National and the Greens, 2002 in reverse

by Jake Quinn

In 2002 voters abandoned National and flocked to the centre parties United Future and New Zealand First. They did so because Labour looked to be able to govern alone, just as National does after this month’s election.

Most New Zealanders like MMP, they like that the grand old parties have someone keeping them in check. Many still remember the 1980’s, which saw governments of both flavour carry out platforms of economic and social reform that they did not campaign on, that they did not have real mandates for.

This election New Zealanders will in all likelihood elect a National government for a second term. The question is do they want that government to have unbridled power? And if not, which party in particular do they want to curb that power?

The Greens are currently benefiting from Labour’s lower than usual polling. As evidenced by the polls, left wing voters turned off by Goff’s Labour (perhaps 5% of Labour’s base), have switched their votes to the other mainstream left wing party.

But much more interesting are the soft yet strategic National voters. The types that abandoned Labour for National over the last two elections, who are thinking seriously about breaking the habit of a lifetime and actually voting Green this year.

Mr Key is a very popular Prime Minister. He is being damaged though, evidenced by his topping of recent polls of most likely to bend the truth. Aspects of Labour’s negative campaign against him, exploiting his now numerous ‘tranz rail eyes’ moments, are starting to filter through.

Soft National supporters, turned off by Labour but suspicious of National with a blank check, are looking at their options to ensure Mr Key is kept honest.

Act in its current form is simply unhinged. United Future has proven itself to be irrelevant and toothless. The Maori Party is fractured and compromised. The Mana Party is simply not an option for swinging or strategic centrist voters.

The previously popular centre option, New Zealand First, is increasingly irrelevant and may not get in. And in any case they’ve ruled out working with National, even in a confidence and supply arrangement.

The Greens however are on the up. National talks a big game on the environment. Voters will be thinking about what a National government forced to turn to the Greens on confidence and supply would look like, what it would mean for their country.

And they’re thinking about the previously unthinkable.