colin craig

Peters for Northland? Not likely.

Last week, the NZ Herald reported that Winston Peters was considering contesting the Northland electorate by-election, following the resignation of National’s Mike Sabin:

Speaking from Te Tii Marae at Waitangi today, Mr Peters claimed he had been inundated with calls asking if he would put his name forward for the position.

“New Zealand First is seriously going to consider the issue,” Mr Peters said. “It’s a possibility. I’m a local here, I come from here and I know more about this area than a whole lot of other pretenders. I got a whole lot of phone calls. That’s why I’ve been interested.”

I’d have to say, I’d be highly surprised if Peters does in fact end up standing as a candidate. Remember his musings ahead of the last election about running in East Coast Bays against Colin Craig? Or his flirtations with running against John Key in Helensville ahead of the 2011 election?

Peters loves headlines, and he’s well aware that speculation about whether he might stand in prominent electorate battles is guaranteed to provide headlines.

Nonetheless, Peters would have only an outside shot at winning. With Sabin’s 2014 majority sitting at over 9,000, any opposition candidate is going to have a hard road ahead, no matter what their public profile.

Yes, Peters was born in Northland, and he’s got a bach up there, but given his history of representing Tauranga, and his having subsequently been based in Auckland, there would still be the strong whiff of opportunistic carpetbaggery should he stand.

And yes, NZ First received 12.8% of the party vote in Northland in 2104, but that was mostly at the expense of Labour, which received just 16.6% of the party vote. NZ First didn’t stand a candidate last election, and Labour’s Willow-Jean Prime received 25.9% of the electorate vote, just shy of the combined Labour-NZ First party vote of 29.4% party vote.

At the end of the day, perhaps the most important point is that Winston Peters really doesn’t like losing. He won’t put himself forward as an outside chance. His ego simply won’t allow the likely humiliation of losing to an as-yet-unknown National candidate.

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The deconstruction – what went down

So, in the end it wasn’t even close. Unless the special votes are dramatically out of kilter with the votes counted on election night, National has the numbers to govern alone.

The worse-case scenario now for National is that they lose a seat to the Greens, meaning that National would need one of either ACT or United Future to pass legislation. It’s not such a terrible worst-case for the Nats – both ACT and United Future are entirely dependent on National for their continued survival; they wouldn’t be giving National too much stick. Besides, as Graeme Edgeler writes at Public Address, if the special votes are distributed in the same proportions as in 2011, there’ll be no change to the makeup of Parliament.

So how has National managed to defy the laws of electoral gravity, while Labour plumbs new depths, and the minor parties are all left licking their wounds? For me, there are five main issues.

Firstly, the public were happy with our current economic stability. On The Nation, just before National released its tax “policy”, Bill English couldn’t highlight a single new idea that National would bring to the table to spur economic growth. It turns out the public weren’t too unhappy about that. People presumably looked at the economic mess that exists in the US, the EU and across the ditch in Australia, and thought that things were actually pretty good here. Labour’s ideas might have sounded interesting, but would they work? Do I trust Labour to mess around with Kiwisaver rates, and what will the effect be on my weekly take-home pay?

Secondly, for almost three years (and another three before that, if you include the Goff years), Labour has presented itself as a chaotic pack of self-absorbed in-fighters, too busy playing identity politics and sticking the knife into opposing factions to give a damn about Middle New Zealand. Labour may have stayed on message with grim determination during the actual campaign, but by then it’s a bit late. Staying on message for six weeks cannot outweigh more than two and a half years of self-mutiliation. The public had already made up its collective mind that Labour were a pack of muppets.

Thirdly, the public were happy with our current political stability. Put simply, Internet Mana scared the hell out of people. I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve talked to who weren’t necessarily National Party fans, but who wanted Kim Dotcom’s hands nowhere near the levers of power. Those people likely voted National. The Left may point to ACT or Colin Craig, and ask what’s the difference? Well, part of the reason Colin Craig didn’t get the endorsement he wanted was that National’s polling indicated National would take a 2-3% hit if they gave Craig a seat, so there’s not necessarily much of a difference there. And ACT simply isn’t seen as a threat these days; it’s been dependent on National for so long that it’s been politically neutered. Internet Mana, on the other hand, was a frightening unknown; a Frankenstein mix of hard-left activism and big money.

