Again I find myself wondering if the media are really doing their job?
Latest poll results from Reid Research show both Labour and the Greens up in polls while National is down and the media declare it â€œneck and neckâ€.
But before we break out the bubbles letâ€™s have a bit more of a look at the numbers and consider the reality of the situation.
Currently the polling is: National at 45.2%, Labour at 32.7%, Green at 11.5% and NZ First at 8.1%.
Therefore under current polling a Green/Labour coalition comes close but only with NZ First added could they beat National but a Labour/NZ First pairing only is not enough to beat National.
So the total as it now stands is a Labour/Greens coalition is close to making the nut over National, except for one small thing, Winston Peters! This is hardly â€œneck and neckâ€ except in the very literal sense and that’s not what this headline is implying.
And the poll numbers can only shift so much at this time giving that the only realistic thing which could degrade Nationals poll lead enough to make Labour strong enough to pair with NZ First for a government would be the housing hernia rupturing.
So I donâ€™t think itâ€™s too much of a stretch to say that while one part of Andrew Little does not want the hernia to blow (think stabilization) another part is hoping that the hernia does cause a few painful moments, enough to drive down Nationals poll advantage while bringing Labours (and possibly NZ Firsts also) up.
Now this is not news to anyone who reads the media but the significance of John Keys statement that he did not need Winston before so he wonâ€™t need him in 2017 rings a little hollow (actually it positively peels with hollow but why quibble at a time like this) given these numbers.
And itâ€™s seems that both sides in this (Labour/Greens and National) have been rather coy about this little factoid when looking at the numbers.
The recent movement in political polls and the usual nine year itch of NZ politics means that National is likely to be down to the wire in the coming year and election. Every seat and vote will count and the housing hernia remains the ongoing bugbear issue in the minds of many Kiwis which has nothing but negative potential for any government (in the form of bad media about rising house prices, speculators, homelessness etc) even if it does not rupture.
If it ruptures before the election then Key will have Winston on speed dial for sure and so will Andrew Little for that matter.
Therefore if John Key and his merry band of reptiles want to make a fourth term they canâ€™t rely on their usual margin of Keyâ€™s popularity (now more like a tired worn out comedic routine of an actor like Adam Sandler (the first few films were funny but after that it was just the same old things again and again and again and again!) or the zombie parties (Maori and United Future) to prop up any bare bones margin in the house.
In fact I am now 50/50 that the hernia will rupture sooner rather than later and if it does there will be an extremely high correlation between the damage and the drop in Nationals popularity (and the subsequent rise in that of Greens/Labour) because as we have already seen any drop in house prices will hit those whose mortgages are now bigger than the homeâ€™s value hardest and those are the very people that have been backing Key all this time on the housing market fun ride*.
Loyalty will only go so far and the fickle â€œmiddle ground NZâ€ voter will switch vote once their homes value is heading down as thatâ€™s what middle ground voters do.
And if that happens and a Greens/Labour coalition gets close to National or even more than National there is only one thing which will save Key and National and it wonâ€™t be a series of humorous interviews with assorted brain dead morning radio hosts or a last minute cult of personality blitz with John Key out on the hustings hustling for blue votes (which we all know National is planning).
No, what will be required will be a straight out injection of New Zealand First life into the veins of the blue bloods, there is no other option and no other way and Key can twist the words all he likes but the inescapable fact is that he will have to do a deal with Winston if the results go against him in 2017.
Of course the same applies of Labour and the Greens if they get close but simply are short by one or two seats BUT they also have the options of trying to cage a seat from Peter Dunne (if Labour doesnâ€™t try to outright take his seat from him) or the Maori Party (if they are amenable). For National the numbers are too close now and relying of near dead political parties is a risky strategy at best and positively suicidal at worst.
So I am wondering if any of these parties has an actual plan for dealing with NZâ€™s very own populist politician, Winston Peters?
And what kind of form would such a policy take?
Winston does not advertise his price and as we have seen before he can be as much of a liability to a government as his vote block is an advantage. Getting into bed with him is a risky proposition.
Sure he looks all alluring laying there, shirt open, soft music playing, his big brown eyes giving that â€œcome hitherâ€ look that makes one go weak at the knees and those sweet words he whispers.
