The Colin Craig conundrum

On Monday, Matthew Hooton made an interesting statement on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon weekly political punditry segment. Mr Hooton noted that National were expecting that an electorate deal with Colin Craig would cost National 2% to 3% of the party vote. To make the electoral maths work for National, they would therefore need the Conservative Party to be picking up 3% to 4% of the vote.

Presumably, National’s internal polling is showing that 2% to 3% of its voters would consider walking if the Conservatives were given a boost into Parliament. That’s not surprising. A significant chunk of National’s current support is relatively soft. Those supporters have no real allegiance to National – they might have voted for Labour during the primacy of Helen Clark, or might have occasionally flirted with the Greens, but consider the opposition too  much of a mess to switch back. However, a significant chunk of that soft vote might very well consider Colin Craig’s particular brand of crazy a leap too far.

That makes for interesting times in Camp National. If Mr Hooton’s comment is based on actual intel on National’s internal polling, a significant chunk of the right-wing vote is at risk. If National does a deal with Mr Craig, 2% to 3% of the right wing vote disappears; if no deal is done, the Conservatives’ party vote ends up being wasted, essentially re-allocated between the parties that do make it into Parliament.

So is an electoral deal worth it? To date, the Conservatives are not exactly lighting the political world on fire. In this site’s Poll of Polls they are currently sitting on just 1.4%. Of the last ten major polls released, they’ve ranged between 0.5% and 2.3%, getting 2% or above in just two of those polls. If National loses 2% to 3% by making a deal, there’s currently no gain for National and possibly a net right-bloc loss.

The Conservative vote may well rise if National gives a clear indication that a vote for the Conservatives is not a wasted vote. On the other hand, if National says no deal and declares war on the Conservatives, they may well keep the wasted vote down to the Conservative’s current one point something per cent.

National certainly have a conundrum on their hands.

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