Fourthly, Dirty Politics largely wiped out any emphasis on policy. Yes, the policy was out there, and Dirty Politics almost didn’t feature during the leaders’ debates, but a huge chunk of the election campaign was lost to it. The minutiae of the allegations were largely lost on the public. Judith Collins made an easy villain, and she resigned – case largely closed. Dirty Politics wasn’t seen as a reason to change a Government.

Finally, the Moment of Truth. It was the moment where Kim Dotcom took his credibility out behind the bike sheds and hit it with both barrels, making himself (and the Left, by association) look like idiots. But it also inspired a large dose of parochialism in the dying week of the campaign. “I’m not going to be lectured to by a bunch of foreigners” – it was a phrase I heard rather a lot of, in various permutations. On The Nation yesterday, David Farrar told Lisa Owen that his polling for National showed a jump in National’s support following the Moment of Truth.

Kim Dotcom and his Moment of Truth may have handed John Key those final few seats he needed to attain the ability to govern alone.

 

Out in space, no one can hear you scream

From the sidelines of relevance, ACT has been screaming and waving its hand in a desperate bid to be noticed. The bold (some may use less charitable descriptive language) policies have been coming thick and fast recently – abolishing the Overseas Investment Office, getting rid of the Resource Management Act, arming shopkeepers…

They’re designed to grab headlines, to give party leader Jamie Whyte a few life-giving gulps of publicity oxygen. If publicity is supposed to get you votes, it doesn’t appear to have working for ACT. Following their campaign launch and OIO and RMA announcements, the last Colmar Brunton had them on a year-long high of 1.2%. Unfortunately, they could then only manage a combined 1% from the latest Digipoll and Ipsos polls.

Things are only going to get worse this week. Tonight, Kim Dotcom unveils his Moment of Truth. Whatever Dotcom and Glenn Greenwald have to say tonight, be it bunker busting explosion or damp squib, the media won’t be talking about much else. Certainly, the upcoming War of the Documents between Greenwald and Key won’t be a simple day-long skirmish.

Minor party policy will well and truly be taking a back seat. ACT and United Future might as well just concentrate on Epsom and Ohariu respectively, and give up on the rest of the country. Given that Colin Craig has no hope of winning an electorate seat, Dotcom’s Moment of Truth might very well be the final nail in the coffin of the Conservatives’ run for the 5% threshold.

In fact, the coming week is likely to be a policy-free vacuum full stop. Which means that for the opposition, they’d better hope that whatever Dotcom and Greenwald have to say is compelling and easy to understand.

David Cunliffe, Russel Norman and Meteria Turei had better get used to the idea that for the next four days, the only soundbites they’ll be giving will be on spying. For the Greens, that focus might still pick them up a few votes, given their long-term activism against our spy agencies. For Labour though, Dotcom’s Moment of Truth may prove catastrophic. All eyes will be on John Key and whatever he may end up declassifying. With four days of Key v Dotcom & Greenwald, David Cunliffe and Labour Party policy won’t get a look in.

The stakes are high. If Dotcom’s “proof” that Key knew about Dotcom before the raid isn’t watertight, Internet Mana will be a laughing stock. Likewise, if the Greenwald v Key debate about mass surveillance gets lost in a maze of paperwork and semantics, Labour and the Greens can probably give up on being anything other than bit players for the final week of the campaign. The only winner is likely to be Winston Peters, sweeping up the disillusioned.

The fortunes of Labour, the Greens, and Internet Mana are now firmly anchored to two men. Roll on 7pm…

If only political parties didn’t have candidates…

Politics can attract some mightily strange individuals.

Every party has a collection of members with bizarre pet policies, who believe that if they just hang around long enough, they’ll get a good enough list position to float on in to Parliament and unleash their agenda upon an unsuspecting populace.

