The latest political poll from Newshub Reid Research appeared to show a huge swing from its previous sampling in June, with a 9.2% fall in support for Labour (from 50.8% to 41.6%) and a 6.5% surge in support for National (from 37.4% to 43.9%).
Back in June, Labour was enjoying a post-Budget surge. Subsequently in July, Colmar Brunton polling rated National at 45% and Labour 43%.
So this swing in Reid Research’s work could be seen as a correction—-except the overall trend is as worrying for the coalition as the slump in the Prime Minister’s rating from 49% to 38%.
This is also reflected in UMR’s polling for Labour which has shown her popularity declining for five consecutive months.
It underlines how voters are less impressed with performance on the international stage, compared with the hip pocket effect from what’s being achieved in the domestic economy.
For those convinced the strongest motive New Zealanders have when they enter polling booths is to vote against a party rather than for it, the omens are not good for the coalition.
The latest local body elections turned in a spectacular result in the capital where the Mayor Justin Lester has been ignominiously thrown out of office. His failure to make any effort to resolve Wellington’s transport problems should ring a warning in the Beehive.
Lester’s quite remarkable pusillanimity over the region’s bustrophe, and the need for a second Mt Victoria tunnel, saw him dispatched after a single term.
The light flashing here for the Ardern government lies in its refusal to pursue motorway construction— for example from Otaki to Levin– which is creating deep-seated resentment in key electorates.
The erratic trend displayed in the successive Newshub Reid polls disguises to a degree how decisions of the coalition government feed animosity among voters.
Farmers reckon they are being targeted unfairly on climate change issues. In regions like Southland, Waikato and Taranaki, this resentment is particularly deep-seated— and emollient gestures from Shane Jones are not easing the belief that the government is undermining the rural economy.
NZ First, despite adopting the role of champion of the regions, has seen its support dropping below 5%. A majority of those who voted for NZ First in 2017 believed they were voting for Winston Peters to join National in coalition, and are now so disillusioned they won’t do so again for the old maestro.
The government in its initial months offered the excuse that after nine years of neglect, the public could not expect immediate results from its heavier spending in areas like health and education. But now as the government enters election year, the lack of any sort of improvement—and in some sectors a deterioration—the “nine years of neglect” theme is beginning to rebound on ministers.
Instead ministerial incompetence has become so prevalent the coalition is in danger of setting its own dismal record.
Evidence of the latest own-goals emerged over the past week. There was the case of Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, whose woeful performance in deciding to grant permanent residence to convicted drug smuggler Karel Sroubek would have led to his sacking in any other administration. The independent review of the decision indicated that the minister hadn’t sought legal advice, only read the summary of the papers presented to him, and then appeared to ignore the material contained in the case file summary against granting permanent residency.
This ILG incompetence followed the revelation that Eugenie Sage’s decision to block a land sale for Waihi Mines to develop tailing ponds had been overturned by two senior Labour ministers. It appeared Labour feared if the Sage decision had been judicially reviewed, it would have been found to have been made outside the criteria laid down in the law.
The Sage and Lees-Galloway examples of ministerial incompetence come on top of Phil Twyford’s KiwiBuild fiasco, David Clark’s bumbling in Health (think of the lack of measles vaccine or the DHBs’ Ballooning deficits) and Carmel Sepuloni’s $1bn beneficiary overpayment.
And have the problems of homelessness or child poverty been solved?
Even on climate change, it is clear from recent protest marches and Extinction Rebellion action, elements who once supported this government are in denial.
Other issues are eroding the confidence of voters. The most worrying for the coalition is one of its own making, in its “well-being” slogan. Not many NZers, particularly in the middle ground, where elections are fought and won, have the feeling their well-being is higher now than, say, under John Key’s administration.
Time for Finance Minister Grant Robertson to step up and announce deep tax cuts?
Don’t bet on it.