Sunday, April 29, 2018

National's biggest challenge

For a while now I've been pondering whether the Nats understand their greatest challenge over the next two years or so.  It's not to find gaps in Labour's spending plans and criticise them.  Neither is it to try to claim the scalp of Clare Curran or any other minister.

National's biggest challenge is finding a coalition partner to form a government with after the 2020 election. 

The best way to assess risk and plan the mitigation is to set out the options available and choose the best one.  Hence, I'll do that here for the Nats greatest challenge.  These are in no particular order.

Option one - do nothing

This is always an option.  It is possible (but not to any great degree) that the Nats just keep doing what they're doing and expect they could govern alone or just wing it after the the next polling day.  They could gamble on Act getting 3-4% and Winston or the Greens disappearing.  Under this option, the Nats make no concerted effort to do anything about forming a MMP government and just let fate take care of itself. 

Option two - talk to Winston First, now

The Nats could start warming themselves to Winston or Shane Jones or whoever is in charge of that motley crew.  And they need to do it now, rather than look at the polls a few months out from 2020 polling day and realise there's a panic.  The person chosen to do this needs to have a good relationship with Jones, because Winston's a liar and a fraud.

Option three - throw Act a few more electorate seats

This option suggests Act won't get 3-4% next time, and there's nothing to suggest that is wrong.  After all, after Rodney Hide's excellent performance in 2008, where he got Act back to over 4% after that election, it's been all downhill since.  Indeed, ever since Hide was deposed as leader, Act has struggled  to get 1% consistently.  Throwing Act some more candidate seats will only produce an overhang and so the maths don't work here, unless to everyone's great surprise, Act does manage to gain 3-4%.

Option four - look for a new party

Under this option, the Nats would hope for a Colin Craig resurrection (almost impossible) or cross their fingers that a new party on the right will be formed between now and 2020 and gain enough votes to get the Nats their required 61 votes.  MMP has proven that the 5% threshold is extremely difficult to break for a new party, and so any new party would have to be formed from within National by a well-respected electorate candidate and leader who will win his or her seat and be good enough to get 5-10% from mainly the Greens or NZ First.  The centre ground is quite crowded between Labour and National, with them getting a combined 90% of the votes on recent polls (or close to it).  Any new party must takes votes from Labour's friends, the Greens or Winston.  It's not impossible that a new green party is formed from the Blue-Green faction within the Nats that is actually Green, not Red as is the case with the current "Green" party.

Option five - talk to the Greens, now

For the same reasons, if the Nats were considering a coalition with the Greens next time, they need to start working with them now.  James Shaw seems a decent bloke, if not very weak and dominated by bossy women, so an approach to him might work.  But with their new co-leader taking the party to the hard left, this option is about as realistic as Phil Twyford building 10,000 houses this year.  In other words, no chance.

Option six - talk to Labour about a grand coalition

No words needed.

Feel free to throw out any other options you see.  There's probably a couple more, but none that stick out to me.  Whatever happens, this is National's greatest challenge and one I trust they are planning for.


Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Option 4B

Instead of trying for a blue/green new party, they might consider asking Judith Collins to form a genuine blue only party from a safe National seat. (What was her majority in Papakura? 7400 or so.) I doubt she'd have too much trouble making five percent.

Psycho Milt said...

I may not be the most credible source of opinions on this subject, but for what it's worth:

There already exists a coalition partner to the right of National: ACT. So the question isn't so much "What should National do?", it's more like "What the hell are the country's right-wingers doing?" A classical liberal party should be good for 5% of the voting population at least, I would have thought. Classical liberals would have to hold their noses to vote National, so why aren't they backing ACT? If the party isn't in good enough shape to vote for, that means it needs classical liberals to join it and turn it into something that appeals to liberal voters.

If ACT was a serious contender for right-wing votes, National would have an easier time wooing NZF's natural constituency in the centre because any right-wingers abandoning it as too wet would go to its coalition partner.

There's a conundrum here: the only way for ACT to become a credible vote-winner is for classical liberals to join it and build it into a vehicle other liberals want to vote for, but building a political party necessarily involves a collectivist approach - not a great strength of classical liberals. I guess the question is, how badly does the right want to win?

Anonymous said...

Getting over 50 percent of the vote by themselves, making sure that they knock both the Greens and NZ First out of Parliament by their on-going attacks in Opposition. Taking soft votes off Labour, really pointing out how useless the govt is. Showing up Ardern for the weak leader that she is. Pointing out the charlatan Peters, ruling NZ First out, as Key did, and English should have. Putting up MMP for referendum/change, for a third and final time (now that voters have seen it at its very worst).

Talking to Labour about a grand coalition? I wouldn't give Labour the satisfaction, more to the point, it would never happen, not even in wartime!


Nick K said...

Milt, why is a classical liberal party right wing? Isn't that perception most of Act's problem?

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Milt I think you are close to the mark. In my eyes, ACT is damaged goods - a brand which like AMP in Australia has been permanently devalued. I doubt a couple of hundred 'Classical Liberals" as you call them joining the party would do any good. Remember, they'd have only two and a half years to set up their party from scratch, whereas something coming from within the Gnats already has a nationwide infrastructure on which to piggy back at the start.

BTW, just what is a classic liberal? Is it a Democrat who listens to Wagner? (Do any Democrats have enough brains to listen to Wagner?

The Veteran said...

