The rise of NZ First


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Over the weekend, the new Colmar-Brunton poll came out. It codified one truth, and revealed others:

Firstly, that New Zealand First is once again on the rise. This should not come as any serious surprise to politics-watchers, as the Party’s solid performance both in the House and elsewhere continues to be transmogrified into sterling poll-results.

But perhaps more interesting is the fact that New Zealand First’s bump in the polls appears to have come at the square expense of The Greens.

This serves to illustrate something that I have long maintained: however uncomfortable a truth it might represent for some members of both parties and their supporters.

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That New Zealand First and The Green Party have considerably overlapping support-bases – both in terms of policy and philosophy, as well as the potential allegiances of their likely and actual voters.

The Green Party have long acknowledged this. In 2011, for instance, they made an appeal to NZF supporters for us to vote Green instead, on grounds that a vote for New Zealand First while we were out of Parliament represented a “wasted vote”.

And while their rhetorical conclusion might have been manifestly fallacious … the fundamental reasoning which underlay it – that a considerable number of NZ First supporters and Greens supporters have sufficiently interchangeable views and values to be occasionally induced to vote for one another’s parties – remains sound.

This is, obviously, borne out in Sunday’s Colmar Brunton. But it’s not like it’s an isolated blip. There’s been a number of other polls – both Roy Morgan and Colmar Brunton – which have served to demonstrate this trend.

So what does this mean?

Well, it suggests that the received wisdom amongst some in NZ First – and elsewhere – that our ‘natural’ constituency of support is ‘soft-right’ or ‘soft-National’, is in error. Our rises are not coming at National’s expense any more than Labour’s. Instead, the new people we are attracting more appear to be emanating in our direction from the Green Party and other progressive sources.

Given the strong role of ex-Labour ‘protest’ and ‘strategic’ voters in securing our re-entry into Parliament in 2011, this ought to come as no surprise.

It may not be especially ‘politically convenient’ for a number of people to countenance, but that’s who we apparently are. A Party of predominantly angry, anti-neoliberal and often curmudgeonly supporters who might indeed have had a Past amidst the Right’s orbit – but whose future appears to have far more to do with the left and centre.

It is no secret that changing the government in 2017 requires New Zealand First (and other parties) hewing into National’s support. But growing our support as a Party doesn’t mean we have to go right-wing to make this happen.


  1. For the opposition collective of Labour, Greens and NZF, the mere shifting of their own deck chairs from one to the other is not sufficient to be in a position to form an alternative government. They need to increase the number of deck chairs by taking away from National. That is the key.

    Two problems with NZF are that in reality, NZF=Winston. Without him, NZF is pretty much nothing. Besides, before an election, no one knows which way NZF will turn for coalition after the election in forming a government. Half the people that voted for NZF will feel badly shafted.

    As far as your conclusions about the poll, you may be jumping a bit too early. Several more future polls need to be observed to see the trend.

    However, do enjoy the swallow while the summer lasts.

  2. Sorry – but with Ron Mark as one of the key members of New Zealand First, and quite possibly its next leader, I found totally impossible to see NZ First as a progressive party.

  3. Sorry – but with Ron Mark as one of the key members of New Zealand First, and quite possibly its next leader, I found totally impossible to see NZ First as a progressive party.

    • Plenty of other good options at NZF like Tracey Martin and Flecher Tabuteau they appear to have a long term future in politics, they don’t appear to be stupid either?

  4. My suspicion is that this shift is among the old and forgotten blue-labour group. Intergenerational labour supporters who are now aghast at today’s Labour offering.

    They’ll never ever vote National, not for any rational reason but because they were born into Labour voting families and were brought up to hate National.

    So where else can these people go? Labour is lost in the wilderness with its current leadership and the Greens hippy/hipster/middle class voter base is a poor match for them.

    So NZF is a logical place to be: Working class centre-right.

    • “Intergenerational labour supporters who are now aghast at today’s Labour offering.

      They’ll never ever vote National, not for any rational reason but because they were born into Labour voting families and were brought up to hate National.”

      These two points contradict each other. The first one makes sense, but the second is trolling. If Labour voters are aghast at today’s Labour, then they’ll be even more opposed to National’s policies. They’re not turned off voting for National because of what mum and dad told them when they were younger.

      Sure, some people grow up in families that are affiliated to a political party (both Lab and Nats), but that’s a small group of voters.

      Try not to be so emotive Andrew. Your RadioLive inspired analysis is irrational.

