The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Friday, August 26, 2005

not a Cabinet In Waiting

To change the government National needs to present a credible alternative, in terms of both people and policy.

Recent shenanigans between MPs tend to indicate trouble within caucus, and English made an interesting comment at the aforementioned election forum on August 10th, which made it very clear that he was out of the loop on the tax policy. You would expect the former Minister of Finance to be included in that discussion, unless of course it is being conducted on a factional basis.

Thinking back to 1999, it seems to me that Labour was in ascendance, as a party organisation, while National was in decline. While the Nats are certainly making a comeback this election, after plumbing the depths in 2002, I get the impression that the rebuilding is relatively recent and still quite fragile - as shown by the lack of competition within National for many elected posts, eg candidates. Labour by comparison is still very vigorous internally - membership is high, activist levels seem healthy, branch organisation is strong.

Some are starting to feel that a Labour-led government is an inevitable outcome. I'm not sure about this yet, but I suspect if National doesn't take a lead (and I'm talking 4 points plus, not just one or two) in next week's polls (which will measure the impact of their tax policy) then it may be too late. Their polling will fall further as the strategic amongst their voters shift to United and NZ First in a bid to give Labour a coalition partner that those on the Right would prefer, and to Act to insure their survival. If I know anything about Labour it is that they are strong finishers - that is what undid Harre's bid for Waitakere in 2002.

National have not been showing unity on policy. On the few occassions they do talk detail they end up disagreeing with each other. This impacts negatively on their attempts to look like a Cabinet In Waiting, especially given the relative inexperience of their leader and the possibility of including other parties in the mix. Brash's solution to the recent forestry gaffe (imagine how much bigger that would have been in a policy area like health or education?) shows that he wants to stamp his mark but now might not be the best time to do that. The cynic in me wonders if the Smith-Connell disagreement was engineered to give Brash a chance to come in over the top and show his leadership, but it hasn't really worked as it just shows their poor policy (and processes) up.

As Jordan recounts, the wheels have started to come off for National this week and they are desperately running out of time to stick them back on. The media savagery will start in earnest very soon too - Brash's comments on women seem to have ignited some earlier than expected (gee, I wonder why?).

Tick, tick, tick.


Rich said...

Strikes me their first mistake is to have a leader "parachuted" into the party, rather than expecting them to do the hard yards of being an MP first.

span said...

i wonder thought if English et al thought that Brash would be a serious contender for leader given his age and inexperience? (I mean back in 2002, not now of course!)

I have a favourite theory that English is actually quite happy for Brash to lead them to defeat this time, then he can come back from the dead after the election and try another run at leader. Of course there are other contenders these days, but it doesn't mean English isn't secretly rubbing his hands together in glee right now (John Key must be.)

T said...

I don't see English sticking around much longer. He's tried and tested, and was found lacking.

span said...

but i like my Bill English as Kim Beasley theory! don't shoot it to pieces ;-)

if Bill didn't want the top job back then I think he would have stood down for this election as some others eg Roger Sowry.

doesn't mean he's going to get it of course. but i like to think he's a trier.