Robson-On-Politics - Thursday 23 November 2006
National has made correct decision
National would have been on a hiding to nothing had it persisted with its initial folly of trying to stop the
publication of Nicky Hager's book.
The party is right to face the music, let the sunlight shine on those allegedly embarassing emails and get out there and
give its best shot at defending any items that may be hard-to-explain.
But will there be any collatoral damage?
The issue of most interest to other parties, particularly those that compete for the same pool of potential voters as
National - such as NZ First - is whether Don Brash's potential successors are in any way damaged by the media coverage
of the book's content.
There has to be some risk to National that it will actually struggle to hold the 39.1% of the party vote that it won in
last year's general election.
That result, achieved under Mr Brash's leadership, was National's best result since 1990 and yet it was still not enough
to lead a government.
National won 20.9% of the party vote under Bill English in 2002, 30.5% of the party vote under Jenny Shipley in 1999,
33.8% of the party vote in the first MMP election in 1996 under Jim Bolger and 35.1% of the vote under the last
first-past-the-post election, also achieved under Prime Minister Bolger in 1993.
The thing is, if National couldn't cobble together a coalition government when it won 39.1% in 2005, and if its next
leader struggles to hold that 39.1% vote next time round, what are lessons in that for John Key or any other potential
National Party leader?
The obvious lessons are two: Reach out and build very strong working relations and policy outreach to both the Maori
Party and the Green Party - make Labour really compete for the affections of the Greens and Maori - by doing that,
National will start looking and sounding more like a balanced party that represents all New Zealanders and has policies
that address the issues of tomorrow.
Will National do it before 2008? No, but they might after another term in opposition three years later.
There has been very little change in Left Vs Right support in past year
One of the remarkable things about party political support in the past year is how stable it has been in terms of the
bigger picture of Left versus Right.
In the 2005 election, the Right (National, NZ First, United Future and ACT) won 60 seats between them. The Left (Labour,
Greens and Progressive) won 57 seats, and the Maori Party won four.
It was more than enough to deliver a Lab-Progressive minority government with the aid of no less than three other
parties in Parliament, with support from a 4th on some key pieces of legislation like KiwiSaver.
In the Roy Morgan Poll published in the week-end, the distribution of support was:
Right: Nats (42.5%); NZF (5%); United (1.5%); ACT (0.5%) = 60 seats.
Left: Labour (38.5%); Greens (7.5%) Progressive (0.5%) = 57 seats; Maori Party 4 seats.
That is just another way of saying that if an election were held now, and given the civil war on the Right between NZ
First and National, then we'd either have a 4th term minority Lab-Progressive government supported by three or four
other parties - or, which is what I would prefer - a Majority Labour-Green-Maori-Progressive Government.
The reason I'd prefer a Majority Left government next time is that we've had minority coalition governments since 1999,
and it gives undue and undeserved influence to absurd parties like United Future.
Can anyone tell me, is United Future still committed to smoke in bars?
I have been doing a bit of research on United Future, previously known as U.F.O. or United Future - Outdoor.
On October 28, 2003, Peter Dunne issued a statement in which he alleged that Jim Anderton and I were losing our minds by
inhaling too much cannasbis at the public meetings we were attending with the Green Party on the issue of cannabis law
reform: "One of the side-effects of this unwise association is that the Progressives have become mentally unstable," as
he put it.
Being anti-drugs, Progressive supported the Smoke Free Environments legislation (to keep families safe from other
peoples' cancer-causing tobacco smoke at restaurants) and being pro-families Progressive is against decriminalizing
cannabis use - that's why we were debating the issue openly and honestly in public meetings with the Greens around the
United Future claims to be pro-families and anti-drugs, but its position on the Smoke-Free Environments legislation,
like its leader's opposition to taking meaningful action against the Number One problem drug to children which is alcohol - suggests that while the party is many things it is neither pro-familes nor
committed to meaningful action against the most serious drugs of harm.
My question is: Does anyone know if the United Future's bottom line in 2003, its opposition to removing smoke from
restaurants and bars, remains a bottom line in 2006?