Friday, October 10, 2003

Dunne as PM?

There's been a lot of sniggering at Peter Dunne's line about seeing himself as PM one day... but not much addressing of the actual substance behind the comments. Dunne raises an interesting question: what happens if National goes under? Where do its supporters go? To ACT? To NZ First? Or to United Future?

Dunne naturally thinks that his party would be the main beneficiary of a National party implosion, and I have to say that I agree with him. Despite the dreams of people like NZPundit, ACT is a fringe group that is never going to achieve broad-based support. As for New Zealand First, their demographic is mostly the grumpy vote, or those who long for Muldoon to rise from the dead and return us to the Good Old Days... I'm not sure that there's a hell of a lot of those left in National's support-base. Absent the rise of another party, I think that the majority of current National voters would indeed go to United Future, and that they would become the defacto party of the center-right.

Of course, this is no more than an interesting intellectual exercise. While National is doing terribly in the polls and its leader is about as popular as the American Ambassador, that doesn't mean they're doomed. As people have pointed out, Helen Clark was this low in the popularity stakes in the early 90's (though her party wasn't, and the move to MMP means that the traditional tactic of waiting for your turn at government may no longer work). I think it's far more likely that National will simply hang in there, but as a shadow of its former (FPP) self. Besides, arrogantly assuming that the electorate will get it one day is perfectly in keeping with their born-to-rule ethos.

As for Dunne, as long as national survives, he's left out in the cold. He can pick up votes in the center if National moves right (as it seems to be doing), or he can try and claim centrist votes from Labour (since they seem to be moving right as well), but he'll probably be squeezed unless a miracle happens and National folds. And without that miracle, he has about as much hope of being PM as Richard Prebble.