Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Fighting History

I'm interested that in all the discussion of the relative merits and electoral chances of past and present National and Labour leaders no one seems to have noticed a simple rule that has held with a single exception throughout (at least) the life of the current National Party. That rule is that a leader who has fought a previous election will always defeat an opponent who has not. The results of all the elections since 1935 are as follows where * indicates a leader fighting their first election -

1938 Savage beat Hamilton(*)
1943 Fraser(*) beat Holland(*)
1946 Fraser beat Holland
1949 Holland beat Fraser
1951 Holland beat Nash(*)
1954 Holland beat Nash
1957 Nash beat Holyoake(*)
1960 Holyoake beat Nash
1963 Holyoake beat Nordmeyer(*)
1966 Holyoake beat Kirk(*)
1969 Holyoake beat Kirk
1972 Kirk beat Marshall(*)
1975 Muldoon(*) beat Rowling(*)
1978 Muldoon beat Rowling
1981 Muldoon beat Rowling
1984 Lange(*) beat Muldoon
1987 Lange beat Bolgier(*)
1990 Bolgier beat Moore(*)
1993 Bolgier beat Moore
1996 Bolgier beat Clark(*)
1999 Clark beat Shipley(*)
2002 Clark beat English(*)

The solitary exception to the above rule was the 1984 election where a dynamic young David Lange defeated the senescent government of Robert Muldoon. On no fewer than 11 occasions (including all three elections contested by Helen Clark) the rule dictated the outcome. On the other 10 occasions both parties fielded new (1943 and 1975) or veteran (1946,1949,1954,1960,1969,1978,1981 and 1993) leaders.

If Don Brash is to win in 2005 he needs to emulate David Lange. Perhaps he too can rejuvenate his own party. Perhaps he can project the same dyamism (though obviously not the youth) but that is not enough. The key to the 1984 result was the state of the Government which had squandered its political capital and the wealth of the country alike, was racked by internal dissension and weighed down by the ruins of failed projects and, above all, bore all the hallmarks of a government and prime minister whose time was up. The present government shows no such signs (nor should it in only its second term). If Don Brash fails in 2005 will he remain to contest the 2008 election or will National offer up yet another new leader to the imevitability of defeat?


Blogger span said...

thanks for pointing this out GS - especially timely given that Brash has really showed his inexperience lately - the weird reshuffle and the comments in the Australian media about how NZ sucks - rooky stuff! i think once more NZers start thinking about Brash being PM (and not just expressing dissatisfaction with the Govt) the Nats will go down in the polls.

19 August 2004 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger Uroskin said...

The name's Bolger. Jim Bolger.

19 August 2004 at 2:18 PM  
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