There exists in Kiwi politics one Really Important Rule. This rule is so incredibly important (more so than even Aaron Gilmore) that every political party in the land finds themselves having to work around it at least once every three years.
The nature of that rule? "Don't Count Winston Out."
It's the local equivalent of Field Marshal Montgomery's famous dictum that "Rule One, on Page One of the Book of War is 'Do not march on Moscow!'", and for much the same reason. Those that disobey the rule about Not Counting Winston Out have an unfortunate tendency to come up looking very silly the day after polling day, for starters. Never mind the occasionally quite interesting ways in which Winston takes his revenge - I'll bet that back in 2005, then-Greens co-leader the late Rod Donald *probably didn't think* that there'd be any serious consequences for his referring to Winston as Hitler or NZF's policy orientation as being "Nazi". Nek minnit, Rod Donald's party gets ruled out of the Labour-led government in consequence :P
Still, every election for some ineluctable and inscrutable reason, the pundits queue up to try and sound the pre-emptive death-knell for NZ First. Pretty much every time since 1999, the commentariat has tied itself up in knots attempting to proffer a singularly impressive array of prognostications as to why this might be the case. The trouble with this, of course, is that when it inevitably doesn't come true (with the possible exception of 2008 - which was temporary!), the pundits wind up getting rather annoyed ... which leads to an even more irascible set of vitriolic projections and predictions the next year. Sean Plunkett talking in visceral terms about nailing shut the coffin of a political vampire named Winston falls squarely into these terms, while I'm sure that I detect rather more than a hint of triumphalism in the latest offering from Gordon Campbell on Winston Peters as an endangered species. (Seriously. Man thinks it's "rewarding" to "speculate [...] that [NZF] won't be back in Parliament at all")
This isn't *quite* the case with Bomber, who's managed to go inside three years from describing my party as being "a cavalcade of deformed personalities masquerading as a party list" made up of "Andrew Williams, the singing weather man Brendan Horan, Andrew Williams, the South Island Independence militia man, Andrew Williams, a faceless time-server, and Andrew Williams", while predicting an NZF "meltdown before Christmas" ... through to penning pieces like that he scribed earlier this week which, while they're still consigning us to the ash-heap of electoral history ... nevertheless manage to sound almost amiable (on occasion) toward our eclectic band of rednecks and redsquares. We've even heard an "I love Winston" escape from his ink-blotted fingers, on occasion.
Nevertheless, the only thing truly surprising in the title of his last piece in our direction - "Will NZ First get over 5%? I'm saying maybe no" ... is that he's left himself so very much wiggle room with the "maybe" to avoid embarrassment on Election Night. Must have heard about my efforts with fellow TDBer Frank Macskasy to establish a Daily Blog staff pool on whether NZF gets back :P
The evidence presented is again not particularly compelling.
Phil Goff's weakness as Labour leader has been mirrored by David Cunliffe's ongoing poor showings in the polls - he's actually doing *worse* than Goff at the same point in the electoral cycle by this rubric. We didn't need the Tea Tapes to get into Parliament, as we were already at or around 5% on the very day the Cup of Tea happened. We've got a veteran and widely/well respected Leader to take us through this campaign; and given recent events, it would even appear that NZ First has options for future Leadership that go some ways beyond myself and Tracey Martin circling each other in a pit armed with sticks while the Spock-Kirk fight theme plays. Oh, and the Conservatives have been cast down and cast out by National; while I still maintain that our respective slices of the electorate are far more different than people might think looking at things from far away and outside our Party.
Anyway, we've already dealt with those elements of Bomber's analysis before, when he first published them.
It's the Gordon Campbell analysis that's annoying me at the moment!
Now I generally and genuinely really, really like Gordon Campbell. The man's columns are pretty much the gold standard in political opinion pieces from where I'm sitting, and I can remember many a night spent down the dark and dingy (ok, well silver-finish'd and fluoro-lighty) computer labs at UoA pouring over his analysis and that excellent publication Werewolf, featuring Lyndon Hood. Because us political uber-hacks really have no lives. His objectivity seems to depart him, however, whenever he pens something about Winston, leaving a number of points to be corrected.
