The polls look promising for the Nats and ACT – but it’s too soon for them to be counting on an election victory

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.

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