How voters react to the headlines generated by NZ First’s latest financial shenanigans may (or may not) determine the outcome on September 19.
The most recent Colmar Brunton poll had NZ First down at 3%, so some commentators are already writing off the party’s chances of survival.
But the real question, as some authorities see it, is whether Labour will suffer collateral damage from the fallout, if the Serious Fraud Office probe into the operations of the NZ First Foundation ends up in court action. It could be uncomfortable all round for the coalition if the SFO’s investigation leads to charges which a court ultimately finds proven.
Labour edged down to 41% in the Colmar Brunton sampling, but its own polling apparently shows the gap with National is narrower than the 5 percentage points Colmar Brunton registered.
Whether Labour’s polling by the respected UMR shows NZ First below the 5% threshold is not clear, but Jacinda Ardern seems confident enough that NZ First will return to Parliament after September. She doesn’t see the need to do as National does with ACT’s David Seymour in Epsom to save her coalition partner. So she is not pulling Labour’s candidate from Northland to ensure Shane Jones scores a home run there.
Meanwhile political pundits are having a field day over the repercussions of the SFO investigation into the allegations against the NZ First Foundation — but there is no consensus on the impact on voters.
One News columnist John Armstrong is fierce:
“When is Jacinda Ardern going to stop displaying all the backbone of a spineless jellyfish and start reminding Winston Peters who is the boss?”
He argues that once it became public that the Electoral Commission’s findings had been passed to the Serious Fraud Office, Peters’ relinquishing his status of Deputy Prime Minister ought to have been a mere formality, if only a temporary measure while the SFO determined whether everything was above board or whether prosecutions should follow its investigation.
Fran O’Sullivan in the NZ Herald peddles the opposite view. She contends
“ … it’s quite ridiculous to slam the Prime Minister for failing to execute—at this point—an immediate decapitation policy on Winston Peters. Jacinda Ardern will tough it out— as she should. She is right to argue ‘natural justice’ should prevail. Yet, at the same time, reserve her right as Prime Minister to stand Peters down from Cabinet if the Serious Fraud Office, on completion of its investigation, does file charges against the NZ First Leader”.
O’Sullivan argues that no evidence has been put in public that Peters not only had knowledge but connived in the alleged flow of donations into the NZ First Foundation that donors had felt were to be directed to the NZ First Party itself.
Point of Order suspects the average punter doesn’t give a toss about the implications. What he, or she, cares about is the capacity and competence a politician, or a government in which he is an influential minister, displays to change people’s lives for the better.
On that yardstick the evidence of how voters view the performance of the Ardern-led coalition is equivocal.
Certainly those who believe the PM’s “kindness and compassion” qualifies her as a “world leader” won’t be changing their opinion.
As for Peters, can a leopard change his spots?