Should Key go early?

Rob Hosking argues for why Key should go the polls this year:

Labour is in disarray. It doesn’t have its list sorted and that will be a source of major division when it happens. It’s broke. Leader Andrew Little will only lose votes on the campaign trail – if you want to see a woeful performance, watch the Labour leader debate in Parliament against Mr Key. In televised debates, Mr Key is probably going to wipe the floor with him.

Mr Key might be tempted to drift on until the end of next year, when an election is most likely to take place

But governments do little of use in an election year.

The last one – 2014 – was when the government should have been doing what it is doing now on housing supply. Instead it spent nine months posing for selfies.

So: Get on with it. Pull the electoral pin once the local body elections are out of the way in October, hold a short campaign and turn 2017 into a year of meaningful achievement, not another circus.

Matthew Hooton disagrees:

Labour is now in its most parlous state in its 100-year history. In the past two elections, it suffered its worst two results since its formative years in the 1920s. It is now polling much worse than it did in 2010 and 2013, the years before those 27% and 25% debacles under Phil Goff and David Cunliffe.

The latest leader, Andrew Little, was not wanted by Labour MPs or party members, instead being imposed by the unions. He is now significantly more unpopular with New Zealand voters than Jeremy Corbyn with the British and, as National’s campaign chairman Steven Joyce picked so astutely, has an issue with anger.

Organisationally, Labour is broke, advising the Electoral Commission it received no donations above $15,000 last year. It has had no communications chief since May, after the departure of former NZ Woman’s Weekly editor Sarah Stuart. Its chief of staff, Matt McCarten, has been let go to set up an election headquarters in Auckland after a power struggle with finance spokesman Grant Robertson.

Labour has not just lost Stuart but also a second press secretary this week and rumours are a third has quit also.

So why does Hooton argue Key should wait?

Labour’s woes are structural, dating to its 2013 conference. There, the party took the disastrous decision, over the objections of then-leader Mr Shearer, to revise its constitution to transfer power from the MPs who face ordinary voters every weekend to its narrow activist base and faceless union bosses.

Consequently, like Labour in the UK, its leadership is no longer elected nor held accountable by MPs in touch with everyday issues but by activists and unionists more exercised by ideology. Not only has this imposed two failed leaders on the party against the judgement of its MPs, it has permanently orientated Labour away from the median voter. Instead, its focus is on activists and union bosses who genuinely believe – and demand – that Labour should concentrate on issues like free undergraduate degrees and ever-more hysterical denunciations of an alleged “neoliberal” government agenda that National activists can only dream might be true.

Thus, education spokesman Chris Hipkins screeching last week that Hekia Parata’s online learning initiative is “a Trojan horse for privatisation and an end to free public education” and housing spokesman Phil Twyford’s nutty demand the government declare a state of emergency over homelessness, something done since World War II only during the 1951 waterfront insurrection and after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

Normal people know such hyperbole is nonsense but not those running today’s Labour. Despite Labour’s disastrous polling, there is great calm among Labour’s Wellington elite that their leftward strategy is working. With the Greens, Winston Peters and perhaps Hone Harawira, they believe all that is left to form a government is to drop by Government House the Monday after the election.

 Still, instead of making his own trip to Government House this side of Christmas, Mr Key is best to let Labour’s myopia and its unattractive leader continue to work their magic on the polls, perhaps all the way to the last possible election date of November 18, 2017.

So Hosking thinks Labour can’t get much worse, while Hooton thinks they can.



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