In my previous post where I talked about the diversity of policy on the left as a strength I said:
A lot of people are still stuck in a First Past the Post mode of thinking, where we have two major parties, they rule the roost, and the “minor” parties are mere annoyances who will fall in line with National or Labour as appropriate.
My point was that this isn’t the case now that we’ve got proportional representation. At least, it’s not the case for the left – but it is still kind of true on the right. There’s one big party who have the lion’s share of the vote, and a smattering of odd little parties at the kids’ table fighting for scraps and key electorates.
It’s one of the reasons National continues to poll so highly. If you’re a rightwing voter, you don’t have any other viable options. ACT under Jamie Whyte had a brief flutter at being a straight-up (if wordy and academic) “classical liberal” kind of party, but promptly descended into a race-baiting law-and-order farce again.
United Future’s day as the moderate, centrist, “common sense” party is well past its use-by, and not even the revival of the worm is going to deliver them more than one seat (and even that could be in question if a thoroughly unscientific Campbell Live poll is anything to go by).
The Conservatives are making the election campaign interesting (threatening to sue The Nation for not including Colin Craig in a debate levels of interesting), but they’re not a right-wing party so much as a collection of reactionary extremists who think not being able to whip your children is the worst crime against civil liberties of the past century.
And the Māori Party are very determined that they’re not a rightwing party, they’re just focused on getting a seat at the table.
There’s undoubtedly a lot of “centrist” or moderate voters who are supporting National too, largely on the back of John Key’s inexplicable, yet undeniably present, appeal. We can debate exactly how much of their support is truly rightwing compared to “middle New Zealand” in comments. The point is that if you are a fiscal conservative, who else are you going to vote for?
You’d think it would be inevitable that another rightwing party would be formed in this situation. There have to be rightwingers who take a different view to the National Party’s standard lines, who don’t like how (comparatively) moderate they’ve been in government. You can see from Jami-Lee Ross’ quickly-sunk strikebusting bill that there are enough people within National who want them to take a harder line.
I think they want power more. So they’re sticking with what has been a winning formula for the past two terms: an outwardly-united behemoth with a friendly leader. But there’s the trap.
ACT are becoming more and more of a sideshow with every passing day. Dunne’s grip on Ōhāriu is slipping. The Conservatives could end up wasting 3 or 4% of the party vote. And National could very well end up being the biggest party in Parliament with no viable partners, abandoned by Key the minute it’s clear they won’t be in government and with nothing to do for three years but tear themselves apart in the inevitable Joyce/Collins cage match for the leadership.
Should be fun to watch!