Just under a month out from Election 17, the former deputy Prime Minister looks at the state of the parties and makes some picks

While it has been easy to see the headline goings-on in the lead-up to the election campaign proper - you can barely blink before something else happens - beneath the leadership froth more fundamental things are underway. 

For starters, the standard bases of party support are returning to their long-standing normal positions; and second, at the margin, the Greens are being a bit cannibalised as a result of their leadership fun and games. The standard bases parties can usually count on are National mid 40%’s, Labour mid 30%’s, Greens and NZ First 6% - 8% each.

The Maori Party struggles to make 2%, Act struggles to make 1% and United Future now that Peter Dunne is gone will go from margin of error to nix.

That is the base standard. As far as the campaign is concerned, the final outcome will depend on who moves support a few percentage points one way or the other above base at the margin for National and Labour. A lot now will depend on their party leader’s performance over the campaign.

Jacinda Arden has reawakened the Labour Party and for sure brought them back to their base level of support. Her challenge now is to look credible in the policy sense. Hiding behind working parties will cost her in the end – they need to be direct about what they will do. And while Bill English can fairly claim that he has run the economy well, that will not be enough. After three terms at the helm, he has to create freshness and a sense of vision for the future.

The purpose of having a strong economy is not for its own sake – so we can sit back and look at it - but for what we can do with it. What sort of future do we seek? Not so much “delivering for” but “what I will deliver”.

My pick is that while wounded, the Green Party base, especially amongst younger voters will mean they hold a position in the House post-election – weakened of course – but still there. I fully expect them to beat the 5% threshold and to be relieved they survived.

With Ohariu, National are definitely down one seat now – the already minimal chance of repeating the Ohariu overhang seat in 2017 are now completely out of the picture. Even though he had an active campaign to hold Ohariu underway – billboards already up everywhere - Peter Dunne read the tea leaves and seeing he would surely lose, pulled the pin.

There is one interesting outlier this year – Gareth Morgan and the TOP Party. They seem to be regularly touching around the 2% mark in most polls. It reflects an interest in fresh new ideas. I looked at some of their material – it's blunt but honest and interesting.

The Basic Minimum Income (BMI) idea would need work to fully develop, but at least someone is thinking of new ways to deal with income distribution in a world where automation and new technology will render traditional ways a earning a living for so many of us, and especially the lower skilled, obsolete. But with MMP rendering votes below the five percent threshold wasted (actually proportionally distributed over the succeeding parties), actually voting that way has a big downside.

The reality is that support levels in the electorate are such that there is no prospect of either National or Labour winning on their own. The obvious outcome is that Winton Peters and New Zealand First will be the kingmaker. Which way he will go will depend on how many of those marginal votes either Bill English or Jacinda Arden manage to pull in their respective directions.

I saw Stephen Joyce and Grant Robertson on Q & A both adamantly denying they will give ground on a New Zealand First bottom line. I could picture in my mind Winton Peters sitting on his couch with that huge mischievous grin on his face watching this unequivocal ‘we will hold the line against that’ bottom line proposal.

Things will change when it is a real negotiation for who comes out on top after the election.

Comments (11)

by Ross on August 28, 2017


I didnt realise you were a former deputy PM. You must have kept a very low profile. :)

by Charlie on August 28, 2017

Thanks for that Wyatt - a most sensible analysis.

The TOP thing is an odd beast!

Initially I thought TOP showed some promise but as the weeks wore on, Morgan seems to have become more and more random in his pronouncements. If he'd stuck to his knitting and limited the scope of his party to taxation or economics they could have been seen as a reasonably sensible coalition partner for either Labour or National.

But no, I suspect his ego has got the better of him. Recently he's proposrf punitive taxation on foods he considers unhealthy. Quite how he proposes to implement this I do not know. Who will be a food health Czar who decides and what processes of appeal will there be? This is the economist turned nutritionalist!

