It's been a bad week for the government and good for the Greens. Is the luck of the parties turning?

But is it enough to change the campaign trajectory? That's the question around what's turned into a dire week for the National Party.

Labour, you've got to say, has had terrible luck this term. Every time there seemed to be some poll movement or National wobbled (BMWs, for example), a natural disaster, mine explosion or own-goal by one of its own MPs came to the government's rescue.

National, by contrast, has been incredibly lucky. Some have said the opposite, that National has been unlucky having to cuts its plans and reshape its policies to handle the expense of the earthquakes and risks of the seemingly unkillable global financial crisis. From a governance point of view, they're right. Politically, it's made for a cakewalk of a first term.

Prime Ministers revel in disaster - they're very hard to get wrong. You can't be blamed for nature, yet you get to look strong, caring and decisive all in one go.

Luck, however, is fickle and it has turned in the past week. But how far? And who to?

This week, National has conspired to struggle with the Rena spill. Complacency? Bad advice? A lack of preparedness? It's not clear yet, but the impression left is of a flat-footed government.

That comes on the back of the Radio Live show, which keeps bubbling along, and the increase in the EQC levy. Then there's the S&P email. In itself, it's not a major. But it becomes part of a narrative that turns John Key's strengths into his weaknesses.

This is how politics works - I've said it before. We end up hating the things we used to love in our leaders. Helen Clark went from strong to nanny. Key will go from likeable and relaxed to loose and unreliable. It's just a matter of when.

One year? Three? Six?

ACT, by the by, seems to be unable to repay National's faith and win over the sceptics of Epsom, according to the Herald's poll this week.

And to cap it off, news today that the national median house price fell by NZ$5,000 to NZ$350,000, or -1.4%, in September compared with August, plus rumours that Richie McCaw's injury may be worse than first thought (hopefully, that's terrible, ugly hearsay!)

It all means that when the election campaign proper kicks off in two weeks, there will be elements of doubt and chance that weren't there two weeks ago.

The next round of polls will be interesting, but you've got to say that opportunity is knocking for the Greens in particular. Already looking strong in the polls - 11.5 percent in the Roy Morgan on September 25 - the Rena gives them another platform.

As Ron Mark joked on Q+A's web-only panel on Sunday, if you didn't know better you'd think the Greens ran the Rena aground on purpose! It's a political god-send.

Oh yes, luck has jumped around this past fortnight. It's just a reminder for us all that we don't know what's round the corner. Maybe it'll jump back. But all politicians, even the Nats, so strong for so long, should remember the old song:

They call you lady luck
But there is room for doubt
At times you have a very un-lady-like way
Of running out

Comments (8)

by Tim Watkin on October 12, 2011
Tim Watkin

Claire's made a similar observation while I was writing. If we're both picking up on this trend, we must be right... Right? I don't think anyone's saying this is a game-changer yet, but the lay of the land is certainly different than it was.

by Tim Watkin on October 12, 2011
Tim Watkin

It's interesting about this Roy Morgan poll - the Greens have been tweeting excitedly about it, but Farrar's pointed out it's a couple of weeks old... Yet I'm told it's up new on Scoop today. Anyone know if it slipped through prior or have RM held it back?

Still, before the Greens get too excited about being at such a high 11.5 percent, they should take note of when they last touched such giddy heights - in October 2008, shortly before the previous election!

The Greens have a habit of peaking in polls a month or two out, but slipping when it comes to election day.

by alexb on October 12, 2011

Its likely the Greens are the most upset about the oil spill, given they are the only party with any environmental credentials, I doubt they would consider this a good week for them. It definately isn't a good week for the environment.

by Tim Watkin on October 12, 2011
Tim Watkin

I'm not claiming they're enjoying this Alex; no more than journalists love war and disster. But that's when careers are made and ratings go up.

In politics, the things you hate most can win you the most votes. So while they'll hate the spill, of course they're going to try to maximise the opportunity it creates.

by Frank Macskasy on October 15, 2011
Frank Macskasy

"Still, before the Greens get too excited about being at such a high 11.5 percent, they should take note of when they last touched such giddy heights - in October 2008, shortly before the previous election!" - Tim


Indeed, Tim. And some of us recall when the Alliance was polling 30%+ in 1995, dragging away support from Labour. Of course, by the time the General Election rolled around in 1996 that massive support had reversed and the "normal" two-party duopoly reasserted itself.


"Oh yes, luck has jumped around this past fortnight. It's just a reminder for us all that we don't know what's round the corner. Maybe it'll jump back." - Tim

"Luck", Tim? I recall the PM wandering around the West Coast, making all kinds of promises to bring out the bodies of the lost miners. To date, nothing has happened - which while not his fault, reminds us not to make foolish promises that one cannot fulfill.

So when Key now wanders around the Bay of Plenty, makingf similar reassuring noises - people are understandably looking a bit sideways at him. He's already shown himself to be unreliable with the Pike River Mine disaster - why should "we" trust him on this?


And there is the nagging feeling that with all the State Sector cutbacks, did National cut back on necessary infra-structure and safety support? Perhaps not. But it's a question that hangs around in the background; just how prepared were we?


Then of course, Key was caught out with that "Standard & Poors" so-called "email". People are not idiots. They soon pick up on things like this. His full-on press conference with the Press Gallery where he was constantly replying "I don't know", "I wasn't there", etc, totally shattered his image at the Uber Confident, Mega Effective Prime Minister. He was shown to be an ordinary man - fatal for a political leader.


hinesjersey, above: do you have any AB knock-offs? Maybe a size XX? Promise not to tell the IRB. *winks*

by Tim Watkin on October 19, 2011
Tim Watkin

Luck, Frank, isasmuch as Key didn't cause the earthquakes, the mining explosion or the Rena to ground – but all have had political conseuquences. Those things beyond his control have fallen well for him thus far, but not with Rena.

BTW, you got a quote of him promising to bring the bodies out? I have the vague memory, but can't recall the precise time or place.

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