I agree with John Key and Steven Joyce on a couple of points they stressed to the party faithful gathered in Wellington for their recent election year conference.
Yes, as John Key argued, this election will be closer than many people realise.
And, yes, National should be worried given that, as Steven Joyce made clear, National’s polling this time around is no better – and possibly worse – than it was this far out from the 2011 election.
It’s worth remembering that in 2011 National gained a record 47.3% of valid votes cast, the Labour Party had its worst MMP result (27.1%) and yet, despite pre-election predictions, the National-led government that formed could only scrape together a bare majority.
But, despite agreeing with Key and Joyce’s prognosis for National’s chances in the upcoming election, I disagree over their diagnosis of the causes of their worrisome predicament.
Glass ceilings can be deceptive.
You can see through them, and beyond, to an enticing realm of future possibilities. Yet, try as you might to get to that realm something unseen and unacknowledged keeps stopping you.
The experience is like banging your head against a brick wall that you can’t see.
In that situation, it’s tempting to think that lack of progress is to do with something you have control over rather than a structural limitation.
I think National and its supporters are in just this situation.
And they think that in 2011 (and potentially this year) the barrier to further electoral progress was (and is) supporter complacency – a barrier that sounds like it could be shattered, with enough effort.
There’s quite a few reasons, though, why I think a ‘war on complacency’ is unlikely to be National’s saviour.
Then again, talk of it may well be.