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Chris Ford: John Key and the General Election date - bets on November 8, 2014 anyone??

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

The biggest political game in town has begun - when will the 2014 General Election be held?

Today, John Key gave his biggest hint yet - late next year sometime.

He says that he will announce the date not too early but not too late either. And he will take account of two major events that will be held during 2014. I  wonder what those can be? Is it the Commonwealth Games which will keep armchair sports punters in their seats during the Winter months of July and August? Will it be the Budget due in late May which will deliver some sort of spectacular bribe to middle income, swinging voters - like a tax cut, massive house buying subsidy programme, or Working for Families increase timed for say early October or November? 

I think it's more likely to be the latter factor - the Budget - that dictates the timing. The Nats just love peeling away middle ground voters in the hope of leaving the left with just their core support base. Of course, with the middle class facing the prospect of mortgage interest rate increases, further power price rises (thank you asset sales programme!) and higher tertiary fees for their kids undertaking further education, among other things, the Nats will look upon tax cuts or some sort of housing subsidy as being their route to electoral salvation with this hard pressed but highly shiftable voter grouping.

As most people know, the polls have begun shifting (albeit slowly) since David Cunliffe's elevation to the Labour leadership in September. National, though, is still riding relatively high in the polls after nearly five years in office but their once commanding lead has begun to slip ever so slowly against Labour. While Key is outwardly confident of narrowly taking out the election (which he still could conceivably do) there must be a growing nervousness within National as well that the strong Green vote (which is buoying up the centre-left bloc) is holding and could still do so going into the election period.

That's why the Nats will likely engage in electoral bribes, dirty tricks and every other bit of campaign shenanigans to try and detach soft, swinging Labour voters back to them by telling Halloween-like tales about the Greens and Mana - which will mostly be full of bullshit anyway. I expect that the left will respond too but with a few more home truths about the realities of life under National. Either way, it's going to be a hard, long political year culminating in a very close election, closer than even the 1981, 1993 and 2005 squeakers.

Given these factors, John Key will opt to see the Governor General in late September 2014 as a precursor to calling an election on what he and National hopes will be the auspicious date of Saturday, November 8, 2014 - the sixth anniversary of their coming to power in 2008.

John Key and National will be cocky about that date but Labour and the Greens will make play on one thing about that date in turn given that they will say "remember what happened to us on that same day in 2008?" I bet anyone, though, that Key will tempt fate by going to the polls on that very day. One could almost start an iPredict stock on it!


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