      • FATTY: You’ve missed my point. Open your eyes and turn on your mind.

        Where are the people who once voted for labour pragmatists like Mike Moore, Roger Douglas & co? These are the ‘missing million’. I guess they mostly vote National or NZF today.

        Helen Clark turned Labour Hard Left and effectively destroyed the party. Today the party is beholden to a clique of union bosses who have little in common with the average working person. They get a block vote for the party leadership and give you dweebs like Cunliffe & Little. Until you fix this, you cannot move forward.

        • “Where are the people who once voted for labour pragmatists like Mike Moore, Roger Douglas & co? These are the ‘missing million’. I guess they mostly vote National or NZF today.”

          How do the ‘missing million’ vote for National or NZF? The ‘missing million’ are those who don’t vote. You’re not making sense.

          “Helen Clark turned Labour Hard Left and effectively destroyed the party.”

          Nah, she cemented neoliberalism with a third-way perspective. Just like Blair and Bill Clinton did for UK Labor and the Democrats. Clark was not hard left – she was a centrist (in a neoliberal world). Her middle class welfare ideas that encouraged a low wage economy – WFF, her ‘tough on crime’ views which expanded the criminal justice system, she allowed housing prices to spiral out of control – social housing remained a limited and peripheral policy, she kept university fees and the student debt scam…where were her hard left policies? There was a reason why Key came in and didn’t change much in this first 3 years – Clark and Key were two shades of third-way from 1999-2011 (and Key has shuffled right ever since)

          “Today the party is beholden to a clique of union bosses who have little in common with the average working person.”

          Really? Labour can’t even commit to ending the 90 day right to fire, or promise a livable wage. Today’s Labour is hardly speaking on behalf of unions. Or if Labour is representative of unions, then the unions need to start speaking for worker’s rights.

          Again, your emotive RadioLive rhetoric means your analysis is way off. Try reading a bit of social policy literature about the third-way response to neoliberalism (neoliberalism with a smiley face). I think your problem is that you consider neoliberalism to be natural and the ‘centre’. It’s OK to be fooled, this is a common interpretation of contemporary politics.

    • Blue Labour? Isnt that the current labour party? I think you’ll find the group you’re thinking of far to the left of the current labour party

    • You are right Andrew. You summed me up beautifully!
      I am praying for a Bernie or Corbyn to appear but until then I have to vote Winnie, a poor choice but the socialist cupboard is bare!

    • Andrew is absolutely correct. When we refer to “Blue Labour” we are referring to a mix of what could be described as anti-neoliberal policies with a certain amount of social conservatism.

      Such voters will always be turned off by the Greens’ ultra-liberal social agenda, even if they agree with the economic policies. Labour have no discernible economic policy, but appear to be heading in the same direction as the Greens on social policy.

      Many of these voters will have gone to National in 2008 – John Key would have convinced them that National have shifted to the left, and they would have been fed up with Helen Clark’s PC agenda.

      But by and large, they’re the ones propping up Winston since 2011 – and they’re the ones who went from Labour to NZ First in the 2014 election.

      Does this recent poll suggest that Green voters have gone straight to NZ First? Maybe – but another, perhaps more complex, possibility is that Green voters have gone to Labour, given their apparent shift to the left, while right-leaning or conservative Labour voters may have subsequently switched to NZ First.

  5. I don’t think New Zealand First is taking the Green vote. I think there is a lot of churn going on amongst non-National voters. I would say Labour is getting some of the Green voters now it is marginally more progressive while New Zealand First is getting some Labour and National voters.

    • “there is a lot of churn going on amongst non-National voters”

      ‘Party A went down and party B went up, therefore party B got votes from party A…this is such a simplistic analysis of changing polls. There’s more chance of Green voters going to National, than to NZ First. The Greens are a mix of leftists and eco-capitalist hipsters – the latter could shift to National on the back of photo-op with a dolphin, and the former to MANA. Both factions within the Greens really dislike NZ First’s UKIP-ism.

      NZ First probably picked up those who voted for Colin Craig’s conservatives, after all, as Winnie says, the Conservatives stole NZ First’s policies (the same ideology).

      • FATTY: The Greens are a mix of leftists and eco-capitalist hipsters.

        Ha! Ha! Ha! You nailed it.

        As someone once told me, the Green motto is:

        ‘Making the world a better place, for me and my Volvo”

  6. That Roy Morgan poll you link to has NZ First sitting on 6% – as they have for a long time. Meanwhile the Greens have been growing steadily and now have levelled out / dipped, which is to be expected. This kinda puts a dent in your theory.

