that for a man on whose shoulders so much has rested he has twice made the wrong choice for New Zealand (ie the job of a MP) in order to benefit himself in the short term.
So this September, when Labour and National come calling, Winnie has only one choice but to support the winner (see who that is below) or be consigned to the same dustbin that Peter Dunne and United Future went into (slightly different to the dustbin that ACT is going into) as a malingering political mercenary who never lived up to the promise he had.
If he does not his legacy will be similar to many of his fellow MPs (think how people like John Banks and Gerry Brownlee are viewed) and that is not what he wants, deep down Winston wants to be loved.
And now we come to our runner up, drum roll please…
Sorry readers from Kiwiblog, I know a few of you over there really dig Bill & Co but it’s time to accept that has not been a good year for National or their political fortunes.
Ever since John Key left, National has been forced to get by on its own means without the gigantic crutch that Key’s popularity was for them and its shown.
Little that Bill and the B Team have done in the last 10 months has resonated with the electorate or helped stave off the ravenous monster that Jacindamania has been.
What’s worse is that had Andrew Little stayed leader of Labour it was almost a given that Bill would get to be PM and see National into a fourth term. What stings even more is that they (and Key) knew this and they did everything they could to keep Little in play rather than let Jacinda get to be leader in what I can only call “the Jacinda Ardern anti-coup plan”.
To give them their due they nearly pulled it off and possibly would have if for a few small “details” that they forgot to consider.
The first is that by being the current government in power they don’t get to harness any of the populist energy that is going around at this time (they lost that when Key jumped ship).
The second is despite Labour being the party that let the free-market beast that is neo-liberalism into NZ, National has been forever identified as the party that still supports its cruel tenants even while the its noxious after effects such as the housing hernia, failing education and health systems and dirty water sicken the nation further.
The third is that National is a third term government which has long since spent the mandate given to it in 2008 and was previously holding on only due to its claim to be a “steady pair of hands” when the opposition seemed about as capable of running the nation as the pissed inebriants of a hens night or stag party. With Jacinda and Labour on the rise that argument is swept away in the effervescing fervour that they are riding.
Even the usual election lolly scramble promises of money for this or money for that have only managed to slow the tide and for most people it’s either too little too late or an obvious election bribe with no reality behind it were National to get back into power.
Thus for Bill English he gets to be the man who led the party to electoral defeat twice and if this does not end his political career I don’t know what will.
If there is a saving grace for National it is that hopefully being out of government will allow many of the deadwood MPs that currently infect the party (such as Collins, Brownlee, Smith, Tolley, Bennet et al) to slither gracefully into the night and allow a new generation of younger, and less corrupted, MPs to take over and revitalise the party.
The origins of National come from 1935 and the failure of the Liberal and Reform parties (the forerunners of National), as the then government to manage the great depression and the nation (which also saw the election of the first Labour Government under Michael Joseph Savage) and it’s this fate which National either has to embrace, by reforming itself or face the same fate as those parties (National did not return to government until 1949).
The lesson here is obvious. National in opposition can take the time to tap into the mood of the nation, figure out a less toxic set of principles to guide their policy and rebuild the party brand after it was hollowed out by the skeezy antics of John Key and debased by the rest of its MPs in their never ending quest to hold power for its own sake rather than to serve the national interest.
I have never born any ill will towards the National party itself, only its MPs and brain trust and I remain a political pragmatist (rather than a tribalist) who votes where the best outcome for NZ (not myself) lies and who knows, if National can get rid of that lice ridden free-market security blanket that its forever clutching (while its sucks its political thumb) I might someday consider voting for it.
WINNER - LABOUR
So yes, Labour for the win, and I am not even a Labour supporter nor will I be voting for them this year BUT it’s impossible to deny the energy that Jacinda Ardern has generated as party leader and the effect that has had on party fortunes.
Fact: Labour still does not have a policy pot to piss in BUT Jacinda.
Fact: there are still deadwood MPs in the party which need to be ruthlessly pruned before the party can grow again BUT Jacinda!
Fact: Labour needs to live up the promise of change (ala the spirit of Norman Kirk and 1972) that is currently driving the mood of the electorate BUT Jacinda!!
Jacindamania might not be affecting everyone (as I write this a Nicky Wagner party van drives past my window) but after nine years of National the mood of the natives of NZ (ie that’s all Kiwis) is restive and you only have to look at the polling to see what’s coming.
Labour is not “trending up” when you look at the poll charts but shooting up like a bottle rocket. Sure there is a ceiling to that rapid climb but Labour is no longer cannibalizing vote share from the Greens but now it’s capturing it from NZ First and National (as per the latest polling numbers) which means that Labour has rebuilt its voter base and is now looking over the fence at Nationals (and NZ First’s) verdant pastures.
To be sure the insane popularity of Ardern and the party is being driven by the appetite for change that populism (and nine years of National) has created and thereby turned Labour from moribund political entity to dynamic avatar for political change and that if not willing (or able) to effect that change they will hit the post-election slump like all those other avatars which thought getting elected was all they had to do (Trump, Macron, Trudeau, May ect).
Even if the nightmare scenario occurs and National gets back in (either by itself or supported by Winston or the Greens) then it still wins in the same manner as Jeremy Corbyn did in the UK by retaining its avatar status while the Tory party (both UK and NZ) dissolves into a steaming miasma of low poll results, infighting and crisis mismanagement.
Then come the next election labour can swoop in and pick over the carcass of National (and sadly the nation) any time it wants because the mood in NZ after three more years of the Bill and Bennet show (reduced human right anyone?) will be just this side to the left of Smiths Dream.
Even if Labour 2017 only serves one term like Labour in 1972 (due to the death of Norman Kirk) there is still a lot of good things Labour can do in those three years (like Labour did between 1972 and 1975 to re-orientate NZ with the world, strengthen state housing and ACC).
And for a moment let’s just address the elephant in the room which is the popularity of Jacinda Ardern.
It’s not, as some have so bitterly described it, as “lipstick on a pig” or a temporary thing but like John Key (who acknowledged recently how popular she is) something which, in itself, might not supplement for bad policy (as Key’s did not for National) but it could carry the party through three terms as government which might be as far as the party is looking at this time.
Also Ardern’s popularity will not save her should Labour fail to follow through on what’s needed for NZ but that’s not on voters’ minds at this time.
Whats on their minds at this time is CHANGE, some change, any change. Something has to give and for that to happen all those hopes and dreams are being invested in Jacinda to make that change as the avatar for said change.
And that’s where the daffodils come in because after the long winter of discontent that has been the current National government, Jacinda (and by proxy Labour) are the daffodils of change poking through the cold soil and reaching up for the warm bright future above.
I am willing to admit that I do not have a time machine (yet) nor is what I write 100% guaranteed but at this time I am 95% certain that this is the outcome as instead of my usual rigorous analysis I am going on gut instinct and wild inspiration, which at this time is seems to be the right way to deal with the stultifying deadlock that the capricious nature of Winston Peters and FukYoo Politix has inflicted on this election.
In a situation where no choice is clear it is better to make one’s own fate and cut through the Gordian knot that this election has become.
Do you think its wishful thinking on my part?
Let’s see come September the 24th.
*-Now I just find it on top of the duvet, looking at me with eyes that say “one word: plastics”.