The election’s nearly a year away, but despite National’s tumultuous couple of months, they are just as ready as ever.
The Bill & Bennet Party
There was always going to be a drop in the polls after Key’s shocking resignation. The latest Roy Morgan poll shows a ~5% shift from National to Labour through the 11th of November to the 11th of December. Bill English replacing him the day after, with John Key’s announcement lay bang in the middle of that period.
This drop only matters if Labour holds onto it, which is extremely unlikely with Andrew Little at the helm. If they fail to capitalise on this, National will bounce right back up like they always do.
Bill English isn’t significantly different from Key. He’s been his deputy for the past 10 years. Key’s winning techniques will have rubbed off on him, and he would have contributed to their craft. Both now share the same brand of flexi-conservatism. A lot has changed since their 2002 defeat.
The Walking Dead
Kim Dotcom is already planning to bring back the carnival politics of the Internet Party next year. This alone will help National, hurting Labour, much like it did in 2014. When Internet-National conflicts fill the media, Labour misses out. In 2002, the Labour-Greens conflicts deprived National of media focus and political oxygen. Like Labour last election, National suffered one of their biggest defeats.
Since 2014, Dotcom hasn’t changed his anti-establishment rhetoric. It was that rhetoric that also motivated pro-establishment voters to support his opponent: the Nats. It’s clear that anti-establishment politics don’t work in MMP, or in New Zealand at all. (Gareth Morgan has little future either). The only parties that have ever successfully used what could be considered anti-establishment rhetoric are the Greens and NZ First, yet even they can hardly hold that label.
His actions in the last two years have only provided his opponents more ammunition to discredit him and damage his reputation even further. His vocal and irrational support for Donald Trump in the US election was strange. In a country that overwhelmingly supports Clinton over Donald, it is absurd for the founder of a left-wing political party to support a far-right populism. Dotcom has strengthened his anti-establishment position to the point that few lefties could support him now.
He was right when he said “The brand Kim Dotcom was poisoned … and I did not see that before the last couple of weeks” after New Zealand showed him the door last election. I’m not sure why he thinks that has changed.
The Mess Over There
National also has Labour by their side. In the aforementioned poll, Labour is back up to 28.5% (for now). That’s still worse than Bill English’s embarrassing 2002 election result, but a ~1% increase upon Labour’s last election result. Much like National, they are stable. Unfortunately for Labour, they are stable.
Andrew Little is still as ineffective as ever. He still fails to connect with New Zealanders. With no clear strategy, he simply desperately attempts to come out on top through the tiny opportunities that arise week after week, never with any cohesive results to show for it. After 2 years, Labour still has no real direction under Little.
His public persona is useless. He comes across as angry, just because he was asked a question. Maybe he’s frustrated- he should be, but it shows. Key and English always came across as relaxed and laid back, contrary to “Angry Andy’s” combative qualities. If he’s smart, he will run in the Mt Albert by-election, giving him a chance to change his public image and prove he is an effective campaigner and challenger to the government next election. Labour should be doing everything they can to change Little’s image. So far they haven’t.
For Bill English’s National Party, 2017 will be a walk in the park.