For some, it’s not even necessarily an outlandish policy platform that drives them. They just want the fame and power. They’re the Aaron Gilmore’s of the political world; those who just can’t wait to lord it over the rest of us. From the “Born to Rule Tories” of the Right, to the “Life-long Union Hacks” of the Left, both sides have them. And both major parties are united in their collection of political staffers, who believe that after years of loyal party service, they’re entitled to their Parliamentary meal ticket.

For others, it’s all about the notoriety. It’s the fifteen minutes of fame that counts. Hey, everyone wants to be noticed, to be able to say, “I was adored once too…”

The problem for any political party is that these people can occasionally be adept at keeping the crazy hidden. Or they’ll put up their hand to campaign in the unwinnable seat, when no one else wants to die in that particular ditch, and the vetting process is a cursory once-over. Then suddenly they’re part of the public face of the party. And one day, in the middle of the campaign, the party leader is having to distance him or herself when said candidate has spouted something monumentally stupid/racist/inflammatory/insane/all of the above.

That’s currently Labour’s nightmare, with two of their candidates going rogue. One of them, Steve Gibson, has already featured in this blog. Back then, it had emerged that he’d written on Facebook:

“there is the REAL face of Shonky Jonkey Shylock…nasty little creep with a nasty evil and vindictive sneer…”

When he apologised, he stated that he hadn’t been knowingly anti-Semitic; without knowing the etymology of Shylock, he’d simply been repeating an insult he’d heard from others.

The problem is that he’s at it again. According to the Timaru Herald, Mr Gibson said he was concerned about “degradation of the public’s confidence in the democratic process by Judith Collins, Cameron Slater, Jason Ede and other rotten Shylocks.” This time, he can hardly say he didn’t know that “Shylock” is a pejorative anti-Semitic term; not really the sort of language you want to attack the National Party with when the party leader is of Jewish heritage.

That wasn’t all though. As the NZ Herald reports:

In fresh comments, Gibson said National looked like “a bunch of dicks” for proposing certain education policies against the advice of unionised teachers, the Timaru Herald reported.

The same newspaper said Gibson called National “a bunch of jerks” for comparing rural water pollution caused by dairy farms to Christchurch’s urban water pollution. Gibson also said he would not take anonymous questions at political meetings from “obsequious, sycophantic scumbags” because he believed his National opponent Jo Goodhew could be writing those questions.

Evidently, a charming individual is our Mr Steve Gibson. And certainly not one to learn from his mistakes.

Labour’s second rogue candidate is also from down south. The party’s Selwyn candidate, Gordon Dickson, has achieved notoriety for a largely incomprehensible email to RadioLive reporter Lloyd Burr. (A link to the email is here. It’s well worth reading, simply for the terrible grammar and general WTF factor…) In it, Mr Dickson addresses Mr Burr as “Dear Lazy”, before making some form of veiled insinuation about Police Minister Anne Tolley, accusing Burr of dereliction of his journalistic duty, and telling Burr to “Have a nice weekend and grow a pair”.

According to Lloyd Burr, Mr Dickson had previously demanded that Burr interview him, and directed Burr  to ask John Key if he has faith in Anne Tolley, without giving any indication why such a question should be asked. Apparently the media exists to be at Mr Dickson’s beck and call, and is “Lazy” if they fail to comply with his every whim…

It’s not just Labour though. The Conservative Party’s Steve Taylor, standing in New Lynn, has his share of bizarre press releases, and was outed last month as having taken pictures of a Family Court lawyer’s children from her Facebook page and published them on his anti-Family Court website in some form of stalkerish attempt to intimidate her.

Unfortunately, both David Cunliffe and Colin Craig seem fine with their respective candidates’ actions. Cunliffe merely states that Labour’s seeking the party vote in those electorates, while Craig evidently sees nothing wrong with his candidate’s online harassment campaign.

At least the odds of Gibson, Dickson and/or Taylor getting elected are minuscule. Thank heavens for small mercies.

UPDATE (08/09/14):

Tracy Watkins reports this morning that David Cunliffe has said he would sack Steve Gibson if he could, and that Gibson has “no future” in the Labour Party. Of course, nomination date has well and truly passed, meaning that Gibson can’t be removed from the ballot or Labour’s list. Which begs the question why didn’t Cunliffe remove Gibson when he had the chance, when the initial Shylock comment surfaced?

