Could National govern alone?

Photoshopped image credit: Technomage

Some people say that under MMP, no party is ever going to be able to govern alone, but that is not quite correct. This is only what has happened under MMP so far.

There has been much focus on National having no friends, which completely ignores the fact that, essentially, neither does Labour. Yes, they have the Greens, but their aggregated vote simply forms the entire left wing bloc. Stealing votes from each other makes little difference to the left vote overall.

No. I am referring to the dearth of small parties, which means coalition partners are becoming rarer by the day.

ACT is showing no sign of rejuvenation. I like the look of the New Conservatives, but they probably will struggle to get over the 5% threshold, at the next election. That means that it is most likely that the 4 parties in parliament – 5 if you include ACT – will still be the only ones in the running when the votes have been counted in 2020.

What happens if NZ First does not get above 5%? It has happened before, in 2008. I detect a lot of anger against Winston and it is not just wishful thinking. Many people voted for him in 2017 to ‘send National a message’. Forming a government with Labour and the lunatic Greens was not the message they wanted to send and those voters will not risk such a strategy again. Other voters chose Winston because of specific promises that he made, such as reducing immigration or getting rid of the Maori seats. Winston has let down just about everyone who voted for him and even someone as mercurial as he is cannot get away with fooling the electorate for ever. Besides, he is getting old and if Shane Jones is his succession plan, NZ First is doomed.

I don’t beleive that Winston will do a deal with Simon Bridges, even with Winston switching loyalties to form a government before the election; but another leader could do it. If the latest polls are anything to go by, that leader will be Judith Collins, but would she be willing to burn her political capital so early in her leadership by nailing her colours to NZ First? She would risk a voter backlash. All the venom aimed at Winston comes from people who expected him to go with National and I think Judith would be too smart to risk that.

This means that her strategy should be to keep clear of Winston before the election, but not rule him out during the election campaign. That way, she would give herself more options than Bill English, but could still bet on NZ First not reaching 5%. If that was her strategy, she could well win in 2020, with or without Winston.

If Winston is about to destroy the government he created less than 18 months ago, Judith would need to remain neutral on the question of NZ First until the election. If Winston is successful in damaging the government, the votes will not necessarily go to NZ First. They are more likely to go to National, as the swinging voters recognise the incompetence of the current government.

If NZ First crosses the 5% threshold in 2020, then we could have a National-NZ First government, and Judith will not have burned her political capital by moving in with Winston too early.

If NZ First does not make 5%, those votes will be redistributed, and National may have enough to govern alone.

Judith does not have to decide now. All she needs to do is concentrate on becoming the leader of the National Party and the next election could well go her way. And let’s not get too worried about the latest poll. It is a long time until the next election, and in my opinion Winston’s only hope of political survival now is to undermine Labour, which is destroying both of its support partners… at this point at least. Believe me, he will go there.

So, yes. I do believe that National could govern alone. Either way, those who say that National has no friends in parliament need to remember that, if NZ First starts to undermine the government as has been predicted, Labour will be short on friends in 2020 as well.