Colin James on the year ahead
Cabinet sits tomorrow and Colin James looks at the year ahead, particularly at Clark's difficulty of winning another term.
The contrast with the opening month of the three most recent election years is stark. In each of those years Labour came off large December poll leads, 15 per cent average against Jenny Shipley's fraying Government in 1999 and 11-12 per cent over the National oppositions of Bill English and Don Brash in 2002 and 2005.However there are some differences. Labour is currently averaging 37 percent and falling but it got 38.74 percent at the 1999 election when its vote was rising. But the Alliance got 10 seats in Parliament, and were the third biggest party in Parliament.
This election-year Labour comes off a December average 15 per cent deficit to National, the mirror-image of 1999. And the strong economic tailwinds of 2002 and 2005 have turned round into a light but freshening headwind.
By Christmas the Cabinet was looking as frayed as Shipley's at the end of 1998.
That honour is likely to go to the Maori party after this year's election. Because the Alliance got the majority of the left vote that Labour did not get in 1999, the Greens got just 5.16 percent of the vote - but they won a seat, so it didnt matter. Although they may not win a seat this year, they havent got a big left vote to counteract as Labours vote is plummeting. Labour will be fighting for that Green vote. However NZ First won a seat but failed to get five percent of the vote. If it goes the same way this time NZ First would be out of Parliament if Winston Peters doesnt win his seat.
Meaning the Maori Party would be more powerful and could determine who is the Government, despite the majority of the population not being able to cast a vote for that party that is unlikely to be wasted. Only those in the Maori seats can vote for Maori party candidates in the Maori electorate.