Some Labour strategists may agree with Peters that the election should be delayed

NZ First leader Winston Peters today said he wants the election held on November 21,  Radio  NZ   reported.  He says he believes  the health system would be under the pump in September with the winter flu season and the country potentially still dealing with the impacts of Covid-19.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the September election date before the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Peters said he had fought for the November date originally, because his party believed summer elections were better, but given the pressures of Covid-19 he will again raise delaying it by two months.

“Having a good look at it now and with the compounding problems of coronavirus and all the distractions and efforts going in elsewhere, perhaps the sound thing is to say November 21 is the right date and we should go ahead then,” he said.

As  Point of  Order  sees  it,   the rationale for  delaying  the  election  is  not  as  simple  as  Peters  makes out.  For  its  part  Labour  may  be   convinced  it is  vital   to capture   the  surge of    support  Jacinda  Ardern  has won for her   leadership  through  the Covid-19  crisis  before  it   subsides.

That   leadership   has  won  broad acceptance,  even admiration,  at  home  and,  not  surprisingly,  in many  places abroad, where  failures of  leadership   have  condemned  populations to   a  death  toll  far  beyond what a  modern  society  can tolerate.

NZ  journalist  Anna  Fifield  wrote  in the  Washington  Post that  NZ  “had  not  just flattened  the  (Covid-19) curve: it  squashed it”.

And  Alastair  Campbell, (former   spokesman  for  UK Prime  Minister Tony Blair), praising  Jacinda  Ardern’s  resilience as an  example for the  world,  used  a  quote  from  Kiwi  film-maker  Steven  O’Meagher   to underline that:

If there was an election tomorrow I reckon  she would win every  seat”.

 Campbell  noted   NZ  (at the time  of writing)   had  just over  1000 cases  and  one solitary  death.

By any standards that  is remarkable, and  my  friend  Steven is  right…so is she”.

Rave  notices  like that  in the  NZ  Herald   for  Ardern  put a  chill   up   strategists  for  other  parties.

Radio  NZ    quoted National’s deputy leader and campaign chair Paula Bennett  as saying the government and opposition needed to discuss in the weeks ahead whether  September 19 was a realistic date.

I must say that even in the last couple of days I’ve just been wondering just how ready would the public be for a September 19 election and is it fair to them and fair to our whole democracy system to be asking them to go through that,” she said.

Bennett said she wanted serious time and thought given to any alternative voting methods.

“I do think there’s other ways of people actually voting but as I say I do think being engaged in an election and making sure they have the right information is something that has to be thought through really carefully.”

Peter  Dunne, in his  weekly  survey of the political  scene,  had  an  insightful commentary  on the problem  for  NZ  First and  the Greens.

The way the government has approached the pandemic crisis has effectively side-lined them and left them largely irrelevant. Not only have their particular issues been pushed off the agenda, but also, and more importantly, the government has so far demonstrated, albeit perhaps inadvertently, that it does not need their inputs to manage effectively.   

To make matters worse for both, there is the potential that the Labour Party, through its handling to date of the crisis could be a major beneficiary in terms of public support.

“While there are still many hurdles for it to cross and much opportunity for missteps that could cost public support, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that if NZ by election time is looking to have come through Covid-19 reasonably well, Labour could reap a significant electoral dividend.

“However, that would most likely come from currently soft NZ First and Green support. Every poll since the last election has shown National’s support to have remained pretty solid, so the likelihood of a significant crossover vote to Labour even in these circumstances is small”.

Dunne,  with his  long experience  as  a  leader of  a small party  in the MMP  environment,   comes up  with an interesting  conclusion:

Here is the problem. Current electoral mathematics mean that the Labour Party needs to have both NZ  First and the Greens pass the 5% threshold to be confident of remaining in government after the election. Failure of one or both of these parties to cross that threshold will greatly increase the prospects of a National-led government emerging.

“Polls since the end of last year had already been showing National ahead, and able to form a government with the support of ACT, putting more pressure on NZ First and the Greens.

“A surge in Labour support now at the expense of NZ First and the Greens could have the unwelcome effect of seeing both of them out of Parliament altogether and Labour paradoxically out of office”.

No  wonder   Peters  thinks  it  a  good  idea   if the election is   put  off   until  November—and   why  some  Labour  strategists  may be  dithering, too.

2 thoughts on “Some Labour strategists may agree with Peters that the election should be delayed

  1. A November election is risky for Peters too. By then, the Serious Fraud Office investigation into corrupt election spending by Peters, Christchurch Mayor Dalziel and Mayor Goff, Auckland could be known. If it is criminal charges are inevitable given the evidence against the trio. How will the electorate react to that?

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