In parliamentary politics it’s the numbers that count

Numbers count in politics. Seven months from the election, how do they stack?

John Key’s National had supermajorities after the 2008 and 2011 elections. In 2008, to National’s 45% and 58 seats, either ACT or the Maori party alone could add five for 63 votes in a Parliament of 122.

National’s 47% and 59 seats in 2011 gave it a majority of the then 121 seats with the Maori party’s three or both ACT and Peter Dunne’s United Future (one each).

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A big issue inviting political energy renewal

The tawdry political news last week was a purity-versus-power internal Labour spat over the hashed recruitment of urban-Maori populist Willie Jackson to finesse the Maori party. There are other, useful ways Labour could expend its energy, as a report today will offer.

Labour spats don’t promote the alternative Labour+Greens government that has recently been getting legs. The latest poll average has Mr Reliable Bill English’s National at 48% to 27% for Andrew Little’s Labour and leading Labour+Greens by 9 points.

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Mr Reliable sets course for the election

It is beginning to look like a legacy: John Key’s practice of setting the election date early in election year. Bill English toed the line last week.

That this has now been done for three elections will make it less acceptable for future Prime Ministers to play guessing games with the date. It is a step towards a fixed term, which several Australian states have.

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Water and Waitangi: a constitutional matter

On Sunday Andrew Little and Metiria Turei jointly presented themselves as a two-party “government in waiting” for voters to switch to.

Support in the two parties for this Labour+Greens scheme has firmed over recent months. One big test for how firm voters judge it to be will be how many big joint policies they can promulgate. They are already close on several. A fiscal framework is due soon.

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The year of a politician who swapped jobs

In old rich Europe and United States, 2016 has been the year of the populist in politics.

Brexit and Donald Trump “surprised” and “shocked” snoozing “elite” commentators. Globalisation had lifted a billion or so out of poverty in “emerging” economies but for hundreds of millions in the rich world prosperity stalled or reversed and they are reacting accordingly.

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The post-Key balancing task facing PM English

Bill English and Paula Bennett are now assembling their ministry. Their task: to continue the Key government without Key but also to demonstrate they are not the Key-government-without-Key.

That is no small feat. Policy lurches would disorient supporters and look like a government no longer in control of the agenda. Too much of the same with minor tweaks would leave voters stuck in the Key era but without Key and highlight his successor’s popularity deficit compared with the real thing.

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The world might get more disordered this weekend

On Saturday there is the Mt Roskill by-election. On Sunday there are two votes that could have a far bigger long-term effect.

John Key has campaigned hard in Mt Roskill to get Parmjeet Parmar up and get back the majority with ACT alone that last year’s Northland by-election took away.

Labour’s stakes are at least as high. It has slid in opinion polls this year, which a Mt Roskill loss or narrow win would compound.

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