Back when John Key confirmed there would be no East Coast Bays deal for Colin Craig, I happily wrote off the Conservative Party. With no hope of winning an electorate seat, they had no choice but to make 5% of the vote, which was one hell of a long shot.
However, if I cast my eye around the internet, I’ve apparently been far too early to write them off. In the NZ Herald this morning, there’s John Roughan talking up the Conservatives in his opinion piece “Craig’s day in the sun may dawn“. The latest Herald Digipoll says National voters would prefer a coalition with the Conservatives, rather than NZ First. And over at the Dim-Post, Danyl McLauchlan publishes his bias-adjusted tracking poll and predicts “The Conservatives will probably cross the 5% threshold.”
Personally, I stand by my prediction that the Conservatives won’t make it. One poll has had them over 4%; the three polls released yesterday had them on 2.4%, 2.9% and 3.8% respectively. This site’s Poll of Polls has them on just 2.7%; increasing week by week, but not nearly with enough momentum to get even close to 5%.
Most of the recent polls have shown a combined NZ First / Conservatives vote of between 9.5% and 10%. The only time this year the two minor (small-c) conservative parties have got above 10% is in the second-to-last Reid Research poll, in which the Conservatives reached their 4.2% high point, and the combine NZ First / Conservatives vote was 10.9%. With NZ First reaching 6% or higher in four of the last six polls, that doesn’t leave enough of the natural small-c conservative constituency to get Colin Craig and his party over the line.
Colin Craig is losing the battle with Winston Peters. And although Craig may have benefited by a percentage point or two from the Dirty Politics fallout, that boat now appears to have floated, with the hacker, Rawshark, pulling the pin following yesterday’s interim injunction against media publishing any newly leaked material.
To my mind, the only way that the Conservatives will make it in to Parliament is if John Key gives National Party supporters an explicit statement that it’s okay if they vote Conservative. The reason John Key is unlikely to do that is that there’s still a risk that the Conservatives still only get close to 5%, without reaching that vital threshold, and a greater chunk of the centre-right vote is wasted.
Key will be hoping that with the minor party leader’s debates now over, the spotlight will shift back to the battle between Key and Cunliffe. Colin Craig will be left fighting for oxygen, and the Conservative Party’s rise will stagnate or even reverse.
It’s either that, or a vain hope from National that the Conservatives somehow surge on their account, cleanly making the 5% threshold, and allowing National to put together a coalition that doesn’t involve NZ First. I wouldn’t bet on it though…