This is no longer a debate, is it? National’s race-based campaign isn’t working.
Not only is it not giving national a bump in the polls - the party’s still sitting at 27 percent in the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll – but it actually seems to be repelling voters.
Asked if National is being divisive, 44.5 percent said yes. Only 23.5 percent said no.
The question then is, why isn’t it working?
To be honest, there are bunch of reasons.
Claims of a secret agenda are too conspiratorial. Explaining Māori co-governance is too complicated. People aren’t as freaked out by the concept of Māori co-governance nowadays as they used to be. People don’t feel like anything is being taken off them through co-governance.
And importantly, people feel good. House prices are up, jobs are secure, we’re still basking in the afterglow of cruising through Covid a lot better than other countries. We’re just too happy to care.
But, there’s another factor that is crucial, and that is the Judith Collins factor.
When Judith tells voters that Labour has a secret agenda, she is asking them to believe her.
She is essentially playing a trust game: ‘who do you trust more, Judith or Jacinda?’
And the answer for most voters will be that if they’re forced to choose, they choose the Prime Minister. Because, unfortunately, Judith has damaged her brand so badly during the last election and since, that she has lost too much credibility.
In fact, because Judith has a history of playing dirty, has a brand tinged with ‘nastiness’ (I know this is brutal, so I’m sorry) and because this is so obviously a desperate political play, her involvement makes this whole race-campaign feel gross. Almost as if you would listen, if it was someone else doing the talking.
Now, I’m not saying National is wrong to ask the questions it’s asking over He Puapua and Labour’s plans for Māori co-governance.
I think Labour’s refusal to reject the entire report does raise some suspicions. I also think Labour has shown that it does spring things on the public: case in point is the Māori wards which they presumably deliberately didn’t tell us about during the election campaign.
So I think there is a real issue here, and I think there is a latent concern or confusion out there about this, and I think it be a slow burner that could be tapped for votes by a political party maybe in the future, and maybe that’s National.
But it’s not Judith Collins.