The latest political polling shows the centre-right parties pulling ahead of the centre-left—but it may be too soon for the leaders of the National and ACT parties to be thinking they will be forming the next government. The mood of the country has seldom been as dark, chastened as it has been by Covid, the cost-of-living crisis, and a string of Rugby test disasters, which not even the golden glow from the Commonwealth Games could erase.
Some commentators have seized on the One News Kantar poll to suggest that the parties of the right would be able to form a government for the first time without the Maori Party,
The poll results nevertheless contained a warning signal for both National and ACT — the former because it was down two points from the previous poll, and ACT because it may have experienced a one-off bounce in its four-point rise.
National currently has its own troubles, notably with its new Tauranga MP Sam Uffindell becoming the centre of a controversy about how much his electorate should have been apprised of something he did as a 16-year-old schoolboy. Besides, the Nats have yet to find the threads which they could stitch into a coherent policy with broad appeal.
In a sense that reflects the difficult economic road the country is now travelling, for which the present governing parties are getting the blame. The Ardern government’s excuses for how household budgets are being ripped apart by inflated prices have worn thin.
Of course, the state-funded media still are uncritical of the Prime Minister and her deputy. The Kantar poll shows Jacinda Ardern’s personal rating dropping three points to 30 (Christopher Luxon’s also fell 3 points, to 22), and though one pundit still regards Ardern as a global star, the style can’t hide the flimsiness of the band-aids being applied. The outlook in the months ahead is gloomy.
The ANZ Bank, in its quarterly economic forecast, says it expects the economy to contract in 2023 and if international tourism and education do not pick up as quickly as it is hoping, the whole economy could slip into recession.
The net migrant outflow means the labour supply problem won’t be resolved quickly.
The ANZ economists say house prices will fall further than they previously thought, predicting a 15% price drop from “peak to trough” rather than a 12% decline.
They also forecast that the country will not see a return to a net inflow of migrants until the middle of next year, instead of the end of this year.
In a nutshell, non-NZ citizen arrivals are not expected to plug the NZ citizen departures gap for a while yet.
“The Australian labour market is running too hot and pays better.”
ANZ, unlike some other banks, is forecasting that stronger wage growth will prompt the Reserve Bank to raise the official cash rate to 4% in November.
Economic uncertainty and higher interest rates would lead to a pullback in business investment, the bank predicted.
It is not a picture that is encouraging for a government seeking to revive its fortunes.
On the other hand, the Ardern-Robertson combo may think the National Party will keep producing the kind of gaffes which provide fodder for the cartoonists.
For the centre-right politicians, the Green Party’s co-leadership antics have been a diverting episode, but nothing much more than that, even if there are elements in the Greenery bent on becoming politically irrelevant.
So, as Point of Order sees it, the political pendulum has swung a distance from where it was in 2020 — but not yet far enough to guarantee a change of government.