Red Alert

Voters let down by Key? Let me count the ways

Posted by on October 24th, 2012

There is a political maxim that only one poll really matters, and that is the one taken on election day.  Sometimes, however, one is able to divine wisdom from polling trends at other times.

The veracity of individual polling methods is hotly debated.  But what seems to be emerging as fact is that – taken as a whole – polls since the election paint a clear picture of National in decline and Labour on the rise.

What was around a 20 point gap between the two main parties on election day is now reduced to 10 points in most polls.

David Shearer’s leadership on economic sovereignty, education and employment are clearly being seen as the stuff of credible alternative government.  At the same time the Government of the day is shooting itself in the foot faster than opposition members can fire off their own rounds at them.

Key already sat uncomfortably with many New Zealanders before the election.  His broken promise not to raise GST and the growing gap between rich and poor were unwelcome. His proposal to sell assets was (mistakenly) thought negotiable by some of his supporters.  But until the 2011 election, Key appeared comfortable riding a (smile and) wave of popularity. The tea-pot tapes saga was the first real sign of wide-spread discontent, and it simultaneously signalled that Key was uncomfortable taking decisions under the glare of more thorough media scrutiny.

Key’s majority in the House has always been slender this term.  The vote on my Mondayising Bill is illustration of that, as was the vote on paid parental leave.  If further illustration is required, recall that more New Zealanders voted last year for parties that opposed asset sales than parties that supported asset sales.  The Government Key cobbled together was based on uncomfortable compromises.

And ever since the election, the Government has embroiled itself in scandals. I think the number and consistency of scandals is the main reason the public at large is turning off Key.  Let’s recall some of the major ones:

– ACC letter of support written by Minister with a conflict of interest (prompting Nick Smith’s resignation)

– ACC privacy breach where emails with sensitive client data was sent out to Bronwyn Pullar

– A Sky City deal that appears to have been done outside the rules that are designed to prevent corruption. An inquiry is currently underway that will examine the integrity of the Prime Minister’s actions, and whether proper process was followed.

– Hekia Parata’s announcement that increased class-sizes were the way to quality education.  The effects of the back-down on Hekia’s relationship with her caucus colleagues has been more dramatic than the colour coding on name-badges that signalled to Canterbury School Principals that she thinks their schools should be for the chop.

– John Banks ‘anonymous’ donations scandals – the start of the Dotcom fiasco.  Police said Banks filed a false declaration but that it’s too late by law to prosecute him.  Banks also forgot a helicopter ride to the Dotcom mansion to propose a toast at a celebration.  He also denied that he had received discounted accommodation (a gift he failed to register on his parliamentary pecuniary interests register) but was later forced to admit he had.  John Key has bizarrely refused to read the police report. He hasn’t yet disciplined Banks, despite claiming that his Ministers would be required to hold to a higher ethical standard.

– The Dotcom fiasco is ongoing.  John Key has admitted the agency he is responsible for (GCSB) spied on Kim Dotcom illegally.  He also failed to remember that he was briefed on Dotcom months before the issue came to public attention, forcing an embarrassing backdown.

– MSD privacy breaches.  Kiosks with public access contained private information of the most sensitive kind – including information on our most vulnerable children in state care, their health conditions, locations and other personal information.

But it is not just these scandals that are embarrassing.  Earlier behaviour is now shaping into a pattern.  Turnarounds on Kiwisaver (introducing legislation to lower contributions, and then later introducing legislation to increase them again) and Working For Families (communism by stealth, or appropriate incentives for work?)  Anyone remember John Key’s ’embarrassing uncle’ speech at the launch of the Rugby World Cup, or the three-way handshake at the end? Or the Government promise that no property-owner would be worse off in Canterbury?  More recently John Key’s embarrassing brain-fade about how he voted on the alcohol age a few weeks before.

I haven’t mentioned the lack of action around outdated IRD computer systems that Key said in February can’t support changes from Government, or perserverance with asset sales legislation that is looking more and more expensive for the taxpayer over time.  Nor have I compared Key’s claim he’d stem the tide of Kiwis moving to Oz to pursue better opportunities with evidence people are now moving there in record numbers.   But despite these omissions, it’s not surprising that those who say they supported Key in the last election are today saying they are disappointed with the Government.

Key will be looking forward to throwing in the towel. Richard Worth, Pansy Wong and Phil Heatly all had to step down last term, but this term the casualties are mounting faster. He’s already said he’ll resign if National are thrown out of Government.  Pressure may mount for him to stand aside sooner.