Can the Conservatives make 5%?

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…

Poll of Polls update – 28 August 2014

3News Reid Research released their latest poll last night, and it’s good news for almost everyone but the major parties.

National are down 2.5% to 45%. That’s the danger zone – if NZ First is over 5% and National is on just 45% or thereabouts, then the odds are that Winston Peters holds the balance of power.

Labour also fall, down 2.6% to 26.4%. It’s another poll result showing Labour getting less than their abysmal 2011 result, which will be scaring the hell out of a few list MPs.

With both National and Labour falling in this Reid Research poll and the last Herald Digipoll, you’d have to assume that Dirty Politics is having an effect, possibly tarring both major parties with the same brush and squeezing policy out of the debate.

The Greens rise 0.5% to 13.5% – a good result, but they’ll be disappointed they haven’t picked up more of the vote that has fled Labour.

Instead, the big winners are NZ First, up 1.7% to 6.3%, which would see them safely in Parliament, and the Conservatives, up 2.1% to 4.6%, a result that’s close enough to the 5% threshold for swing voters to feel a little confidence that a vote for Colin Craig might not be a wasted vote after all. Whether it’s a one off result for the Conservatives remains to be seen, but it’s a result they needed. Given ACT is going nowhere fast in any poll this year, John Key could perhaps be forgiven for hoping that Christine Rankin takes Epsom in an upset victory. Otherwise, that’s a large chunk of wasted centre-right vote.

Internet Mana gain slightly – up 0.1% to 2.1%. They’re regularly getting at least three MPs in the polls these days, so another poll confirming that will make them happy.

The only losers are the Maori Party (down 0.1% to 0.7%) and ACT (who remain steady on a paltry 0.3%). Nonetheless, Reid Research have just polled the Te Tai Hauauru electorate, which showed the Maori Party candidate winning the seat with a slim 3% majority over Labour, which would provide a second seat (presuming Te Ururoa Flavell holds Waiariki).

Given that there’s only one poll out in Te Tai Hauauru, and it shows a Maori Party victory, I’m adjusting my seat assumptions for the Poll of Polls to show the Maori Party winning two electorate seats.

So here’s how the Poll of Polls looks now:

National: 49.1% (-0.6%)

Labour: 27.0% (nc)

Greens: 12.2% (+0.2%)

NZ First: 5.1% (+0.2%)

Maori: 0.9% (-0.1%)

United Future: 0.2% (nc)

ACT: 0.4% (-0.1%)

Internet Mana: 2.2% (nc)

Conservative: 2.2% (+0.2%)

Based on those percentages, the parties are predicted to win the following number of seats:

National: 61 (-3)

Labour: 33 (-2)

Greens: 15 (-1)

NZ First: 6 (+6)

Maori: 1 (nc)

United Future: 1 (nc)

ACT: 1 (nc)

Internet Mana: 3 (nc)

Having fallen below the 5% threshold in mid-June, NZ First are finally back in Parliament. Their six MPs come at the expense of National, Labour and the Greens, with the Left and Right blocs both losing three seats.

Also worth noting is the continued rise of the Conservatives. Back in mid-July they had fallen to 1.4%. Now, just over a month later, they’re on 2.2%. It’s still well below the 5% threshold, but they’ve got momentum.

Overall, the Right has a total of 63 seats, compared to 51 for a Labour, Greens and Internet Mana alliance. With both United Future and the Maori Party providing overhang seats, National’s 61 seats means they can’t quite govern alone, but the Right bloc would still have enough seats seats to not require NZ First.

‘The Nation’ minor party debate – Colin Craig loses, Winston Peters wins

Having spent the weekend in Napier, resolutely not pondering anything political, I got back to Gisborne last night and finally got around to watching The Nation’s minor party leaders’ debate.

