OPINION: Many happy returns to NZ First, Peter Dunne and the Conservative Party.
The United Future leader last week chalked up 30 years in Parliament. Winston Peters will be blowing out the candles on his party's 21st birthday cake this weekend. Next month Colin Craig will mark three years since he founded his own political vehicle.
Beyond that, the minor parties have little to celebrate.
The latest Stuff-Ipsos poll sugests none of the three parties would achieve the five per cent threshold to get into Parliament. NZ First has dropped to 2.6 per cent, The Conservatives are on 1.3 and United Future barely registers at 0.2 per cent.
United Future is far removed from the heady days of 2002 when it got eight MPs in Parliament with a 6.7 party vote share. Dunne of course has his solid gold handshake - a deal with National in Ohariu.
Like the rest of us, Colin Craig is waiting to hear how, or if, National will accommodate his party in East Coast Bays. Despite a heavy spend on advertising, Craig is struggling for airtime. His low polling means the media are only interested when he's expounding barmy theories. Paradoxically, the craziness is what makes National nervous about a deal.
It seems impossible, but ACT has managed to further turn off voters. It unveiled a fresh line up with leader Jamie Whyte and candidate David Seymour, but our poll shows them down from a "high" in May of 0.9 per cent to 0.1 per cent. Assuming National gives Seymour the nod in Epsom, as expected, he faces a lonely three years in Parliament.
Over the weekend Peters is geeing up the troops at his annual conference at Alexandra Park Raceway.
Although dismissive of polls, Peters has cause to worry. Our poll shows NZ First support has dropped from 3.6 per cent a year ago to 2.6 per cent. The party is a one-trick pony and Peters has wilted this term. Like Craig, he is struggling for attention in a crowded political scene - and a new generation of parliamentary reporters are no longer in thrall to his late-night gossip sessions or half-truth rhetoric. As Peters himself pointed out there is little to separate NZ First and Conservative party policies.
Peters needs one of two things: a leg up from John Key, through a clear signal that National and NZ First could align - or a signature war cry.
In Colin Craig he has found the latter, seizing on public distaste for electorate deals. By threatening to stand in East Coast Bays he also pulled the rug from under both Key and Craig.
An election naif, Craig would relish the publicity of a battle with the old war horse. However, the much savvier Key will baulk at giving Peters the oxygen. Particularly when there is no guarantee residents of ECB will choose to hold their noses and vote for Craig.
He might be pushing 70 - but Peters proved yesterday there is life in the old dog yet. Your move, Key.