Comment

National: brought to you by the taunter-in-chief

National splits into Collins-based factions, Bridges gets his Smiths record out and everyone hates on landlines for some reason. James Elliott's news of the week. 

This week started with the release of the latest round of political polls. And even if it’s not marked in your calendar you can always tell it’s polls day because Simon Bridges brings an archive box to work, and Judith Collins brings a beaming smile.

Both TV3 and TVNZ had polls out and the first major talking point was the wide variance between the two polls in terms of party support. TV3 had what they described in Goweresque terms as an “epic” poll with Labour at 50.8 percent support and National at 37.8 percent. However TVNZ had a not-quite-so-epic poll with Labour at 42 percent and National at 44 percent. 

Pollsters put some of that variance down to the declining use of landlines, the inference being that if you only have a mobile phone you’re flaky. It also confirms that there are only ever three possible responses to someone calling you on your landline: “No I don’t wish to take part in a poll”, “Why does someone in Moldova want to help fix Windows on a computer that I don’t have?” and “Yes, I would be interested in learning more about how I can help a deposed Nigerian prince get his fortune out of the country.” You might be surprised by that last one but, and this is true, I’ve had more than one person say to me “But what if there really is a Nigerian prince who needs my help?”                 

The answer to that of course is that there are lots of people closer to home who need your help. Like Simon Bridges, who was out-preferred as PM in both polls by Judith Collins. But these individual poll numbers could also be skewed by factors like tactical pollee behaviour. For example, support for Judith Collins includes all of Phil Twyford’s family and friends who are prepared to do whatever it takes, including supporting promotion if necessary, to have Collins removed as the opposition spokesperson on housing, or taunter-in-chief as she is also known.   

Predicting Simon Bridges’ removal as National’s leader is like betting on Winston Peters being thrown out of the debating chamber by the Speaker, again.

But skewed or not, the preferred PM polls always spark a renewed round of speculation about Simon Bridge’s leadership of National. Predicting Simon Bridges’ removal as National’s leader is like betting on Winston Peters being thrown out of the debating chamber by the Speaker, again. We all know it’s going to happen, it’s just a question of when.  

Political pundit Ben Thomas likened the Bridges vs Collins dynamic within the National Caucus to 90’s band Oasis where “the front man is not really the star of show”. Three things on that. First, former Oasis front man Liam Gallagher will be here later in the year so it’s only fair that Ben tells him in person that he wasn’t the star of the Oasis show. Secondly, whereas Oasis broke up, National might be more like Queen and find a way of carrying on with a left-field choice to front the band. And thirdly, a better band analogy for National is The Pretenders.                

The Queen analogy is in play because if Simon Bridges is rolled as leader, it’s not necessarily a given that Judith Collins will replace him. Apparently the National caucus is split between the “ABC” (Anyone But Collins) faction and a rival faction insisting that a new leader must “OBC” (Only Be Collins). There’s also the “WAP” (What About Paula?) faction supported by only one person and the “SUN” (Shut Up Nick) faction supported by everyone.           

If you polled me as to what I think will be on Simon Bridges’ weekend playlist I’d predict that he’ll be having a quiet weep to “I Know It’s Over” by the Smiths. 

So if OBC defeats ABC then it will be “ACC” (A Collins Coup) but if ABC defeats OBC it will be “BBC” (Bye Bye Collins) or more formally “BBTTBBC” (Bye Bye To The Back Benches Collins). Either way it’s “SOS” (Show’s Over Simon), but rest assured that the SUN will still come up every day. 

There’s one more important factor that can affect mid-term polls. It’s what is known as “Shy Tory Syndrome”. In this scenario the pollee genuinely supports a party to the right of centre but is shy or embarrassed about saying so, often with good cause. This leads to lower mid-term poll numbers for parties on the right but higher numbers at the actual ballot box. It could also be called the Coldplay Syndrome – way more people listen to Coldplay than are prepared to say so publicly. Not me, I prefer The National - and that’s with a very important capital T.  

And if you polled me as to what I think will be on Simon Bridges’ weekend playlist I’d predict that he’ll be having a quiet weep to “I Know It’s Over” by the Smiths. Meanwhile Judith Collins will be rocking out to Motley Crue’s “Take Me To The Top”.               

Whatever you enjoy listening to, have a peaceful weekend.

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