Labour Party landslide - 2020 Election in review | The Jackal

19 Oct 2020

Labour Party landslide - 2020 Election in review

Jacinda Ardern - Prime Minister of New Zealand
The 2020 General Election has been one of the most interesting in New Zealand’s political history. Not only did we have voters provide the Labour Party with a stratospheric 49.1% mandate to govern, the results also delivered National with a crushing 26.8% defeat that they will have a great deal of difficulty rebuilding from.

There are a number of reasons for the Labour Party's victory, including the careful political approach and star like qualities of their leader, Jacinda Ardern. But there are also numerous reasons for National's defeat, a monumental 17.6% downfall in support that the current leader, Judith Collins, must ultimately take responsibility for.

Collins may have worked hard during the campaign to attain the medias attention, but the topics she often chose to run on weren’t usually relevant to a majority of undecided voters. Instead of promoting any properly budgeted and targeted policy initiatives, Collins spent much of her time insulting people's intelligence, directly attacking the Prime Minister or reacting badly to the latest National Party controversy. Crusher's mask often slipped during interviews and debates, which is never a good look when you want voters to forget about Dirty Politics.

However the biggest difference between the two political parties was their divergent strategies on COVID-19. While the Labour led Government was busy keeping New Zealand safe with effective restrictions and lockdowns, National was arguing for an opening up of our borders, which has been proven disastrous for other countries. This stark contrast, which concerned whether people lived or died, was perhaps the most influential difference for voters at the ballot box.

Instead of understanding that their criticism of the Government’s successful COVID strategy was detrimental to their campaign, a fact that was highlighted by various pundits and underscored by pre-election polling, the National Party is continuing to blame the Prime Minister’s COVID updates for their resounding loss. However most Kiwis weren’t seeing things from such a prejudiced position. The consensus is that the general public was simply being kept properly informed about a deadly virus that is still claiming numerous lives overseas.

Judith Collins - National Party leader

Likewise, instead of realising that promoting policy on the fly isn’t a good strategy, Collins is doubling down and claiming that disloyalty within the party is the problem. The truth of the matter is that Crusher is simply too arrogant to accept that she's responsible for National's drubbing, a resounding defeat that should make her resignation a fait accompli.

So not only did we have most Labour MPs being diligent and disciplined, particularly when it really mattered in the closing weeks of the campaign, we also had National being washed along in a tide they themselves largely created. We shouldn’t however lament the decline of the National Party, because this could result in the most progressive Government New Zealand has ever seen.

Many commentators have expressed the opinion that Labour no longer has the handbrake of NZ First restricting its transformative policy ideas. What will restrict large-scale social and economic progress however is the worldwide financial crisis that has only just started to bite. Grant Robertson, who ran rings around his National Party counterpart Paul Goldsmith, will perhaps have the toughest job in Government if he becomes Finance Minister again. Balancing people's expectations with what can be achieved is never an easy thing.

As for NZ First, they only have themselves to blame. Attacking a Government they’re a part of is one thing, but having a perceived slush fund and being embroiled in a donations scandal has ultimately resulted in their early retirement from politics. NZ First voters don’t tend to like corruption, even if it’s only alleged and not yet proven. By claiming that the NZ First Foundation was only following in National's footsteps, Peters hasn’t done himself any favours in allaying people’s concerns about his honesty. This truly was a rare misstep by one of the great political leaders of our time.

Not only does Labour have to wind up the bad investments within the provincial growth fund without providing ammunition to the opposition, they also need to show significant advancement on their 2017 promises and closure for things like the Pike River mine over the coming three years. Housing still remains a major dilemma for New Zealand that undoubtedly requires more Government intervention. Their problem here is that most of the centre-right voters they've attained from NZ First and National won’t want any significant change to the status quo. Many are property investors and have provided Labour with support precisely because of the Prime Minister’s promises regarding a Capital Gains Tax.

Jacinda Ardern’s ability to progress change in a way that appeases the Greens while not spooking those centre-right voters will be a significant factor in Labour's chances for re-election in 2023. The issue here for Labour is that the Green Party, whether in Government or opposition, is clearly a force to be reckoned with. Although their social media campaign slowed towards the end, mainly because they went a bit possum in the headlights over polling concerns, Chlöe Swarbrick’s Auckland Central win will be remembered as one of the most significant victories during 129 years of political history in New Zealand.

Chlöe Swarbrick - Green Party MP for Auckland Central
The Green Party has obviously been rewarded (in your face Bomber) for their achievements in Government. Not only are they the most diverse and disciplined party within Parliament, the Greens, like the Labour Party, now have a strong mandate and substantial support that will ensure social and environmental progress is achieved in New Zealand for the foreseeable future.

Their political nemesis of course is the Act Party. David Seymour ran a strong social media campaign, which was in no small way helped along by a compliant mainstream media. Attaining support from both disgruntled gun enthusiasts and right-wing extremists, the Act Party will find it difficult to retain these voters or keep a lid on their nine new largely unknown MPs during the next three years of progress.

This brings us to Advance NZ and the New Conservative Party, both of which failed to get over the 5% threshold. Despite considerable and questionable funding sources, it’s good to see these cults collapse at the last hurdle. Not only are many of their policy ideas dangerous, both of these parties promoted some terrible disinformation during the campaign, which was in most instances designed to undermine the left-wing of the Coalition Government. It’s a testament to some of our fourth estate and a working political system that their and the National Party’s dishonest electioneering entirely backfired.