• A Guide to the General Election?

    The results of the local government elections have prompted the right-wing media (which, of course, includes the NZME-owned outlets, such as the Herald), to detect a significant pointer to the outcome of next year’s general election. But is that really the case?

    Some commentators have already been astute enough to cast doubt on that conclusion and to point out the significant differences between the two polls. The local elections were largely contested by individual candidates, whose party political leanings may or may not have been known and who certainly did not bear party labels; the elections were contests between individuals, not political parties. It is anybody’s guess as to how big a part, if any, was played by party politics – and, in any case, some left-leaning candidates, as in Wellington, did very well.

    And the topics at issue in the local elections were, on the whole, of local significance rather than bearing on matters of national consequence. Most importantly, half of the nation-wide electorate, who would normally vote in a general election, did not bother – sadly – to cast a vote in the local elections. None of us is well-informed enough about the views and intentions of this substantial part of the electorate to make any predictions as to how they might vote next year.

    What we can say with some confidence, however, is that, as was not the case in the local elections, the general election will be fought on wider issues – not least, such as who is the preferred Prime Minister, Ardern or Luxon? On that issue the polls are clear; National will have to carry the burden of a leader who has failed to command confidence and who is all too likely to make unfortunate blips and blues during the campaign.

    So, we should conclude that the verdict issued with such confidence by the Herald and others is not borne out by what we know. The problem with the local elections remains that of low turnout;
    as a guide to next year’s general election they are worth no more than whistling in the wind, even if we knew what tune they were whistling.

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