One poll does not a Prime Minister make. But David Cunliffe will certainly be pleased with the bump in Labour’s polling. If the result was anything else, he’d be explaining why and we all know that in politics, explaining is losing.
There is still a lot of ground between now and the next election. But already John Key has been smart in calling his National-led government “centre right” and labelling Labour and its obvious coalition partners a “far left” combination.
Despite continual attempts by both Labour and the Greens to land one on John Key, the median voter doesn’t seem to care. He still has high popularity, the support of a broad swathe of New Zealanders and even though he comes across a bit smug, he is far more relatable than David Cunliffe or heaven forbid Russel Norman.
That is an achievement in and of itself. It would have been so easy for the left to go after John Key in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. But they really haven’t landed any punches because the GCSB furore turned out to be a storm in a teacup. He even got away with comparing the GCSB to Norton Anti-Virus. No attack ads ensured because the left is broke.
And there’s the rub – elections cost money. It is doubtful whether Labour and the Greens can front without resorting to using their parliamentary expense accounts wherever they can. It’s unlikely that a few big backers will put up more than a token few thousand dollars. But with John Key, well, he’s got more mates.
Labour might have finally redesigned their website, but they have a lot of ground to cover in convincing New Zealanders that a government to the left of Helen Clark is a good idea. In my opinion, she knew that the middle mattered and despite pushing through some legislation I definitely was not a fan of, she secured her government through Working For Families and interest free student loans.
John Key is not Don Brash. David Cunliffe is most certainly not Helen Clark. There is cause for concern if David Cunliffe keeps spouting his leadership trail nonsense – but the closer he moves towards something Russel Norman would say, the further away from the middle he goes. New Zealand voters have proven they understand strategic voting under MMP.