So how about the issues that really matter?  Labour has clear positions on education, jobs, procurement, monetary policy to support exporters, pro-growth tax reform, and savings. The Key-Government is rapidly earning a reputation as a party distracted and not prepared to take the big decisions that a Shearer-led Labour Government would.

It’s no wonder the polling suggests voters are turning off Key faster than ever.

28 Responses to “Voters let down by Key? Let me count the ways”

  1. Jack Ryan says:

    Quite a lot of “gotcha” politic above. Maybe it’s working on improving labour’s reelection chances, but I’m not sure how much the electorate will take fro either side if all they do is play that game. However I am also interested in your opinion of the other table on the wiki site about preferred Prime Minister. Hardly any change for either John Key or David Shearer.

  2. jennifer says:

    @ Jack, the incumbent always has a massive advantage of perpetual coverage, which up until recently has been cravenly positive. I think that as people get to know Shearer a little better, and see that he is not just another typical politician in the Key or Romney mould, they will warm to him more. It always takes time.

    On the policy side, Labour has some internationally orthodox ideas around the economy that are just starting to get recognised. I recall how the Tories in Aussie slammed Keating as some kind of rabid communist for his compulsory super scheme, which today has $1.4 trillion in it, making the Aussies the richest people on Earth, net per capita. Tories always play the short game, which goes some way to explain Key’s popularity, whereas Labour plays the long game, which takes time.

  3. Jack Ramaka says:

    Key will say whatever people in NZ want to hear, he and Joyce are very cunning politicans and use the medis to influence the voters even it means manipulating the truth.

    Key appears to have caught the same disease that John Banks caught on the Cabbage Boat, he can not even remember which way he voted on the Youth Drinking Age.

    He does not come across as a particularly sincere person who is genuinely working in the best interests of all New Zealanders.

    He is pandering to his Puppet Masters here in NZ and the USA.

  4. Jackryan says:

    @Jennifer, I bet to differ. If you look at the period 05-08, John key went from 0 % preferred Prime Minister to 30 % in 4 months. Sure some was a transfer from Don Brash, but still it’s a massive increase for a non-incumbent. There was not the same vote transfer from Helen Clark to Phil Goff to David Shearer.
    I’m not sure you can correlate compulsory super with net worth per capita, sure it helps but its just part of the picture. If anything the list on wiki shows that countries with high net worth per capita are highly industrialised and do not rely on commodity exports or rely on metals/oil.

  5. Blarney Stone says:

    Oh dear David! Why would you possibly talk about polls when David Shearer’s support hasn’t shifted from Phil Goff’s support? The gap between National and Labour has closed a little bit, but the preferred PM ratings hasn’t. No leader has ever won an election with 8% support. David Shearer’s numbers aren’t rising. If you want to win an election you need to change your leader. Who will you support?

  6. SJW says:

    I don’t understand why Mr Key still rates so high in the polls.

    I feel let down by this Government, in the ways they are not managing their ministries (as the above),

    I feel let down by the way they are not addressing the degenerating direction things are going for the lower wage earners.

    I feel let down by the unacceptable non-answers they are giving the house on serious matters,

    I feel let down by the way the speaker of the house allows National MPs to give a small speech putting down the parties and members of the opposition at the end of each non-answer. This is entirely unjustifiable behaviour.

    I feel particularly let down by our media, especially the televised media, who have been extraordinary slow to point out the many dubious things going on in NZ, such as the comments made by our ombudsman recently:

    I feel let down by the New Zealanders who refuse to see this Governments cynical approach towards New Zealanders and their interests. We are being sold down the river and people are still cheering about it. I feel extraordinarily let down by how gullible we evidently are toward believing the diet of spin-smoke and mirrors-that this Government and our media appear happy to be feeding us all.

    The direction we are heading is only providing a brighter future for the uber wealthy; corporates et al. For the rest of us ‘blighted’ is a more suitable word.

    It is my view that Labour need to take a more assertive approach to the endless rubbish we are being fed.

  7. tamati says:

    How many Chickens do you have clucking around in the egg tray of your fridge David?

    I seem to remember that Don Brash and National led the 5th Labour government for much of Helen’s second term. People may be frustrated with the government, but they are a long way from embracing Labour.

    A week is a long time in politics, two years is an eternity. New Zealand’s economy is doing very well relative to other OECD countries, and that’s what JK will be judged on in 2014.

