Having nothing to fear but fear itself is particularly true in modern day politics, where opinion polls and focus group results have more influence than reality.
TV One’s first poll for the year will have reduced the fear levels for National after a terrible start to their second term. A good poll will not make all the problems go away but it will allow calmer heads to prevail and lessen the distraction of worrying about job security.
John Armstrong and Tracy Watkins both outline the considerable negatives that the Government is dealing with at the moment – see: Body blows have National reeling
and National digs through nuclear fallout
. Armstrong says that National is looking like ‘tired third-term Government’ and that it is having the agenda set for it by others. Watkins views Collins’ defamation action as evidence that National still feels ‘bullet proof’. She says that it is inevitable that while National will accumulate more such baggage while in power, Labour will shed theirs, and that a ‘crossover’ point may come: ‘That point may not have been reached yet - but it has a way of sneaking up on governments as they become increasingly pre-occupied by side shows. And at the moment, National is the side show’.
It’s unlikely that anyone in the Government believes that it can endure another three months like the last without significant impact on popularity. As well as being a distraction to the Government’s agenda and message, it is a huge boost to Opposition morale, as Matt McCarten writes – see: ACC, media mess puts left on right track at last
But who is benefiting most? Certainly Labour is showing no significant movement in the polls and Brian Edwards thinks Shearer's strategy of travelling the heartland making speeches while Mallard, Little and Robertson do the heavy hitting in parliament is 'misguided'. Edwards says that ‘Out of sight really can mean out of mind’. The title of his blogpost asks, Is New Zealand ready for its first gay Prime Minister?
and Edwards answers by picking Grant Robertson as the most likely successor should Shearer fail to improve Labour’s poll ratings.
Tim Watkin (Poll kick in the pants for Labour
) wonders if Labour can’t make hay now, when can they? He says Labour’s problem is that ‘even a damaged National Party still looks more attractive to most voters than Labour’.
Poll results aside, the ACC scandal rumbles on with even commentators on the right urging Key for a broader inquiry. Fran O’Sullivan continues to be a must-read commentator on the issue – see her latest opinion piece: ACC inquiry only choice for PM of integrity
. On TVNZs Q+A, O’Sullivan also challenged Key’s assertion that Bronwyn Pullar’s ten year campaign proves there was no undue influence: ‘I want to challenge the notion that the prime minister put there that, you know, there’s been no undue influence because this things gone on for 10 years and hasnt been settled. Well, actually, it may have gone on for 10 years because of undue influence.… It seems a very long time for somebody to be on an ACC benefit whos already had a large pay-out from an insurance company as well’ – see: TVNZ: Q+A: Transcript of panel discussion of John Key's interview
In the whole ACC controversy, the central protagonist, Bronwyn Pullar, has remained fairly invisible, as she has mostly refused to comment. But Cameron Slater has blogged some details of various emails he’s received from Pullar in the past – see, for example, Want privacy? Be private
and Standing over Vodafone
It could be argued that the focus on scandal is to the detriment of real policy issues, but as John Gibb shows in today’s ODT, the saga has helped raise issues around whether some members of the country’s elite receive ‘preferential treatment’ by government agencies. His article, ACC VIPs get 'preferential treatment'
examines the existence within ACC of a separate claims service for ‘VIP’ clients. And finally, on a more humourous level, Steve Braunias has some fun with The Secret Diary of Judith Collins
, although he clearly thinks fun is in short supply in the minister’s office.
As John Key foreshadows a ‘zero budget’ with no new spending, Bernard Hickey gets angry accusing the Government of borrowing in order to fund their tax cuts. He says ‘It is an act of economic treason and generational selfishness’ – see: Numbers reveal National disgrace
. Greens co-leader Russel Norman shares this view (see: Tax cuts blamed for 'zero' Budget admission
) while David Farrar says the figures are misleading as the drop in tax revenue includes Labour’s 2008 cuts – see: Repeating Labour’s lines
Anthony Hubbard (SST): Conflicts of interest everywhere
SST: Editorial – Disgraced Doug deserves to lose his honour
Ports of Auckland dispute
Devonport treaty deal
John Tamihere (Sunday News): Key’s good will starting to run dry