Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Frank Newman: The challenges ahead for NZ First

This last weekend NZ First held its annual conference and launched its comeback election campaign. By all accounts, it was well attended (400 or 500 depending on which news source you believe) and the party faithful were confident that the Party would return to Parliament (as one would expect from those who paid to attend).

NZ First has come back from defeat before, but this time the task seems more difficult. The polls tell the story. The Talbot Mills poll had it at 4%; Roy Morgan had at 3% as did the 1News Kanta poll released last week. It has been pretty much at these levels since crashing out of Parliament in 2020. 

So why has NZ First failed to gain traction since 2020 when other parties have picked up support as Labour’s fortunes have declined?

Firstly, many voters have not forgiven Winston Peters for appointing Jacinda Ardern as Prime Minister in 2017. NZ First is explaining it away by pointing the finger at the voters who gave Labour its absolute majority in Parliament in 2020. That response is not washing with voters who say Labour would not have had their election success had it not been in government at the time COVID arrived. It does not matter how Winston Peters or Shane Jones spin it the damage has been done, if for no other reason that one must question the judgment of someone who could think socialists like Ardern, Hipkins, Robertson, Parker, McAnulty, Russell, et al and Labour’s radical Maori caucus were going to be good for the country.

Secondly, there is the matter of trust, or lack of it. Although Peter’s says he will not go with Labour, there are those who simply do not believe a word he says. NZ First has not yet found a response to convince them otherwise.

The third problem is the party looks like the past rather than the future. The only people with profile are Winston Peters and Shane Jones. NZ First has had more than two years to parade new talent and bring them up to speed. That may be about to change with Casey Costello declaring herself a candidate, but it remains to be seen whether that appointment is more about the Hobson’s Pledge mailing list than a genuine pitch to bring on new talent to share the limelight with Winston Peters and Shane Jones. 

Peters must surely recognise these problems, or at least he would have been made aware of them by those who have his ear. The question really is whether he is prepared to share the spotlight with others or whether he still sees NZ First as his party, and as a result be a party whose success or failure is inextricably linked to his political success or failure.

This year’s general election is exceptional because there are about 20% of voters who voted Labour in 2020 will be switching their vote. A swing of that magnitude is extraordinary and represents an opportunity for the party best able to capitalise on that migration.  ACT and NZ First have homed in on the racial issue. National hasn’t and won’t.

The hostility between ACT and NZ First is now well and truly out in the open. This week David Seymour stated he could not work with NZ First in a coalition. That didn’t go down well and is more than likely to have benefited NZ First than it did ACT, but the statement did signal an either them or us declaration of war. Casey Costello could be a significant factor in that battle, should Peter’s be prepared to share the limelight.  

The other interesting dynamic at play is the influence of Julian Batchelor from the Stop Co-governance movement. At some point Julian Batchelor is likely to endorse one of the parties, although neither NZ First nor ACT is likely to seek it given the hostility from protesters at his meetings and the media's anti-attitude.

While NZ First is polling shy of the 5% required to regain seats in parliament, one should not read too much into the numbers. The polls reflect the intentions of those who have decided who they will vote for. The intentions of the undecided are ignored. Without polling the intentions of the undecided to establish their most likely party preference, the polls assume the undecided vote will be distributed in the same proportion to the decided voters. That assumption is false, as many of the undecided voters are likely to be disgruntled Labour voters looking for an alternative. It is therefore reasonable to assume a greater percentage of those undecided votes will fall to the right and benefit the likes of NZ First, National, and ACT.

The issue is whether NZ First can overcome its negatives and pick up disproportionately more of the undecided vote. 

Frank Newman, is a political commentator, investment analyst, and a former local body councillor.


Valid Point said...

I've never considered voting for Winston Peters or NZ First because I disagree with most of their policies and messaging. But that's not to under-appreciate the amusing theatre both Peters and Jones bring to the political stage.
But for all those centre right voters considering voting for NZ First again, remember the proverb "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me".
NZ First have consistently formed governments with Labour - with massive repercussions for this country in 2017 by installing the least prepared PM and government in our history.
Why would you risk this again?

Anna Mouse said...

Peters stuck his peg in the ground with regard to political integrity when he, in a huff with National set aside New Zealanders for his personal agenda and went to the party he knew without a doubt (because he is long enough in the tooth to know) were a serious threat to New Zealand.

A man who promotes himself of the people and then does the opposite of what the people wanted is indeed a man without poltical integrity.

What New Zealanders should say to Peters using his very own sign, that says NO!

EP said...

Peters is no more to blame than the rest of us by being fooled by Jacinda. I am truly impressed by the sane healthy grasp both Winston and Shane have on their dual descent from Maori and European in this horrid race-conscious environment - Casey too. The only thing I hold against David Seymour is his dismissiveness of Winston. It may be a ploy, bu a nasty one. I do hope he has to eat his words.

Robert Arthur said...

I am/was tempted by Winston. But he is sadly attracted by what appeals to the herd. He favoured the vast waste of expenditure in the bone worship exercise in the SI coalmine. And now he wants GST off food, the only tax contribution many make.

MC said...

Sorry Winnie, you've f*&$#d yourself. You put a bunch of Uni Student socialists in the drivers eat. This Country cannot afford that again. 6 years of absolute crap on your tab. Piss off.

Ken S said...

Who the hell is Casey Costello?

Anonymous said...

Winston seems to be rather like a fading rock star still trying to relive and revive but not quite to the same degree.
This election he should have put Shane Jones in as leader or at least co leader. Jones is a rare politician who says it from the heart and reflects alot of ordinary Kiwis are thinking. NZ First may still get my party vote, or ACT however ACTS dismissive and rude remarks about NZ First are something they might regret if they hold the balance of power.

Gypsymac said...

I wish I knew exactly why David Seymour and Winston Peters dislike each other so much. A lot of their policies are similar. Both have a racially blind approach to policy and mostly common sense everywhere else. Hey guys, start thinking like an undecided voter and move forward in a positive manner. The job for both is to hold National's pants up and primarily get Labour out.