It is said that a week is a long time in politics. At a time when it seemed as if the National Party was going to sleepwalk to another victory at the polls. Andrew Little resigned as Labour Party leader in favour of Jacinda Ardern on August 1st, 2017, in an act initially seen as an act of political suicide. Then, in mid July, the Green Party performed an act of political suicide that has all but killed any prospect of them potentially staying in Parliament. On July 27th the opinion polls had the Greens polling at 15%, which was their highest poll rating in many years. Less than three weeks later the Greens had slumped to a mere 4.3%.
Incredibly, both results were the result of statements made by their co-leader Metiria Turei. On July 16th she admitted that she had committed benefit fraud while she was on the (then) Domestic Purposes Benefit back in the early 1990s. Turei justified this fraud by stating that she was doing this to put food on the table for her children as the benefit back then was inadequate for her to provide for her family. Considering how inadequate social welfare benefits were back then – and still are – there was a lot of outpouring of support for her actions, particularly from single parents.
However, just as vocal were many beneficiaries who condemned her actions by pointing out that it was welfare fraudsters who helped to reinforce the welfare bludger myth and encourage the more punitive policies imposed upon single parents on welfare benefits, particularly after 2013. Other groups, noticeably the ultra-conservative New Zealand Taxpayer's Union, condemned her actions and even demanded she pay back the money.
After admitting she had committed benefit fraud the Greens had their poll rating go from 11% to 15%, especially after the Greens announced they would increase benefit levels for most benficiaries. Then, on August 4th, it was revealed that she had committed electoral fraud by lying about where she lived so she could vote for the local McGillicuddy Serious Party candidate. As the result of that admission two Green MPs – David Clendon and Kennedy Graham - went on public record and condemned Turei and announced their intention to resign on August 7th, 2017. They resigned the following day as the Green leadership prepared to expel them.
On her own accord Turei resigned from the Green Party's co-leader position on August 9th, 2017. In the first poll taken after her resignation the Green Party had slumped to 4% in the opinion polls. Under the Mixed Member Proportional system of government a political party must gain at least 5% of the party vote. If the poll had been the 2017 election result the Greens would've lost all their Parliamentary seats. That would've meant they had no representation in Parliament since the Greens broke away from the Alliance in the late 1990s.
While the voters may have been willing to for vote for a politician who admitted she committed benefit fraud to provide for herself and her child they were not so forgiving as regards the electoral fraud. Turei's resignation effectively destroyed the Greens in the opinion polls. With her resignation the Greens effectively lost most of their voter support to the Labour Party.
An examination of the One Network News Colmar Brunton opinion polls between the first week of July and mid-August 2017 shows the spectacular rise and fall of the Greens: Between July 1st and July 5th National polled at 47%, Labour polled at 27%, the Greens and NZ First polled at 11% each. Between July 22nd and July 27th National polled at 47%, Labour polled at 24%, the Greens polled at 15% and NZ First polled at 11%. Between August 12th and August 17th National Party polled at 44%, Labour polled at 37%, NZ First polled at 10% and the Greens polled at 4.3%. In the preferred Prime Minister poll Bill English and Jacinda Ardern were both polling at 30% while the Greens leader James Shaw was polling at a mere 0.3% (as of August 17th). With the Greens effectively out of the race it's anyone's guess what the election results will be. Regardless of the election night result it is almost certain that NZ First will be the party that will decide who will form the next government. However with such volitility now in the general election campaign it is not certain who NZ First will do a deal with to form a government, but obviously it will be the party that offers Winston Peters the best baubles of Office. In fact there is a strong possibility that a Labour-led government could very well form the next government especially since Peter Dunne has pulled out the general election race denying the National Party United Future's minority party support.
As we have said the Greens demise has been to Labour's electoral advantage with a meteoric rise in the polls. Since Adhern's coronation as Labour leader the capitalist press talk about Jacindamania which as seen a general collapse of the minority parties in the opinion polls towards Labour. Adhern has adopted a positive campaign in a similar manner to that of the Corbyn's UK Labour Party campaign. This has tapped into the general mood of discontentment within society. The masses are looking for improvements to their lives after a decade of austerity despite a rock star economy. Policies to build affordable houses, and one year free tertiary education, decriminalisation of abortion have gone down well along with a number of other populist policy announcements. What is lacking is a coherhant socialist manifesto to achieve this instead what we have is vague touchy feely statements and promises of a better tomorrow linked to a campaign slogan of “let's do this”. The difference is Corbyn's UK Labour campaign had an election slogan “for the many not the few” backed up by a (limited) socialist manifesto that included nationalisation that enthused the working class and gave 68 year old Corbyn political rock star status resulting in the revival of a leftward moving UK Labour Party.
With the Greens out of the general election race the ball is now in Labour's court. What will they do with it?
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