Audrey Young plays catch up now

It has taken some time for gallery journalists to wake up to the fact that National’s path to victory with current support partners is fraught with danger.

Bill English’s main task this week as National leader was to put a shiny coat of paint on its electoral accommodations with Act and United Future.

It wasn’t hard but he stumbled his way through with a few blotches.

English’s laconic style was acceptable as Deputy Prime Minister but it doesn’t sit well in a leader where the pace demands more urgency.

He is being guided by the team that surrounded John Key for 10 years.

They have decided that the safest transition is to simply superimpose English into Key’s job and have him do the same things at the same time in the same manner each week, and even keep the same holiday routine.

Maybe English was still in holiday mode when he issued an almost identical press statement to Key’s in 2014 to confirm the electoral accommodations with Act and United Future at a press conference on Wednesday.

I’ve heard that Steve Joyce is desperately looking for electric shock collars to put on Bill so he will shut up.

He certainly did not betray a sense of how important they could be again to National this election.

Essentially they could prevent Winston Peters from holding a hand of aces after the election, either as a coalition partner to National or as a potential Prime Minister of a centre-left Government (Peters has called such speculation mindless but he has not ruled it out).

At his press conference, English called United Future by its correct name then mis-corrected himself to call it the United Party, and then called Ohariu by its old name, Ohariu Belmont – but they are trifling errors.

But silly errors nonetheless. The press conference on video is a travesty with Bill stumbling and bumbling along trying to sound enthusiastic about Peter Dunne and David Seymour. Cersei Lannister’s bodyguard, the regenerated Ser Gregor Clegane had more life in him than Bill English.

More surprisingly, he actually advised Maori voters to give their party vote to the Maori Party before checking himself and realising he should have been encouraging all voters to give their party votes to National.

He then said Maori voters should give their party vote to the Maori Party if they could not bring themselves to vote National. It was on-the-hoof stuff and it was an endorsement that the Maori Party possibly didn’t even want.


National is two seats shy of being able to govern alone in the current parliamentary configuration. Act and United give it one added vote apiece and the Maori Party gives it a cushion of two.

Not on current polling. That is perhaps the stupidest statement of the election so far from Audrey Young.

So what are the chances of National’s support parties improving their results to bridge the dip in National support with the leadership change? Remote for Act and United Future, and little better for the Maori Party.

In theory, Act should be in a position to capitalise on the relative stability David Seymour brings to the election compared to the Hide-led caucus which tore itself apart and the Banks-led caucus of one.

Seymour will hold Epsom which should give potential Act voters the confidence to cast their party vote for Act and know it will count, but the question is whether there are any potential Act voters left.

A competitor from the Opportunities Party may give Seymour and Act the profile they are looking for, although Gareth Morgan has ruled himself out of standing in the seat.

Avoiding scandal for three years has been a rare accomplishment for an Act leader, but Seymour needs more than that. Keeping New Zealand First out of office may yet be his strongest selling point to increase the caucus.

Peter Dunne is not necessarily dusted in Ohariu despite the Greens standing aside for the Labour candidate to finally knock off his 710 majority.

More than 18,000 voters gave National their Party Vote, 10,000 more than Labour, but 6000 voted for the virtually unknown National candidate.

If National is serious about saving Dunne, English may need to send some stronger signals to Ohariu voters than his effort on Wednesday.

The prospect of Labour’s Greg O’Connor winning Ohariu has excited Peters-for-Prime Minister supporters because winning more electorate seats it makes it that bit harder for Little to be returned as list MP in the event of a low Labour Party vote.

Both are irrelevant unless they can perform an electoral miracle and bring two extra MPs each with them.


Bill’s announcement on Wednesday had all the hallmarks of a panic, an attempt to stop votes continuing to bleed off to Winston Peters.



-NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.