  8. jennifer says:

    @ Jackryan, and as I said, Shearer is not in the Key or Romney mould, prepared to say anything and blow any dog whistle to gain popularity. Strip away the excuses, and the broken promises and false hope, and the Key government has done little other than try to manage our decline. But I sense the day of reckoning is not too far off.

  9. here to help says:

    Spend any time with swing voters (not the predictable tribalists) and you’ll know what the problem is – if you’re willing to listen.

    John Key? Grrrrrrrr …

    David Shearer? Zzzzzzz …

    The tide has turned against the government. Now voters just need something – somebody – to turn to. But who?

    I would walk a hundred miles to vote this lot out. I wouldn’t cross the road to hear the Labour leader speak (or try to).

    Labour caucus, do your job. Please.

  10. Tim G says:

    Oh dear… this sort of hubris turns New Zealanders (even Labour Party activists) off. I don’t know what this post was supposed to achieve aside from being troll bait. To be honest, the crowing about how great Shearer is doing really does play into the “Planet Labour” meme. The tories said it above – his support is pretty much static.

    As for the downturn in National’s support, thankfully, we can all see it happening. But looking at the record of their disastrous year that you set out above, I don’t think you have much to boast about. To be honest, I do not see why, given the Right’s disastrous year, the support for National and Labour isn’t inverted.

    Whatever you do, don’t see this as vindicating your tepid, centrist positioning. Because that would be bad for our party.

  11. OneTrack says:

    “I feel let down by the New Zealanders who refuse to see this Governments cynical approach towards New Zealanders and their interests”

    And I haven’t got over the feeling of being let down by Helen Clarks government of endless nanny-statism and using hard earned tax dollars to bribe her way back in to power so it works both ways.

    Posts like this, basically whinging that John Key is the cause of all your problems ( waa waa), don’t give me much confidence that the lessons of 2008 and 2011 have been learned yet. This nasty party stuff hasn’t worked for six years – try something else.

    How about you work out what your policies are, start promoting them and then you might get somewhere? Play the ball, not the man. It’s working for Russel and his policies are rubbish.

  12. David Clark says:

    @heretohelp @timg @onetrack

    Please note that this post is an attempt at explanation of the trend in the polls (see example linked in second para for reference if you haven’t looked). NZ First and Greens are maintaining the increased levels of support they received in the last election. National is heading in a consistently downward direction. Labour is heading in a consistently upward direction.

    The post attempts to explain why National are spiralling downward, while Labour are (on the steepest path of any party) going up. I’ve attempted an explanation, but rather than pitching an alternative, you appear to be trying to shoot the messenger.

  13. SJW says:


    “And I haven’t got over the feeling of being let down by Helen Clarks government of endless nanny-statism and using hard earned tax dollars to bribe her way back in to power so it works both ways.”

    I suggest that looking backwards is not a useful thing to do; keeping your mind in the past may lead you to miss how much you are being screwed in the present.

    It may seem like “nasty party stuff” to one wishing to stay stuck back 5 years ago (I guess there are lots of others who miss those times too) however I do feel that Mr Clark has merely listed some of the serious issues this Government is creating for us all. I believe the list isn’t as extensive as it might be; however the full list of major problems that have arisen from this National Governments poor policies and compromised attitudes would require the space of a small tome and might not be appropriate for a web page.

    Your reference to “Nanny State” I find really quite shocking after what has occurred over recent years and indicates to me that you are overly susceptable to National spin tactics to the point of being blinded as to what is occurring in your country since National has come to power. I suggest you take a look around you…I hope that you do at any rate.

  14. Tim G says:

    @David C.

    First, was that graphic prepared by David Farrar or Hooton? It would appear (though its not exactly precise) that its tracking from the results on election night 2011. You know as well as I that, tragically, there was a massive block of would-be Labour voters that simply didn’t turn up because the media had (for 3 years) been painting it as a foregone conclusion (even when Labour were running a good campaign). What was the polling directly shortly before the election? Not too far off 33% I’d wager.

    Second, I’ve pitched my alternative many times, and I know it won’t be listened to by the majority of the Labour caucus. Needless to say, while JK fumbles as his government burns, Labour need to be effectively communicating THEIR alternative. I do not consider your above list, full of gotchas (sorry to use this right-wing meme, but it’s too accurate not to here) as it is, to be effective communication, because it is too focused on the issues that have found media resonance on their own accord. I think that is cynical to focus on the scandal side of things when Labour could be fighting much harder on…

    Thirdly, important issues that have come up over the last 4 years like employment law reform (Darien has almost been a lone voice this year through some major industrial disputes and recent/pending changes designed to drive wages lower), justice/courts/legal aid changes (who is Labour’s justice spokesperson again?), abandoning contributions to national super, the absolute neutering of kiwisaver, the poisoning of ACC, the victimisation of beneficiaries (I think a lot of them didn’t make it to the polling booths last November, by the way), etc. etc.

