Campaign Score card

The Greens stole the campaign. Written off a year ago, struggling all year to break 2 per cent, they are now looking likely to be back in Parliament in greater numbers.

In part this was others’ doing. The genetically modified foods scare was a godsend. Helen Clark, needing an insurance policy, signalled loudly to her supporters to give co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons the Coromandel electorate seat. Jenny Shipley blundered into Coromandel and gave the green bus another shove.

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What distinguishes the next Prime Minster?

The most remarkable element in this election is the unremarkability that the choice of Prime Minister is between two women.

This may be a minor subterranean factor in the rise of the flank parties — some men seeking a man to vote for. But in the media there is no gee-whizz about this extremely rare factor. It seems the country has got used to it.

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Prebble's punch

Is Richard Prebble punching above his weight? He’s acting like a big boy when his party is a littl’un. What’s the game?

On Monday, as Labour basked in the glow of the Waikato University survey’s stratospheric figures and other pollsters were unofficially reporting a lift for Labour over the weekend and wondering whether that was a bandwagon off the Waikato figures, Mr Prebble tried a little poll-bandwagoning of his own.

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"It’s the party vote, stupid."

The flank parties are scooping up party support and leaving National and Labour with an oversupply of electorate support. Both are now trying to neutralise that.

You would expect some excess because the big old parties hold almost all the electorates, a lifetime of an electorate-only choice has ingrained voting habits and incumbents attract cross-party support that does not reflect true party loyalties. Nevertheless, in 1996 National’s two votes were almost identical. Labour’s electorate excess was 2.9 per cent.

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Insiders and Outsiders

What is this election really about, deep down? “Outsiders” and how to make them “insiders”. The instability of our politics of the past 15 years has a lot to do with that.

In the old politics you could walk down a street and roughly pick its political complexion. While individual voters could not be typecast in this way, socioeconomic status was not a bad general guide to choice between the two big parties.

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They're only human

There is Jenny Shipley in an ad telling us she made a mistake! And “brat pack” whiz Bill English likewise! What’s National playing at?

Human — they’re human like you and me. We all make mistakes; they underestimated the Asian crisis and the drought. Mrs Shipley, stern school-marm, has been airbrushed into Jenny, sweet, smiling mumsie-pie.

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Convertables

Convertibles — that is what the next four weeks are about: prising votes out from “undecideds” or stealing from rivals. So far only ACT of the main five is in full missionary mode, though Labour yesterday moved up a gear.

Minnows have no choice but to go after convertibles. Give United 400 votes an electorate, said Peter Dunne in his television opening on Saturday night, and his “little guy” party would have two MPs to interpose “caring commonsense” between the Labour/Alliance and National/ACT blocks.

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English, the new conservative

For a Minister of Finance Bill English is offbeat. Last week he was an honoured officiator at the launch of South Seas Healthcare, a clinic run by Pacific Islander GPs. When he speaks to business groups he belabours them with social policy. What gives with this man?

Mr English is new National, that’s what, refashioning the old party before our eyes. After its long post-1945 period of liberal-conservatism epitomised by Sir John Marshall, its dodge into rank populism under Sir Robert Muldoon and its radical diversion with Ruth Richardson, Mr English’s National is redefining conservatism.

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