Justice Minister Judith Collins has taken a hit over the Oravida controversy - at least in the eyes of iPredict punters.
According to the Victoria University political marketplace, Ms Collins’ chances of being the next National Party leader have fallen sharply, with just 20% probability of succeeding Mr Key, down from 30% last week.
Steven Joyce is the main winner, with 43% probability of being the next leader, up from 37% probability last week.
The other big winner from Ms Collins’ weakening position is Simon Bridges, who moves into the second-favourite position, with 23% probability of succeeding Mr Key compared with 13% last week.
The Prime Minister initially defended Ms Collins after it emerged she visited Oravida - a company of which her husband is a director - and endorsed its product during a taxpayer-funded trip to China last October.
But yestday, after it was revealed Ms Collins had also had dinner with the milk company's head, and a Chinese government official, Mr Key said the perception of conflict of interest was "unacceptable".
The PM said while the Justice Minister had not breached the Cabinet Manual, ""I wouldn't want to be in her shoes if there was a repeat of it."
Chipper for Nats overall
The Collins controversy aside, National’s political position has significantly strengthened this week, according to the combined wisdom of the more than 7000 registered iPredict traders.
The party now has over 70% probability of leading the next government, with or without the backing of Winston Peters’ NZ First Party which is now within a whisker of the 5% threshold.
Labour is on 31.71%, down from 32.14 last week. The Green Party’s expected vote has recovered to 9.74%, compared with 8.96% last week.
Of smaller parties, NZ First is again expected to narrowly miss out on the 5% threshold under the MMP electoral system when parties’ likely support is adjusted to sum to 100%, but continues to creep up. Winston Peters’ party is expected to win 4.97% of the party vote, up from 4.94% last week and 4.92% the week before.
The Conservative Party is back to 3.73% from 4.15% last week.
ACT is now below 2%. The party is now forecast to win 1.72% of the party vote, compared with 2.18% last week, 2.86% the week before, 2.10% three weeks ago and 2.30% four weeks ago.
Popularity of potential Cunliffe replacements
The market now indicates a 76% probability that David Cunliffe will depart as leader of the Labour Party by the end of 2015 (up from 71% last week, 62% the week before and 59% three weeks ago). There is an 80% chance he will depart by the end of 2016 (up from 77% last week, 73% the week before and 70% three weeks ago).
Grant Robertson’s chances of succeeding Mr Cunliffe have recovered to 50% this week, up from 40% last week. Jacinda Ardern remains second favourite with 18% probability, up from 17% last week. Shane Jones is on 15% probability, up from 14% last week and Andrew Little is on 13%, up from 11%.
When will Key hang up his hat?
In National, there remains a 36% probability John Key will depart as leader before the end of 2015 (steady), a 60% probability he will depart by the end of 2016 (down from 63% last week) and an 80% probability he will depart by the end of 2017 (down from 82% last week).