    People will be seduced by conservative nationalism for as long as Labour pisses about in the third-way middle. I doubt this signals much more than a sustained disinterest in Labour. Furthermore, NZ First is closer to Colin Craig’s Conservatives than they are to the Greens. UKIP got a protest vote in the UK too. Let’s not pretend NZ First are much different.

  7. Curwen, I actually agree with you a lot here – especially with the point that NZ First & Winston have abandoned their 1990-2007 days of cosying up to either National or Labour, playing ‘kingmaker’, and have now placed themselves directly opposite Key & co possibly for good. There are several principled reasons for these changes. Firstly, Winston is opposed to Key’s background and what he represents – corporate, multinational capitalism – which Winston has positioned himself against with his hard nationalism. Secondly, Winston is trying to paint the government as soft on public services, as National continue to grossly underfund the majority of them. Thirdly, there is a repetitive line (and the one that puts me off them completely) from NZF that the government is ‘soft on Maori.’ Which is kinda weird in a hypocritical way when you think back to the days when NZF was regarded as a ‘Maori party’ and included MPs like Tau Henare as well as the now-sitting Ron Mark and Pita Paraone, and of course there’s that one election where they campaigned hard for the Maori vote and swept the entire board of Maori seats off Labour, an apportionment of Parliament of which its existence is now opposed by NZF.

    All of these positions of the party definitely stamps out NZF as being unconcerned with the neoliberal consensus and most certainly more left-wing than people might’ve thought. Winston is ruing the day he signed up to Bolger and Shipley’s continuance of Rogernomics (a government he eventually destroyed in favour of Labour). But this is a conservative left-wing model, of we-are-all-one-country nationalism that isn’t fascism (because to Winston we-are-all-one-country, not just the whiteys or Maori!), and just all those ‘soft-protectionist’ nationalisms the rhetoric will die down and become more palatable so more voters can get on board.

    With the interesting flailings-about of the Green Party to attract soft-Nat voters I suspect that NZF has a lot to gain come 2017. The Greens have now embraced immigration controls, because it fits in with their unemployment/underemployment narrative, something NZF has picked up on and yet another source of policy interchangeability. Whether or not Labour, the party of almost zero positions of clarity, has identified this as a problem, remains to be seen (I must note that I also support immigration controls only if and when they affect employment rates.). Given that the Greens now are looking to salvage what they can from conservative-oriented policies, this could have an adverse effect for their left-wing base. Many will switch to a Mana-like party if one stands in 2017, maybe even Labour (if they stop repeatedly screwing up and reminding us why we should never vote for them) or perhaps see NZF as a more ‘electable’ opportunity.

    Either way, the Left should count on both the Greens and NZF to present a considerable buffer should a minority-majority Labour looking for coalition partners be elected. It’s our only way to unseat the band of total desertheads that is National.

  8. I consider the increase of support of NZ First as rather being a kind of protest by polled persons, who may feel a bit disappointed with Labour and some may indeed be disappointed, more conservative Greens.

    But there would not be all that much overlapping between Greens and NZ First, as Winston has made clear often enough, expressing his disagreement with many Greens policies.

    The Greens are also rather in favour of multiculturalism, which NZ First does hardly seem to be supportive of.

    So with one poll showing a trend, I think this is a bit premature to read too much into it. And as NZ First is really Winston First, what would it look like should he for health reasons have to slow down or even resign as leader one day?

    I cannot see this being a major trend, it is rather a blip, I would think.

  9. Winston Peters is N.Z’s very own Donald Trump. Only Asians and Maori’s are his Mexican boogeymen.

    A populist who panders to national sentiment and stirs up xenophobic fervour whenever the opportunity to arise.

  10. The media only has time for the National Party – and (strangely, perhaps not) Winston. Nobody/party gets a favourable look in otherwise. So who do the NZ people ‘see’ ( marketed to like)… Polls in this country are hopeless – kiwis are either loyal to the core – or will decide on election day, depending on what a bias media feeds them. All I can say is it’s frustrating and sad to watch. Really hoping social media and the Internet improve people’s awareness of what’s going on this time round – that’s if they get the chance to look at a computer at all due to working round the clock to pay for everything…

  11. I’m a Green voter but only just. I’m not happy about some of the things they have done and failed to do recently. Especially their luke warm opposition to the TPPA. On this front NZ First have shown much more muscle. I’m not surprised people have jumped ship.

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