    Basically, I think it is opportunistic and cowardly to ride on the back of supposed scandal when the real scandal is the pillage of our country over the last 4 years.

    Finally, I resent being lumped in with OneTrack. He is one of the most inane tory trolls in the blogosphere – a WhaleOil ideologue of the worst kind who goes around trolling those memes here and at the standard, and anywhere else he can. Dunno about the other one 😉

  15. Blarney Stone says:

    David can we understand from this that you will not be voting for Grant in the upcoming coup? How funny that all of David Cunliffe’s friends are suddenly backing Shearer now it looks like Grant has the numbers to roll him. You don’t want Grant to get the leadership before Christmas because that would stop Cunliffe from getting it in February. Either way let’s not pretend that you’re actually backing Shearer.

  16. Tim G says:

    See what I mean by trollbait?


  17. bbfloyd says:

    I see that I have misunderstood this post… I actually thought it was simply a useful overview of the developing awareness of just how inadequate the current government is… using the vast majority of polling numbers to illustrate the expression of this growing awareness…

    i was wrong…It was really about avoiding admitting that the labour party isn’t trying very hard to perfect their snake oil pitch….

    Obviously, any intelligent political party that concentrates on formulating policy, knowing that they may not have much time to prepare before they are responsible for it’s implementation, is failing in it’s duty of governance…

    Where is the snake oil pitch? Where are the snappy catchphrases? Come on!! I want to hear that soothing voice reassuring me as the country I grew up in disappears….

    I mean, just look at the successful model that national have always used… No policy other than bleeding the system until the populace figures out where the money is going..Then setting up the labour suckers to fix it up using “principled, and realistic”(the fools) policies to rebuild the earning capacity… Then, with the help of uncle Ruperts news empire, talk your way back in, and go back to policy number one….

    All that’s needed is to have a good showman out front to distract, and amuse the rubes….Oh, and the protection, and sponsorship of uncle Ruperts New Zealand wide news network… If they could make Jim Bolger look prime ministerial, then john key( stage name;johnny sparkle)Can’t have been that difficult… He’s even more pliable than Bolger was capable of being…Which explains why plasticine and John key get mentioned in the same sentence often…

    I see now that good governance is more about wise cracking,and the ability to have the news media talk up schoolboy humor as “prime ministerial”….Governance? Who needs that? On to the next gay mardigras!!! Then we’ll see real governing!!!

  18. The Al1en says:

    “I haven’t got over the feeling of being let down by Helen Clarks government of endless nanny-statism and using hard earned tax dollars to bribe her way back in to power”

    Bribing us with our own money and using it for what we collectively voted for. What a rip 😆
    You let down real easy.
    I can only imagine how despondent you were when the money trader raised gst, at everyone’s expense, breaking an election pledge in the process, to fund his rich prick, top rate tax cut.

  19. Blarney Stone says:

    Wrong Alien, it’s not bribing people with their own money. It’s bribing the larger pool of tax takers with the money paid by the smaller pool of tax payers.

  20. The Al1en says:

    Wrong! Hark at her 😆

    The smaller pool of mega earning tax payers who declare earnings less than a worker on average wage… And then get a top up bonus because the ‘business people’ have got one hand on the purse strings, one in the till, and with the three handed shaker in charge, probably a third nestled firmly in someone’s back pocket.

    Yeah, wrong indeed.

  21. Sal says:

    I think Labour needs a leader with more of a point of difference from Key than Shearer provides. Someone who can expose Key’s shallowness and lack of political substance. What does the man believe in? Money and the right to amass lots of it by hook or by crook without state interference, is pretty clearly the answer to that question. Unfettered money-making is no kind of value on which to lead a democratic country forward, dare I say it, towards a brighter future? How does money-making speak to the Health, Education, social and criminal justice issues that plague and challenge all modern multi-cultural democracies – government for the people, of the people, by the people? We need stronger, smarter and more substantive values leading our country. Labour’s leadership needs to embody and hard-sell these stronger values to the electorate, exposing Key’s shameful lack of substance as it goes. Sadly, I don’t think Shearer has the strength of conviction needed to do this alone. Perhaps a co-leadership of Shearer and Ardern? She’s a point of difference and substance to be sure.

