For most of my time here in New Zealand First, we've made a habit as a party of disregarding opinion-poll results on grounds they're frequently inaccurate, and no substitute for the one poll that actually matters - which happens on election day.
During the Northland By-Election, however, this changed. All of a sudden, Winston was prepared to give credence (albiet with some sensible reservations) to the results of opinion polling in that electorate, which had him leading 54 to 34 against National's Mark Osbourne.
Now, whether you subscribe to the slightly optimistic notion that opinion polling is continuing to get more and more accurate with each passing year (even where NZ First is concerned) - or, if you buy into the rather more grounded notion that the value in opinion polls is less to do with precise figures-converted-into-seats than with generalized trends and flows of support ... there's something interesting about each of the most recent Colmar Brunton and Reid Research opinion polls.
And I don't just mean the fact they've both got John Key's personal popularity taking a reasonable hit (between 2 and 4.6%, respectively).
Look at where Winston is, and then look at where Andrew Little is.
In the Colmar Brunton, they're neck-in-neck on 9% each.
In the Reid Research, they're well within margin of error of one another - Winston on 11.2%, Little on 11.6%. A knife's-edge separation of statistical insignificance.
This is not exactly a novel trend, either. Its roots go all the way back to 1996, where for a brief historical moment New Zealand First completely eclipsed Labour in the polls to become our Nation's second-largest political party. Of course, we all know what happened there.
More recently, right the way from our storming re-entry into politics like a tungsten-clad Thunderhawk back in 2011, there seems to have been this unofficial competition of sorts between ourselves and the Labour Party over who's *actually* leading this country's Opposition.
Now, I might be the *teensiest* bit biased on this score, and freely acknowledge my fairly Kim DotCom sized conflict of interest when it comes to acting as an impartial adjudicator ... but from where I'm sitting it's become increasingly apparent ever since that point in late 2011 that it is they, not we, who seem to be witnessing their relevance fade off into the ether and relegation to "minor party" status become increasingly inevitable.
Meanwhile, the Party which tens if not hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders inexorably look to, in ever-increasing numbers, for protection from threats both domestic (e.g en-Beehived) and international to our sovereignty, economy, and way of life ... is New Zealand First.
On everything from housing to superannuation, and from state assets through to opposition to the TPPA, we can stand truly proud as the leading Party not just of Opposition, but of Protection - and Responsibility.
Almost as importantly, when it comes to harrowing the Government in the House, you will STILL find no equal for Winston in full flight - and proving we are far more than just a one man band ... who could forget Ron Mark's awesome offensive against sending Kiwi troops back into Iraq. Or, less prosaically, the forthright expression of views he engaged in more recently - which captured the sentiments toward Government of most of a Nation.
But I didn't set finger to keyboard and pen this piece with a view to enumerating the ways in which NZ First gives hope to the ordinary Kiwi. I've got an entire Facebook wall and occasionally twitter-feed that's often dedicated almost exclusively to same.
Instead, I wished to mark the occasion of Winston's support in the Prefered Prime Minister-ship stakes drawing even with Little's. And remark that this effectively means that the numbers-game side of things (all important in politics - even and perhaps especially when dealing with the abstract, imaginary-if-not-downright-hypothetical numbers of appearance and polling) is slowly but surely starting to line up with the realities of facts on the ground and the fables in my head about which of the Man In Black or the Redcoat many New Zealanders feel more comfortable supporting and lining up behind.
I'm sure that over the coming weeks and months we shall continue to see this trend perpetuate itself, as Labour continues its slow ebb into obscurity, while NZF's support will merely continue to increase.
Because New Zealanders know that there's one party above all others whom they can truly trust as leaders of the Opposition to be able to Put New Zealand First.
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