John Armstrong nails it

John Armstrong writes:

And so the National Party juggernaut just keeps rolling on and on and on. Who or what can stop Bill English and company rolling into a fourth term in power?

On election-night results, a Labour-New Zealand First-Greens combo is technically still alive. But only in the way Elvis Presley is still alive.

Those on the centre-left clinging to that hope are really clinging to the wreckage of what to be blunt was a hideously disappointing night for that portion of the political spectrum.

I said two days before the election that the chances of a Labour-NZ First-Greens combo were less than National and NZ First forming a coalition.

Regardless of whether English can get Winston Peters’ signature on the the dotted line of some form of confidence-and-supply document, the election results are an absolute triumph for National’s leader of barely nine months, pure and simple.

The almost palpable mood for change has not turned out to be deep enough or widespread enough to place sufficient obligation on Peters to use his likely grip on the balance of power to install a Labour-led Administration.

The magnitude of English’s triumph consequently cannot be overstated. He has defied political gravity, which normally dictates that any three-term regime falls faster than Isaac Newton’s apple.

English’s success in keeping National’s share of the vote well above the 40 per cent mark for the fourth straight election is on a par with John Key’s raising it to that level in the first place. Arguably, English’s victory might rank even higher.

And that is the rub…National’s vote actually went up over 2008 under John Key. There is no mood for change because National voters didn’t desert. Labour got up only because they shanked the Greens and took back centre left voters who went with Winston before Ardern took over.

That National has won the battle, if not yet the war, came down to English’s cognisance of a longstanding maxim of New Zealand politics –namely that elections are won and lost in the cities and towns in the provinces. That is why English spent so much of the campaign barnstorming the regions.

John Key painted the map of provincial New Zealand dark blue during his tenure. His successor’s survival hung on English applying a fresh coat of enamel to keep that map so coloured.

It is in the likes of Hamilton, Hastings, Timaru and Gisborne where a mood for change sweeping all before it in metropolitan New Zealand runs into the innate conservatism of middle New Zealand.

It is there that English indulged in “wedge politics” — a politician’s use of polarising issues to drive a wedge between his or her opponent and the voters backing that opponent.

It isn’t pretty, but can be effective, especially when your opponent hands you those issues — be it a water tax or a capital gains tax — on a plate.

National’s campaign in the regions was not totally negative, however.

The preliminary results displayed another mood for change.

It was writ large across the minor parties. They tried to seek solace from the slaughter by saying it was early days.

But the more they said that, the more obvious it was that it wasn’t.

It all comes down to negotiations now, and Bill English must be really hating that inept National operatives were the ones who leaked Winston’s superannuation details.

 

-NZ Herald

 


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