Policy-wise, there was nothing to learn. This was a show devoted almost entirely to the spouting of pre-prepared talking points. Here’s my view of how the various leaders performed:

Colin Craig v Winston Peters: This was perhaps the most important clash. Having initially been excluded from the debate lineup, and making an entrance purely because of a High Court injunction, Colin Craig needed to do well to justify his presence. He’d argued in Court that the Conservative Party would be negatively impacted if Winston Peters was given free reign to speak on conservative policy platforms – essentially admitting that the policy platforms of NZ First and the Conservatives are largely identical. Both parties are duking it out for the same pool of voters, and that pool isn’t large enough for both to make it over the 5% threshold.

So who won? In my opinion, it was Peters by a long shot. He wasn’t in particularly hot form, but it was more than enough. Perhaps the defining moment was when moderator Lisa Owen described Mr Craig as Peters’ doppelganger, and asked him to describe why anyone should vote Conservative rather than NZ First. Craig couldn’t come up with a single policy reason. Instead, looking somewhat miffed at the question, he said that the Conservatives were clear that they would work with the party with the most votes, rather than play games a la NZ First. If that’s the Conservative Party’s major point of distinction from NZ First, then it’s game over for Colin Craig.

Winston Peters v Metiria Turei: Given Mr Peters’ long-held antipathy towards the Greens, fireworks were expected between Peters and Turei. As it happened, when Peters was offered the chance to put the boot into the Greens, he declined, instead saying that he gets on with everybody. This was then followed up with, “I get on with everybody who has a reasonable view on a reasonable thing”. What that means is anyone’s guess, but there’s no doubt that Peters is happily engaged in his favourite electioneering past-time – keeping everyone guessing.

Colin Craig v Metiria Turei: As a property developer, Colin Craig is not a fan of “green tape” holding up development. Plus, as Winston’s stunt double, it’s only to be expected that Mr Craig would be anti-Greens. Unfortunately, for Mr Craig, Ms Turei owned him. She held tightly to the party line (“National’s pollution economy”), while Craig’s interjections were banal and resulted in perhaps the defining image of the night – Turei haughtily performing a ‘talk to the hand’ in Craig’s direction.

Talk to the hand, Colin. (Thanks to Stephanie Rodgers at Boots Theory for the screenshot.)

Talk to the hand, Colin. (Thanks to Stephanie Rodgers at Boots Theory for the screenshot.)

Te Ururoa Flavell v Hone Harawira: Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Hone Harawira has natural charisma. Te Ururoa Flavell, not so much. With everything at stake for the two party leaders in their respective seats, and with both parties fighting for the same pool of voters, neither could afford to have a bad debate. They both stayed on message, with Harawira banging the drum of Maori inequality, and Flavell emphasising a) the real gains made by the Maori Party due to being at the table, and b) that his party is not a proxy of the National Party. Unfortunately for Flavell, there was no passion to his approach. Harawira had the emotional message and the better soundbites. A win on points for Harawira.

Jamie Whyte v the world: It wasn’t a good debate for Jamie Whyte. He was stilted and amateur. Sure, he had some good lines, accusing others of being “communistic” and “neo-racist”, but you get the feeling that he rather prefers the safety of a lecture theatre, where he can espouse his dry rationality to his heart’s content, free from the indignity of moderators who interrupt, opponents who interject, and people in general who laugh at you while you’re talking.

Peter Dunne v ???: In his role as Captain Sensible, Peter Dunne exists in his own separate space. No one bothers feuding with him, because his strongest held view appears to be that people should be able to decide at what age they begin claiming superannuation. And that’s basically how it played out on The Nation. Dunne was there, but you’d struggle to remember much of what he said, apart from that he wants people to be able to decide at what age they begin claiming superannuation. There was some half-hearted sledging from Winston Peters, when Dunne described the anti-land sales position as “xenophobic”, but Peters didn’t seem to think it was really worth his time to bother directing much bile in Dunne’s direction.

Perhaps the most interesting part of The Nation was the panel discussion between Brook Sabin, Bryce Edwards and Lisa Owen over which leaders should have been part of the debate. Which says a lot about the debate itself…

 

 

It isn’t easy being Whyte

Jamie Whyte has a problem. He’s the leader of a party that doesn’t have enough support to get more than one MP into Parliament, assuming ACT wins the Epsom electorate. And given that he’s not the one standing in Epsom, that means that unless something magical happens to ACT’s polling, he’ll be missing out. David Seymour will be ACT’s sole representative in Parliament.