Next, he's proposing to remove all reporting requirements for teachers. Maybe the adminstrative burden is too high for teachers, but remove ALL reporting requirements??? Bizarre!


by william blake on August 28, 2017
william blake

Third person omnicient?


by Graeme Edgeler on August 28, 2017
Graeme Edgeler

But with MMP rendering votes below the five percent threshold wasted (actually proportionally distributed over the succeeding parties)...

This does not accurately describe what happens to the votes of people who voted for parties that don't pass a threshold. Their votes are not proportionally distributed, they stay where they were cast and are simply ignored when the allocation of seats occurs.

by Ross on August 28, 2017

Their votes are not proportionally distributed, they stay where they were cast and are simply ignored when the allocation of seats occurs.

In the 2008 election, National received 44.93% of the votes but 47.54% of the seats. 

by barry on August 28, 2017


The problem with Morgan is that he is driven by evidence.  For example the best evidence is that the sort of reporting happening in NZ schools does no good and some real harm.

The "common sense" that you seem to apply, ignores the evidence.

Morgan may go further than people are prepared to support, but I think I trust him to say what needs to be said.

We could do with a lot more politicians that are prepare to look at the evidence and base their policies on it.


And Wyatt.  I think the base National support is not mid 40s but somewhere in the 20s the same as Labour.  I think we can look back a bit further than the last 9 years and see that.

by Kat on August 28, 2017

"what lies beneath this election campaign" are lies. Lies lies and more lies. National are the party of lies and very very good at negative politics. I personally heard Bill English say in a speech following the 2008 election a big thank you to Michael CCullen for leaving the books in such a good state. A nod to the fiscal repsponsibility of the then finance minister. Another fact is that Labour have produced better GDP during terms in office overall.

Now listening to current commentary you would think National has some magical fiscal hold over the economy, that only Labour are "tax and spend" and anti business. What absolute poppy cock. Show us the money Bill, and show us the huge debt you and Key have racked up in the last nine years.

by Alan Johnstone on August 29, 2017
Alan Johnstone

It a classic "stability vs hope" election.

Reminds me very strongly of 2008, I'm presuming there will be polling out today / tomorrow. We need to see the numbers not know if the Labour surge has continued.


by Charlie on August 29, 2017

Barry:  "The problem with Morgan is that he is driven by evidence" 

He claims that, but it's not the case.

Sure we know people eat the wrong things. But where's the evidence around the world that tiered taxation of food has worked to improve diet? Who gets to chose what is healthy and what isn't when even dieticians can't agree? How is it to be administered? 

Same goes for UBI. I understand what he's trying to do and have some sympathy for his aims, but once again there is no evidence of a successful UBI implementation anywhere in the world - so it's a complete leap into the unknown.

What I really see here is the reincarnation of Robert Muldoon: A would-be dictator of what is right and what is wrong. Someone so arrogant that they think they know what's best for everyone.


by Ross on August 29, 2017

It a classic "stability vs hope" election.

National are hoping to win? You certainly couldn't refer to them as stable. Their last leader took off mid term after promising to run for a 4th term.

Then there is Bill English saying NZers aren't an "ATM machine" while in the next breath promising to spend $10.5 billion on roads, not forgetting 22 weeks of paid parental leave that National had previously said NZ couldn't afford. All I can say is, the Nats' internal polling mustn't be looking flash.

by Andrew Geddis on August 30, 2017
Andrew Geddis


The reality is that support levels in the electorate are such that there is no prospect of either National or Labour winning on their own.

There is a theory doing the rounds that National hopes to be able to avoid a deal with Peters by:

(1) Getting around 45% of the vote;

(2) Getting Seymour and a couple of Maori Party MPs back in as support partners (if necessary);

(3) Having TOP and the Greens both dip below 5% and so increase the size of the "wasted vote".

I assume that, like me, you think this unlikely as the Greens will manage to pull a core vote of 5%+?

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