Hard News by Russell Brown


Earning Confidence

That any fallout from Dirty Politics -- if that was what we saw in last night's 3 News poll -- would go to New Zealand First rather than the main Opposition parties is not very surprising. For many people, Winston Peters is the equivalent of a "no confidence" vote.

I'm less sure about any enduring benefit to Colin Craig and his Conservative Party. Craig was cock-a-hoop yesterday, but the New Zealand Herald's editors, Tim Murphy and Shayne Currie, let him have almost exactly 15 minutes of 6pm news fame last night before taking to Twitter to make it clear that tomorrow's Herald Digipoll poll contains a very different result for the Conservatives.

Craig's prediction this morning that Garth McVicar would win the Napier electorate for the party is surely fanciful. National's Chris Tremain, with more than 17,000 votes, won Napier in 2011. Labour's Stuart Nash polled 13,636 votes in a modest leftward swing. The Conservatives' Roy Brown got 668 votes. Even allowing for McVicar's celebrity, it's hard to see where that many votes come from, although it's not out of the question that McVicar could pull enough votes from National's 2014 candidate Wayne Walford to let Nash squeak through.

The question is when and how Labour benefits from any of this. Tonight's TVNZ leaders' debate is probably David Cunliffe's best chance to change the public narrative around his party and more so -- let's be frank -- around himself. They really, really need some positive news and there ain't many more places that's going to come from. There's not much mileage left in policy: unlike the small parties they're not in a position to promise some bollocks they're in no danger of having to actually deliver.

On the other hand, there's no reason to think that the traditional Labour Party campaign ground game has gone anywhere. The party faithful came away from the 2014 launch very fired-up and they do still know how to get their voters out. Ironically, at electorate level, some of that will depend on the Greens. Even with unhelpful boundary changes, Jacinda Ardern could win Auckland Central if Denise Roche can communicate to Green voters that she neither wants or needs their electorate votes.

The Greens, I think, are in the unusual -- and unprecedented in our recent political history -- position of making the transition to major party status. In policy terms, that entails moving from principle to practice -- are they there yet? I've sought your questions on that score and will be putting them to the Greens' co-leaders Metiria Turei and Russel Norman at part of The Green Room, the second-screen companion broadcast to the TVNZ debate.

To watch that, point your internet-capable device here from 6.30 onwards, or just use this embedded player:

The talking will be before and after the TV debate, and in short, sharp bursts in the ad breaks.


Elsewhere, I found the first of  Native Affairs' feature programmes on the Maori electorates both fascinating and a little troubling. Te Tai Tonga -- all of the South Island plus a fair chunk of Wellington -- is a geographically huge electorate with very varied needs, not the least of them those of Maori in post-earthquake Christchurch. Perhaps a truly gifted MP could find a way of drawing the threads together, but on the eveidence of Monday's debate, there are no such MPs on offer.

The programme last night on Te Tai Hauāuru made for quite a contrast. The people are more connected and the candidates are much, much sharper.

Note that there's also Radio Live's finance debate, hosted in Queenstown on Tuesday night by Duncan Garner.

I'm going to be away from my computer tomorrow and Saturday and I'd be grateful if you all could use the discussion for this post as a place to post links to the various debates, polls and other campaign happenings. Cheers.

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