  22. here to help says:

    @David C

    No point re-hashing the arguments in a public forum, because we all know what you’re obliged to say. That’s what caucus discipline requires, regardless of what you may or may not really believe.

    I’m simply saying out loud what you know: the government is a shambles, but Labour have not taken advantage. A change at the top is inevitable, you know it, everyone knows it, please hurry up and do it.

    And FYI, condescending to the voters isn’t smart. It’s the default position from MPs on Red Alert, and it’s one reason (among many) the blog is so moribund. Another Labour fail.

    Yes, David, I can read polls, I’ve done it for 30 years, in political campaigns in three countries. I know (and so do you) that headline numbers between election campaigns aren’t the story. If you’re putting your faith in the post-election dead cat bounce, check out Bill English’s numbers in the months following the 2002 debacle. David Shearer has “achieved” the same. Goff would have done no less. So what?

    It’s the campaign that matters, and Labour won’t be going into 2014 with an accident waiting to happen, so hurry up and do what you gotta do.

  23. bbfloyd says:

    @here to help… You need to take your own advice little hero…As in “help yourself to grasp reality” ….

    Once the omega 3 suppliments kick in, you may be surprised how easily you spot the obvious misinformation, and deliberate omissions contained in every issue of every daily newspaper (except the Otago Daily Times), and the obvious selectivity with which television news portrays what passes for “news”…

    Once that process of cognition has begun, then the realisation that you are being fed a false picture of reality as ir stands in parliament will become clear…

    The reality that the labour party, the green party, nz first, and mana, have regularly torn brand new orifices out of every member of the merry pranksters front bench(and a few of their second raters as well)… But if you don’t actually attempt to bypass the “official” fourth estate to access the wealth of anecdotal evidence of such, then you speak from utter ignorance…

    Try harder next time… amusing as it is to read your uninformed rants, you represent a dangerous ignorance.. the kind of ignorance that has had us re-installing administrations that work towards undermining the gains made on behalf of ALL New Zealanders…

  24. here to help says:

    “Labour is heading in a consistently upward direction” (David Clark).

    To 29%?

    [consistent trolling will get you banned. My comments in context are clear, as will the linked trend line continue to be when adjusted for this poll. David]

  25. Tim G says:

    I don’t think he is trolling. If he were, he would have linked the poll, and made a comment about your By the Numbers, which was what I was planning on doing. Since that’s apparently ban-able, I won’t.

    What I will say is that “context” is a funny thing, because it changes constantly. So could your trend line. Anyway, conference isn’t far off, and you can hear it from the members themselves.

    Hubris always comes before a fall.

  26. DWW says:

    Until the polls consistently have National below 40% and Labour consistently hitting above 35%, it remains dismal reading. To still be trailing by more than 10% with everything the Govt has stuffed up this year is nothing to be crowing about. I think the trend would mean more if the Govt were NOT covered in scandal and screwing up everything they touched. Then it would show that people were turning away from National and to Labour because of the alternatives Labour were offering not because the Tories were shooting themselves in the foot at every opportunity.

    I compare this post to a rugby team crowing because they had gone from losing by 20 points to 10 points during a period where the opposition was particularly woeful. If I was the coach, I’d be telling the team to keep their focus on actually winning a game before mouthing off how bad the opposition are and how good they just because they are losing slightly less badly than they were a year ago!

  27. David Clark says:

    @DWW I think you’ve missed the point. There’s no crowing here. Right up front there’s an admission that polls go up and down – but that the trend line is clear. This is not particularly about how far we’ve come, or how far there is to go, but rather an attempt to explain why the trend is going where it’s going. Do you have a better explanation?

  28. DWW says:

    @David Clark I agree the trend line is clear, but to say that it is a reflection on David Shearer’s leadership is a big jump to make. I do agree that the Govt’s dismal performance reflects in the trend, but given that performance, this trend should be a given and not require analysis. In doing so, it can easily be misconstrued as crowing, even if that was not the intention.

    For the record, my explanation for the trend, is that it consistent with most polling trends the year after a general for a 2nd term govt. Given the foot shooting this Govt has indulged in, the trend refects this rather than being an endorsement of Labour’s performance or the alternative Govt they are putting forward.

    The polls will tell you when you are starting to get things right when they show some Green or NZ First vote coming back, rather than a protest vote against what the govt may have stuffed up the week the polling was conducted.