Ron ... well it did happen in war time ... sort of ... but I agree ... the 'Grand Coalition' so called is not a realistic option and neither is #1 or #5 ... putting all your eggs in one basket and one breaks and you're pushing s**t up hill while the election of Marama Davidson means the Greens have edited themselves out of the conversation.

ACT is brand broken (particularly with Seymour in charge supported by his band of groupie sycophants) and constitute a poisoned electoral chalice and while NZ First, minus WRP, could be an option I can't see them breaking the 5% barrier nor can I see National flicking them a seat without causing severe ructions within the Party. If the Board tried to and, something for nothing, it won't be Northland. Shane Jones is electoral poison up here.

That leaves #4. Judith Collins could lead a Party on the right with Papakura providing the electorate base. She is the champion of right wing thinking within National and I think a Party led by her could easily garner 3-4% support. Would she be happy to serve as Deputy PM ... probably.

Equally I wouldn't dismiss the Blue/Green option (as much as our old friend PM would like me to). I am aware of significant defections from the 'old' Greens who can't stomach the Green Party social agenda. Scott Simpson, MP for Coromandel, could be a player in this but I think some water has to flow under the bridge before someone commits to making this happen. Risks and rewards ... big time.

My two cents worth.

Psycho Milt said...

Milt, why is a classical liberal party right wing?

I don't see how it can be anything else. The left in liberal democracies is about collectivism, mostly expressed via a strong public sector funded through highly progressive taxes and a comprehensive social welfare system. Classical liberalism is pretty much the opposite of that, which makes it right-wing. I know that classical liberals would prefer to see themselves as being outside that left-right spectrum, the same as the Greens would, but I think in both cases the cap fits - ACT right, Greens left.

Isn't that perception most of Act's problem?

I think the party earned that problem. I recall back in the mid-2000s, you rely on ACT to stand for freedom of speech, against government surveillance, for individuals' rights to the recreational drugs of their choice, etc. For example, it was great that ACT stood against the Clark government's anti-terrorism legislation. The last ten years though, the party's mostly been notable for "tough on crime" bullshit and some seriously illiberal stuff, particularly while John Banks was its representative in Parliament (a man almost comically unsuited to lead a party of classical liberals). As ever, Don Brash proved to have the reverse-Midas touch.

Psycho Milt said...

Judith Collins could lead a Party on the right with Papakura providing the electorate base.

How many voters would be so lacking in integrity as to vote for such an obvious sock puppet? The best you'd get out of it would be a second MP who doesn't count towards your party vote share.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Thank you Milt for eloquently confirming what I was trying to say.

The Veteran said...

PM ... you tread on thin ice with your sock puppet jibe ... remind me just what Marama Davidson is to Me Too.

The point is that there are 3-4% 'conservative' voters out there up for grabs ... a mix of ACT and CCCs plus others. They hold the view that National is too centrist to give them their vote. They might find some name to lead them out of the wilderness starting from scratch but 5% is a big ask with likelihood they become part of the wasted vote ... whereas led by someone who speaks their language with a safe electorate seat and that 3-4% might just put National OTT. I can understand your concern about that.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Milt @ 9:30

Not long ago a number of people who should have had more brains described Donald Trump as a 'Sock Puppet' or worse.

Psycho Milt said...

How else could you describe a party deliberately set up by National to be a coalition partner and based on one of its MPs' electorate seat? There's no thin ice there, it would be so obviously a sock puppet they'd be lucky if anyone but the party's officials called it by its proper name.

Anonymous said...

ACT's problem is, in my view, that they are social progressives so are not a conservative voice. They seem like a slightly less controlling socialist option so look uncomfortable in their own skin. National look a bit limp at present and I wonder if that's by design - they are just another cruise along stand for nothing party nowadays.

I think Brash has been a bit unfortunate really, he came so close to winning. I wonder what NZ would look like now if he had got a term. I would like to think quite a bit different but the cynic within suspects he'd have had no more balls than anyone else.

All quite depressing.


Traveller said...

National has had a traditional partner and that is The Māori Party.

The Māori Party were supported due to Labour’s abandonment of them of the Foreshore/Seabed. A gross travesty now forgotten apparently.

National need to capitalise on this relationship, on the Maoriness of their leaders and put a huge effort into assisting the Maori Party back from the brink.

I suggest this a much easier and sensible pathway than an imaginary new party to the right or resurrecting ACT.

Anonymous said...

If NZ First don't get back next time, which looks highly likely, then Labour don't enough mates either, so the next election could well he FPP in all but name. Certainly hope so. Would love to see the CoL, but especially Labour and Winston First, receive the drubbing they so richly deserve.


Anonymous said...

A more likely outcome is the minor coalition partners suffer from the minor coalition party in power curse and stall their vote below the the 5% threshold.

This wastes their votes and turns into a first past the post election in which National would have a good chance of beating Labour.

Anonymous said...

Why not have National work with Federated Farmers- the same way that Labour works with the Unions to put up a Rural party esp in places like Taranaki. This would swallow up the NZ first Vote out there and possibly some of the labour vote. Another alternative would be to go down the Blue Green Path and see if someone like Kennedy Graham would like to head it up -a true green party with centrist economic and social policies (like they have in Europe) - This would mop up a lot of the Grey Lynn/Ponsonby Green Vote who are happy to vote Green until their house prices are threatened.