First up, his assumption that National's torpedoing of Albatross Neck-Ornament Extraordinaire Colin Craig's run in East Coast Bays indicates a National desire to "keep Peters on life support" as a potential coalition partner. National's stance on a coalition with NZF has not really changed in the last few months - we're officially on the books as an "option", but given the list of non-negotiable bottom lines which we're proffering (including asset #Renationalization and more recently a ban on farmland being sold to National's rich Chinese mates) ... nobody seriously thinks this is going to happen.
A National-Conservative (ConNat, pronounced "Canard") government, by contrast, looked scarily plausible. So scarily plausible, in fact, that the Nats *had* to do something to prevent it from looking likely enough to spook Middle New Zealand voters. Thus, Craig got ruled out in East Coast Bays, tacitly placing him in the "Also-Ran, Won't Be In Parliament" category.
This didn't signal an end to his usefulness to National, however; and it is my avowed belief that Colin Craig is still presently working for his deep-blue paymasters on a mission to do everything in his power to directly hobble New Zealand First and make damn sure we come in under the 5%. Phrased simply: National (and quite possibly pliant elements in the media) are actively working to try and make their two problems cancel each other out. They're doing this by first ensuring the Cons won't get into Parliament by ruling out a Cup of Milo deal for them, then using the Cons to take out their greatest bane: NZ First.
Bomber adds fuel to this argument by pointing out that the Cons have millions of dollars to waste on trying to sway our voters. Funny thing is, they had more than a million dollars to try and do exactly the same thing last time around back in 2011, to no discernible avail. And I maintain in any case that if NZ First should be worried about the political aspirations of *any* millionaire ... it's actually Kim DotCom and the InternetMANA outfit that actually stands to gain the most out of NZF's downfall. They're the protest vote party of 2014, they edge in around exactly the same territory we do when it comes to national sovereignty or an interventionist state securing our future; and they've got an exciting, well resourced campaign to bring it all together. An NZF associate hit up an Internet Party meeting the other night, and summed it up succinctly: "Being at that meeting gave a sense of what it must have been like to be at a New Zealand First meeting in 1996".
In any case, while we could argue until the farmland ownership comes home from China about whether the Cons and NZF are dissimilar parties with divergent support bases and ethoi (I think they *are*) ... the more incontrovertible part of Campbell's analysis is the polling figures themselves.
Pundits and poll-watchers far too frequently talk about "cracking the 5% threshold" without then *also* mentioning that this 5% isn't a fixed number of votes every election - but rather a steady one twentieth of the total number of votes cast. The big game for NZ First, therefore, is to wonder at what rate we'll be able to convert the one third of eligible voters who didn't vote in 2011 into Black and Silver supporters. In specia, whether we're able to do it faster or at the same pace as other parties, and what this means for our overall share of the vote.
I believe that we'll definitely be able to build on our 2011 support at an impressive rate.
Further, while both Campbell and Bomber talk in glowing and effusive terms about NZ First's status as the protest vote party in 2011 (and therefore, implicitly, about how we've drawn a whole truck-tonne of votes that perhaps aren't naturally captivated by our charms) ... the part they neglect to mention is how so very, very many people and voters were quite prepared to write off NZ First as a bunch of has-beens and Winston as yesterday's man. We genuinely had a very difficult task convincing some voters that a vote for NZ First wasn't just a vote that would be wasted as it dissipated off into the electoral ether if we came in under 5%.
Fortunately, in 2014, we don't have to contend with that. Everybody knows that New Zealand First is ready, willing and able to defy political gravity at a moment's notice.
More to the point, check out how Bomber's chosen to end his latest piece :P
"If the Labour vote was collapsing as much as satanic jester Matthew Hooton whispers, then NZ First would be hitting 8%, they aren't, they are barely over 5%"
So right there, from the horse's mouth, you have it.
We're over 5%, and still rising. This Phoenix Party's got a helluvalot of life left in her yet. And campaign ain't even begun!
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