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Jason Walls: The quiet before the storm for the political Left

Jason Walls,
Publish Date
Sat, 15 Jun 2024, 12:00pm
 Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

Jason Walls: The quiet before the storm for the political Left

Jason Walls,
Publish Date
Sat, 15 Jun 2024, 12:00pm

Sandwiched neatly between a story about pigs flying and a column about hell freezing over was a piece in the newspaper about how Te Pati Māori and the Greens both saw their collective support increase last month.

For those at home playing the classic party game Two Truths and a Lie, as farfetched as it seems, it’s the latter story that was correct.

The latest Taxpayers’ Union-funded Curia poll shows the Greens jumped 2.5 points to just under 13 percent; Te Pati Maori jumped one point to 4 percent.

On paper, one would be forgiven for thinking both parties had a great month. That they had challenged the Government on matters of importance to their constituents and had revealed scandal after scandal, embarrassing the Government time and time again.

But anyone paying attention knows the truth. Both parties were themselves embroiled in their own scandals.

It’s been close to three months since Green MP Darleen Tana was suspended from Parliament amid an investigation into her husband’s e-bike company, which is facing allegations of migrant exploitation.

The independent investigation is looking into Tana’s knowledge and/or involvement in what’s being alleged.

Elected as an MP at last year’s election, she’s now been away from Parliament longer than she’s been in it -- receiving full pay the entire time.

Meanwhile, the bill for the taxpayer-funded investigation continues to grow larger. It was more than $43,000 as of May 21 – it’s likely closer to $60,000 now.

Te Pati Māori have had their share of problems too.

A damning investigation by The Post revealed a group of whistleblowers alleging confidential information from the census and the Covid-19 vaccination drive was used to bolster the party’s vote in Auckland.A serious series of accusations at the best of times. But factoring in the wafer-thin 42 vote margin between Te Pati Māori’s Takutai Tarsh Kemp and Labour’s Penne Henere in Tamaki Makaurau, the steaks become increasingly high.

After the story hit headlines, several Government agencies launched investigations into the allegations.

Despite the tsunami of bad press for both parties, the Taxpayers’ Union poll shows the Left bloc, as a whole, gained support over the Right.

The most obvious answer to this polling quagmire is simple: Any press is good press, especially for the Greens and Te Pati Māori.

Before the investigations or the stories about voting data, Te Pati did manage to mobilise tens of thousands of people to march against the Government’s budget, before said budget had been revealed.

And, for an anti-establishment party such as Te Pati Māori, it makes sense that having several Government departments investigating them translates into support.

The question is, how long can the support last?

New Zealand’s MMP environment means forming a Government is (usually) a race to 61 seats.

Raging against the machine might win Te Pati support and bolster its base – that's a strategy that the Greens are well on board with.

But at the end of the day, both parties' only path to power is with Labour.

Or more accurately, Labour’s only path to power is through Te Pati Māori and the Greens.

That will be making Leader Chris Hipkins nervous as his would-be support partners, at present, are simply unelectable.

The Greens will turn things around. It’s a long time until the next election and unless the scandal train continues rolling – which shouldn’t be ruled out – they’ll be back to doing what they do best.
It's not so simple with Te Pati Māori.

Even if the party is completely exonerated from the multiple investigations into the misuse of data, most voters will consider it simply too radical to be considered serious contenders for Government.

This will be weighing on Hipkins as he considers the shape and scope of the would-be next Government. He can’t work with them; he can’t work without them.

His only other option is to destroy them, by winning back all seven Māori seats. The fight will be a brutal left-wing civil war which will not appeal to mainstream voters.

But it’s increasingly becoming Hipkins’ only option if he wants to win back the Prime Ministership he held for less than a year.

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