ACT is polling just 0.5% in this site’s Poll of Polls. The highest any major poll has had them this year is 1.1% (the mid-March 3News Reid Research poll), and in the last dozen polls released, they’ve hit 1% just once. Of the last five poll results, they’ve ranged between 0.8% and not registering at all.

Richard Prebble (and, to a certain lesser extent, Rodney Hide) understood that ACT’s natural ideological constituency was relatively small. There really aren’t that many classical liberals floating around. Nonetheless, in the wake of the ever-extending meltdown that was the last gasp of Hide’s leadership, Don Brash’s attempt to make lightening strike twice, and John Banks’ eccentric conservatism, ACT finally went back to its roots. Jamie Whyte was supposed to be the calm voice of rationalism. Voters would be unable to ignore the power of the Professor’s arguments, and ACT would be great again. No more the shrill populism of perk busting! No more the awkward conservative Sensible Sentencing Trust juxtaposition! Nothing but cool, calm classical liberalism…

Unfortunately, such ideological purity still has only a tiny natural support base. Thus, no movement in the polls. So what do you do when nothing you say gets you any traction? Well, after having consulted Richard Prebble, there’s only one way forward – go populist. Expand upon Three Strikes, and go Back to the Future with a One Law For All crusade!

Now, Richard Prebble always understood that when one rabble-rouses, one shouldn’t over-think the rationale. One Law For All and Getting Tough On Crime don’t have the most convincing rationales behind them – either philosophically or statistically. They’re crude slogans, designed to attract support without thought.

That’s not the Whyte way. As a former professor, he doesn’t want to be seen as simply a common Prebble-esque rabble-rouser. He enjoys the role of political philosopher, and therefore needs a philosophical underpinning to his every stance.

One gets the feeling that his impassioned philosophical defence of One Law For All was made up on the fly, a work in progress. It was certainly easily demolished on blog sites such as Pundit, Maui Street and Public Address. And from there, the philosophy-on-the-hoof process has continued, with Whyte attempting to cite coup-plagued Fiji as a model of racial policy. Now he’s tried to cite Sweden as a an example of how to eradicate race from the law, only to be monumentally fisked by Professor Andrew Geddis.

Unfortunately, the populist policy Whyte is pushing already exists (to a greater or lesser degree) within a crowded conservative market place. Whyte is up against Winston Peters and Colin Craig, and Whyte is certainly not a patch on Winston when it comes to selling racism. He’s not even a patch on Colin Craig in those stakes, and that’s certainly saying something.

They say that all publicity is good publicity, and Jamie Whyte must certainly be hoping that’s the case. There’s really little else that seems likely to go his way.

Christine Rankin in Epsom

The Conservative Party have announced that Christine Rankin will stand in Epsom. It’s not surprising, and it won’t make a difference to the election result.

The reason it’s not surprising is that the Conservatives now need every piece of publicity they can grasp. With almost zero hope of winning East Coast Bays, now that John Key has pulled the rug out from beneath Colin Craig, the Conservatives need their face on the evening news as often as possible as they go for the magical 5% threshold. Christine Rankin still has a profile – she’ll get the occasional soundbite on the 6pm news when the Epsom electorate holds a candidate meeting.

Ms Rankin is standing because the Conservatives now have no choice. They’d tried to dial back the odd-factor, selling themselves as responsible possible-partners for National, desperately hoping for an East Coast Bays deal. That’s now gone pear-shaped, and every bit of publicity now counts.

The reasons it won’t make a difference to the election result are two twofold.

Firstly, almost no one will be voting for ACT’s David Seymour because they think he’s the best candidate. His introductory “Hi, hi, hi, hi video” and his appearance on The Nation’s Epsom candidates debate (minus Paul Goldsmith) put paid to that long ago. The good people of Epsom will vote for Mr Seymour because he will resolutely support National. It’s a tactical vote, and almost no votes will flow from Seymour to Rankin. The simple fact is that Ms Rankin has no chance of winning, meaning there’s no tactical reason to vote for her. Her (few) votes will come from conservative National party voters who still don’t understand MMP and aren’t sure whether Paul Goldsmith actually exists.

