Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A look at New Zealand

The USA isn't the only country going to the polls in November. On Nov 8th, New Zealand votes for a new government too. Labour has been in power in New Zealand since 5th December 1999 - coming up to nine years.

And in the past year, New Zealand Labour have been trailing the right-wing National party by over twenty points. At one point in June 2008, the Colmar Brunton poll put the National party on 55% with Labour on 29%.

But the polls have been narrowing dramatically. Two weeks ago the gap between the two parties had closed to 11 points apart. By Friday 10th Oct, the Morgan poll put the National party on 40.5% with Labour on 37.5% - a mere three point difference.

All indications are that the credit crisis is helping the left. 42.7% said new Zealand Labour would handle the economy best in a crisis, compared to 41.2% for the National party.

I think this is down to the nature of this crisis, which is very different to the storms that hit the global economy in the early 1990's. In the early 90's, the market was seen as good, and the government seen as a source of ill. Reagan's quip that the nine scariest words were "I'm from the government and I'm here to help" was taken to heart.

But that's reversed now. The markets are seen as self-destructive, mad and bad, and government is all that stands between the ordinary voter and Armageddon. Because right-wing parties around the world have spent the last thirty years bashing government, they now find it very hard to say convincingly the sweetest words you could hear in a crisis - "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

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