The latest Horizon poll shows ACT party support up to 5.3 per cent after Don Brash's leadership takeover. The results are also good for Hone Harawira, whose Mana Party was at 2.3 per cent, ahead of the Maori Party's 2.1. A third of the Mana Party supporters had voted for the Maori Party in the 2008 election. Labour also made gains, up from 23.9 to 26.9 per cent. (1)Still, the fundamental problems facing the three parties hasn't gone away, and there is no reason to think the poll boost is more than an anomaly.
In all three cases, the problem is the same - the party leader is an idiot, and idiocy is a slender base to build party support on. Especially when there is clearly a lot of competition for the imbecile votes.
I predict ACT will soon subside back to the level of support enjoyed before the brohaha surrounding the leadership change. It isn't like they've done much to change the brand identity by subbing Brash for Hide. They're still a party of rightwing small state nutters with a penchant for tub thumping to disguise the fact their policies are contrary to the interests of about 98% of the population. Under hide, the tub of choice was crime and punishment; now, since David Garrett's blown that tub up with his own petard, they've moved on to Brash's old favourite. Expect lots of quasi-racist dog whistling huffing about one standard of citizenship, attacks on 'privilege' and so on, from some of the most privileged and least socially connected persons in the country.
Mana have one blessing and one curse, and they are both embodied in Hone Harawira. If he holds Te Tai Toekerau - and I'm pretty sure he will - then the party will survive, but it will only every be a vehicle for Harawira's idiosyncratic brand of personality politics. Since, like ACT's, that isn't actually of much use to the vast majority of us, I think we can safely say the Mana tide has peaked, or the cat has bounced as high as it is likely to.
Labour are the worst off of the three bouncers, as the idea there is anything to celebrate in breaking above the 25% threshold illustrates how low they have fallen. I'm at a loss as to what they can do. There is no vision and no sense of leadership. Phil Goff can't compete with John Key in the likable bloke stakes. They can't come out all leftie, because Goff would just look silly trying to do it. Everyone would know his heart isn't in it. There might be a few votes to be clawed back with a modest "Protecting you / your / our" campaign, particularly with National not quite ruling some voter frightening possibilities altogether out, but even this modest program seems to be beyond the enervated Labour Party.
And, of course, there's the leadership issue. The job is there for the taking. But no-one wants to step forwards and risk being steamrollered in November, when the job is bound to come up in anyway.
1 - "Politics briefs - Monday, May 16: Good news on Horizon for ACT," unattributed article. Published by Stuff, 16th of May, 2011. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/5006789/Politics-briefs-Monday-May-16)