Editorial: National looks vulnerable on own

Last updated 05:00 26/02/2013

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OPINION: The wise make proverbs and fools repeat them. Isaac D'Israeli, English author (1766-1848).

Labour and the Greens must be wondering just what it would take to make a dent in the continued popularity of John Key and his National Government.

A 3 News Reid Research poll released on Sunday shows National has risen to 51.4 per cent support, meaning it could govern alone.

That increase in National's popularity has come at the expense of Labour and the Greens, who polled 43 per cent between them, with Labour on 32 per cent and the Greens at 11 per cent. Even if they had the support of the Maori Party and Mana leader Hone Harawira, it falls far short of having a majority.

New Zealand First did not reach the 5 per cent threshold but even if its 3.4 per cent share was added to the other opposition parties, National would still hold a majority of 64 seats and be able to govern without support from any minority partners.

The reality is that the Government, and the prime minister for that matter, have no right to expect their popularity to be holding steady, let alone increasing.

With the ongoing saga of the partial sale of some State-owned assets, the whiff of scandal over the selection of the SkyCity casino as the preferred convention centre operator, the shambles with Novopay, forced school closures in Christchurch in the aftermath of the earthquake and the education sector generally, the Government has been embroiled in acrimony for months.

There was a glimmer of hope for Labour, though. David Shearer's support as leader of the Opposition continues to climb, with 48 per cent believing he was a capable leader, while voters who thought Mr Key was performing well dropped from 68 per cent in November 2011 to 57 per cent this time around.

But under MMP, the lack of any effective coalition partner is National's Achilles heel. There are plenty of reasons to suspect that the Maori Party's support may well come to an end when this term finishes - especially with founder Tariana Turia retiring.

The demise of Act is almost complete, and John Banks owes his Epsom electoral seat to a thinly veiled suggestion to the Epsom voters from Mr Key that they vote strategically.

It was a hollow victory though, with Mr Banks being Act's sole representative in Parliament because its poor showing nationally was not enough to bring in any list MPs.

It is doubtful that Act has a future, especially if National gets serious about reclaiming Epsom. United Future is a party in name only and Peter Dunne will do well to retain his seat. That inevitably leaves Mr Key with only one choice, at this stage at least, in Winton Peters. That is a proposition he will not be savouring and just how pragmatic our deal-making prime minister becomes in the pursuit of retaining power could well be one of the most intriguing aspects of next year's election.

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For his part, Mr Key has already talked the poll results down and acknowledged the Labour-Green ticket support is likely to rise as the election draws closer.

- Taranaki Daily News

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