But there is no protection and the morning after who knows what the incoming government will wake up to find sleeping beside them. Even worse as the days drag on and the magic fades, the harsh reality of that one crazy moment will come crashing in like a truck full of expensive crystal wares through your living room wall; a government may find itself wondering if it was really worth it.
Therefore any policy for dealing with Winston will have to have some built in risk mitigation, some provisions to prevent any ugliness, but you can bet your bottom dollar that if things get desperate and the wheeling dealing starts (a definite possibility if the results are close) then those rational provisions will get thrown out the window in favor of all manner of Â libidinous promises made by those with the drooling lust for power that infects all politicians.
Like dogs circling a bitches box (I remember as a kid watching the males circling, howling and generally going crazy in their frenzy to get what they could clearly smell but could not reach) both Little and Key will promise the earth to secure Winston if NZ Firsts seats are needed.
For me this is more shades of 96 than 05, Winstonâ€™s deadly deal with National turned out to be far worse than good and in part helped put National into the deadly slump in faced in the early 2000s (and which it will likely return to again when Key abandons ship).
But letâ€™s not be coy here, this is not a level playing field, this is not some dating game with two hopeful contestants behind the curtain trying to woo Mr Right and who both have the same chances to get that coveted rose. In fact both contestants already have a history with Mr Right and the man himself is not such a catch as he might seem.
The turgid reality in 2017 will be that Mr Right may in fact turn out to be Mr â€œRightwingâ€ and go with his natural and preferred choice (as he has made it clear he is no fan of the Greens) and we get to see Keys lizard like visage on our TV screens for another three years.
And itâ€™s at this point that it becomes clear why the Greens/Labour marriage only goes up until the election itself, afterwards each party is free to go the way it wants, as Labour is hedging its bets on how the seat numbers break down.
If Labour can form a government with just itself and the Greens then that will happen but the odds are that wonâ€™t happen and in that case the next (and probably the preferred) option is that if Labour can form a government with just itself and NZ First then the Greens will be out in the cold. This is the probable rational for the Green/Labour alliance only lasting until the election.
The least preferred option for Labour is a Labour/Greens/NZ First style government with Little in bed with the other two and not enough duvet to go round.
Itâ€™s somewhat cynical no matter how people try to spin it as â€œpolitical pragmatismâ€ as it potentially means a rather nasty situation if the Greens are left at the altar come the day after the election as it finds that Labour is now shacking up with smirking NZ First as they have the numbers. This is because Labour and Little are banking on the Greens supporting them no matter what which as I have noted before may be one assumption too many for the Greens to stomach.
It also defeats the purpose of having a MOU in the first place as by cementing the Labour/Greens brands together now and Â commonÂ campaigning purposes (ie common goals and messages) means a rather nasty unpicking later if they donâ€™t stay together post-election.
I would be less cynical about this if the friction between Labour and the Greens (both current and historical) was less but itâ€™s not and this is the environment they operate in.
Come 2017 Winston is likely to go with National if his anti-Green stance does not change and Labour knows this which is why it is desperately trying to get its numbers up to a level (by trying to differentiate itself from National but still givingÂ the same safe/clean/neat message under the label of “stabilization”) where it does not need the Greens and can rely on NZ First to get it across the line and why its marriage of convenience with the Greens ends the day after the election.
The flip side to this is John Key knows this also but in reverse. Key knows that he is likely to have to deal with Winston to stay in power and the price will be high. Nationals only chance is to sweep the polls as it has previously done but the odds of that in 2017 is next to none and Winston pulled no punches in Northland when taking National to task so the horrible reality is that Key will be making sure Winston is in the blue corner as much as possible (and as much as Winston is willing to give away) before polling starts.
Finally the horrible reality for Labour and the Greens is that they might get enough seats come the 2017 election to beat National but then NZ First goes with John Key and its 1996 all over again.
So there is nothing â€œneck and neckâ€ about the current situation between National vrs Greens/Labour unless the Andrew Little is a giraffe.
*To be fair those voters will also turn on Little and Co quick smart if a Greens/Labour government canâ€™t actually do anything about the hernia rupturing, and with the two minds of $350,000 houses (the possible Greens position if Turei is to be taken at her word) and â€œstabilizationâ€ at god knows whatever still painful house price Labour consider â€œstableâ€ there is potential ahoy for a first term Greens/Labour government crisis of major proportions.