Poll panic may be premature
By Richard Harman (author)
Both National and Labour doubt that Labour is as far ahead of National as portrayed in last night’s One News Colmar Brunton poll.
The poll had Labour on 43% and National on 41%.
It sent shock waves through the foreign exchange market with the New Zealand dollar dropping by around 25 basis points the minute TVOne revealed the poll details.
Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern, speaking after the TVOne Leaders’ Debate said the result had surprised her.
“We’ve seen such a dramatic change in the polls over the past two or three weeks that that drama can go in either direction,” she said.
Her advisers say that though their polling is showing a strong upward trend for Labour, they agree with Bill English's advisers that the private polling is very volatile at the moment.
English told Mike Hosking during the debate that the Colmar Bruton polling was “a bit out of line with what we are seeing.”
“We’re seeing it a bit stronger than that.”
His advisers say National is nearer the mid-40s with Labour lower than that.
But what last night’s poll did confirm was that both National and Labour would need NZ First to form a Government.
That swings the balance to Ardern because Peters has been making it very plain that not only does he oppose almost all of National's economic policies but he is also personally opposed to Bill English and some Ministers.
The row over his pension overpayments which he blames National for leaking has not helped that situation.
But Ardern too could have problems with Peters.
He has been stepping up his attacks on Treaty settlements and said New Zealand must face the world as one people "or we will head down the path of separatism."
“I think we have to be clear that in an MMP environment there are going to be values that parties share and values that parties don’t share,” said Ardern last night.
“But ultimately if voters deliver us a situation where you have to work with particular parties you work on the values that you share.”
Both leaders ended the debate with neither a loss or a convincing win.
English pursued Ardern seeking detail on proposals like the Tax Working Group’s work on a capital gains tax while she was strong on housing.
However, a segment on taxing water saw both leaders get into trouble.
Ardern maintained that “everybody” owned water and that it could be taxed.
She said that she disagreed with Attorney General Chris Finlayson who said Labour’s policy would open a “Pandora's Box” of Maori claims and she reminded English that he had set up a working group to look at (among other things) putting a price on water which would report in December.
Later speaking to journalists, he said National rejected the idea of a water tax.
“We don’t think a water tax is necessary,’ he said.
However, Naitonal would agree to a tax imposed water bottlers.
National's campaign appears to be designed to avert questions about what it has done in office and is directed towards making daily announcements of new policies.
Finance Minister Steven Joyce yesterday said that promises made so far came to a total of $1157 million over the next four years.
“On the capital side, we have allocated $412 million of projects during the election campaign to date, compared with $4 billion of reserved capital funding which was unallocated in the Budget 2017 documents," he said.
“It is clear from these figures that the National Party in government would have considerable funding available for further investment in public services and infrastructure while also both reducing debt and boosting family incomes from 1 April next year with the Family Incomes Package.”
The worry for National is that the trend revealed in the Colmar Brunton poll may inspire a bandwagon effect and there is a rush to Labour.
At this stage, it appears that Labour is soaking up younger and female voters.
National has been focussing on shoring up its rural and provincial base but next week may see English spending more time in urban centres.
Regardless of the precise accuracy of the poll, the debate last night more or less reflected the election campaign as a whole; the two parties are neck and neck.