Secondly, the Conservatives are polling so far below the 5% threshold that a few appearances from Christine Rankin on the evening news will have no appreciable effect on the party’s ability to cross that threshold. The few extra party votes she might garner by standing will still see the Conservatives fall well short of 5%. Likewise, the election result will have to be closer than a barbershop shave for the party votes stolen by Ms Rankin from National to make a difference.

Ms Rankin is an inconsequential distraction, nothing more.

UPDATE:

The NZ Herald reports that:

[Conservative] Party leader Colin Craig says they have polled the electorate, and found the ACT Party isn’t going to win.

Well, I hope his polling company is better than one he used last election, when he predicted he’d win the Rodney electorate, but came third…

UPDATE 2:

It’s also perhaps worth noting that in 2011, the Conservative Party came sixth in the Epsom party vote contest, gaining just 412 votes, and fifth (of eight candidates) in the electorate vote, picking up just 342 votes (not too far ahead of Penny Bright who managed to get 124 votes).

Where to now for Colin and the Conservatives?

It’s (almost*) official – there’s no deal for Colin Craig in East Coast Bays. Murray McCully will not be knifed, thrown under a bus or given concrete shoes to go swimming in. Given that Mr Craig had already accepted he couldn’t win if Mr McCully stood against him, I think we can safely say that the odds of an electoral seat victory for the Conservatives are about nil.

(Mr Craig will undoubtedly have done exhaustive polling in the seat, and his polling has evidently given him nothing to trumpet to the media. Although, given Mr Craig’s polling apparently put him on course to win the Rodney electorate last election, which of course he lost by a landslide, any polling announcements showing him on course to win anything would likely have to be treated with a healthy fistful of salt.)

Matthew Hooton has discussed on several occasions National’s internal polling on the likely impact of the Conservatives, which showed that National will lose at least 2% if it did a deal with Colin Craig in East Coast Bays. Essentially, the Conservatives needed to be polling above 3% to make a deal worthwhile, and the simple fact is that they haven’t come close. They’ve made 2.8% and 2.7% in the last two TV3 Reid Research polls. However, of the last dozen major polls released, the only time they’ve been above 2% is in those two Reid Research polls. The remainder of the polls have had them between 0.9% and 1.7%. In this site’s Poll of Polls they’re currently sitting on 1.5%.

National has looked at the polling and decided that a deal simply isn’t worth it.

With the door closed on an electorate, that leaves just one alternative – to make a desperate last-minute dash for the 5% threshold. Given their current polling, it’s highly unlikely they’ll make it.

For a start, prospective small-c conservative voters who might have considered throwing in their lot with Colin Craig have now been sent a signal by National that their vote will be wasted. Those voters are now far more likely to go to National or NZ First. It’s in National’s best interests to now squash the Conservative Party vote – the lower the Conservatives go, the less wasted vote for National to worry about.

When Matthew Hooton appeared as a guest speaker at the recent Conservative Party conference, he told them they needed to be bolder – to embrace the God vote and to look at more extreme policy platforms such as bringing back the death penalty. Given that Mr Craig has already ruled out supporting the death penalty on TV3s The Nation, going for the God vote is probably the Conservatives’ only hope now. Colin Craig has gone head-to-head with Winston Peters and it’s got him nowhere. Mr Peters is very good at being Mr Peters; Colin Craig comes off as a pale imitation.

Regardless of where Colin Craig tacks, policy- and image-wise, it’s fairly safe to say that Mr Craig can kiss his three years worth of investment in his party goodbye. If the party gets no higher than it did at the last election, or even sinks below its 2011 vote, one wonders whether Mr Craig will bother looking to 2017.

* Although John Key has said he won’t pull Murray McCully from East Coast Bays, technically there’s still room for a reversal on that position right up until 26 August when nominations close. Of course, for Mr Key to perform an about-face, something catastrophically wrong would have had to happen to National’s polling, given how desperate such an about-face would look.