Duncan Garner: Could David Cunliffe be the accidental Prime Minister?

01/09/2014

John Key must be considering throwing it all away – surely?

He’s a smart and wealthy man, why does he need all this? Maui must look good right now.

If he considered resigning during the tea-tapes saga of 2011, then surely the same thought has crossed his mind in recent days? This 'whale-gate' issue is ten times worse than the issues he was facing last election.

So where is the National Party at?

The next set of polls will be vital. National has yet to collapse, but surely this will affect it in some way. It can’t be good.

Yes, this is a crisis and yes this is a total train-wreck. The Prime Minister has lost control of the campaign, although that happened weeks ago. He wakes up every morning not knowing what to expect from 'Whale Dump'.

I ran into a National Party candidate a few weeks ago in the provinces who said if National loses the election he will blame Judith Collins. I found that entirely fair at the time. But Key needs to look at his management of Collins; I said months ago, during the Oravida saga, that Key should have stood her down.

She lied to him and she misled New Zealanders. To put it bluntly: Key was too slow to act on Collins. She remained a target for too long. Yes, Key did the right thing on Saturday by removing Collins, but don’t think this was a resignation. He forced her hand.

The fall out will go on for months and it will seriously eat into Key and the National party post this election – whatever the result.

Yet, I am still to be convinced Labour is picking up any support as a result. My sources tell me National’s internal polling is a touch under 50 percent and Labour remains on 25 percent.

Labour needs to crack 30 percent in the polls if it wants to be in the game; and it needs them from the centre, not from the left. If anything, Winston Peters and Colin Craig seem set to pick up any grumpy floating National voters.

No one is talking policy. But this has now gone beyond just dirt. This election is about honesty, trust and integrity - which is most definitely an issue in my view. You can have all the policy debates in the world, but we need to trust our MPs.

What was Judith Collins really up to? Was she really running some orchestrated campaign against SFO boss Adam Feeley or was it truly the work of the fantasists; the big talking bloggers who have now been caught out?

Whatever it is, a decent, independent inquiry is needed. We need trust and integrity in all our MPs, especially our Ministers.

I am yet to be convinced that David Cunliffe will become the accidental Prime Minister as a result. I have not seen a poll that puts him in the big chair yet. Those polls may yet come. If Winston Peters and Colin Craig pick up in the polls as a result, I can’t see how that strengthens Labour’s chances of governing.

I still think Winston Peters will be the kingmaker and I still back Key to put something together with him. I can’t see Peters working with Cunliffe, Russel Norman, Metiria Turei, Laila Harre and Hone Harawira. Peters is smarter than that. He does not want to share the stage with a bunch of other actors. He might be controversial at times, but he’s not dumb, he gets the will of the people.

But, my lord, this is a mess for Key and, with 20 days to go, who knows what will happen next?

Duncan Garner hosts RadioLIVE Drive, weekdays from 3pm. Tune in for the most entertaining political analysis and all the news as it happens

source: data archive