Garner boils the election down to six points

ECONOMY
Bill Clinton’s advisers coined the phrase: “It’s the economy, stupid” when he took on George Bush Snr in 1992. And it’s so true. Is our economy broken? Are the fundamentals stuffed? The answer is no. And Labour knows it, hence why it’s started attacking English as a “follower” and not a leader. The party needs something to stick. Figures show people are in jobs, although pay rises and wage growth are low. The numbers of sole parents on benefits is at its lowest level since 1988. Growth is good at 3 per cent. It’s far from a train wreck. Tourism is pumping, construction is booming, people want to live here. Watch the Budget for a lolly scramble: English has money to spend and he’ll throw the ninth floor Beehive sink at winning a fourth term.

Yes.  The Economy.  That is the minimum requirement.  And National have that one sewn up.

RESULT:  Win to National

HOUSING
While house prices are definitely cooling, Auckland especially still faces a crisis due to a lack of supply and exorbitant, almost criminally high, land prices. Low and middle-income workers are largely locked out of a market that rose too high for too long. If they own a house they have a catastrophically big mortgage and far too much of their income goes towards paying it off. Luckily for them, interest rates have been at record lows – but they are set to rise and that may put even more pressure on homeowners and first-home buyers. National needs to do way more in this area. And that’s an understatement.

Disagree.  Housing has been a beat-up by Labour and the media.  But for every sob story there is another person that made out like a bandit.   It’s mostly preaching to the choir and not an issued that transfers votes from the right to the left.

National had an image problem, but they may just have announced themselves out of it.  The trick is that they can practically do very little, but they had to appear to do enough so they can point back to it and claim they tried.

RESULT:  Draw

IMMIGRATION
This Government has overseen record immigration levels and while a think-tank considers it beneficial, not everyone agrees. Auckland as a result is bursting at the seams and voters are frustrated at the slow speed at which infrastructure is built alongside the population increase. Never underestimate people’s frustration towards perceived outsiders taking their jobs, houses and pushing down wages. As President Donald Trump shows, ignore the voters at your peril. The voters are never wrong. Just look at Brexit too if you’re looking for another example.

This one casts a bit of a wide net.  Be it for national security reasons, rich pricks buying up New Zealand, or competing for jobs and houses.  Definitely a factor, but not a defining issue.  Voters have had the race and xenophobic cards played every election in living memory.  Yet the bulk of voters are themselves in the category being kicked in the shins.

RESULT:  Draw

REGIONS v AUCKLAND
While the votes are in Auckland, there are still some big and growing regional cities in New Zealand that command attention. Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington, Nelson and Christchurch simply can’t be ignored and if voters in the provinces feel left out and not listened to, they will react strongly like they did in the Northland by-election. Expect Winston Peters to whip up a storm in these areas with a mix of fact, fiction and fear. He’ll do well in this area.

There will be some fun contests in certain electorates.  Ohariu is one.  But the election result itself will come down to party votes, and that will be fairly predictable.  Auckland always was and remains the place there the elections are won or lost, but for 2017 the general unease about National still doesn’t have a place to comfortably go.  As most voters have a pretty stable life, the momentum will for change will be limited.

RESULT:  Draw, with a minor push towards Labour

PERSONALITY v LEADERSHIP
Voters want their prime minister to have some sort of personality. But on this front both Bill English and Labour’s Andrew Little cancel each other out. So who is the best leader? With John Key gone it’s true Labour starts with a slightly better chance of winning. I think a spectacles-less Little and the Greens have looked far more polished and on target this year but English is a different beast to the last time he was the boss. He should not be underestimated. He knows the economy inside out and he has serious depth to his argument. But he’s looked all at sea on whether to embrace or distance himself from Trump. The PM needs to find some better answers and quickly. Floundering looks weak – and plays right into Labour’s traps.

The only person running this year that has any kind of personality is Winston Peters.   Andrew Little is caustic.  Kumara Bill is uninspiring.   So between Labour, the Greens and National, few votes will be driven by personality and leadership.  The ones that are will go to NZ First.

RESULT:  Win for NZ First

WINNING OVER WINSTON
English said this week that Peters was an unlikely partner. Sadly for the PM he doesn’t get to choose. If voters give Peters a decent hand to play with, National may have no choice but to deal with Peters, who will likely negotiate with the largest party first. I can’t see Peters wanting to deal with Labour and the Greens as one block. The NZ First leader holds serious disdain for the Greens and imagine if, as the price of going into government, and given the numbers were enough, the Greens were left out in the cold again? It could happen, but Labour needs to lift its numbers in a big way. Warning to both leaders; play nicely with Winston, he’ll be there or thereabouts.

The stars are all aligning for Winston’s final Grande Show.  No matter how much the loss of John Key will cost National, ACT and NZ First will hold enough of the slack to keep the Labour/Green option at bay.   There are simply too many reasons Winston would never go with the left, and everyone but the left knows it.

RESULT:  NZ First will have its best result for decades, which puts them in the driving seat for making a government and getting policy concessions.  Definitely a win for NZ First.

 

– Duncan Garner, Stuff

 


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