Latest opinion polling has created a stir among the political cognoscenti. On one side, ACT’s rise is being seen as a big problem for National. From another, Labour’s fall by 9.7 points from the previous poll points to sharp disillusion with the Ardern government.
TV3’s AM Show told viewers ACT’s four-point rise to 11 % constitutes “soaring popularity”. Well, not quite.
Then there seemed to be a general judgement that Judith Collins’ fall below ACT leader David Seymour’s rating signalled her imminent demise as National leader.
In reality, the Newshub Reid Research poll’s findings, while recording sharp shifts from its previous sampling, weren’t much different from the Colmar Brunton post-Budget poll which recorded Labour down to 46% from its previous highs in the fifties.
Labour together with the Greens are still comfortably ahead of their opponents combined.
Now that Labour strategists are certain the electorate is convinced Jacinda Ardern can do no wrong, the government will stick to its programme. Criticism is brushed aside: who pays attention to Sir Michael Cullen, Labour’s onetime guru?
Sir Michael has warned them (twice in the NZ Herald) of the risks of proceeding with the very expensive Light Rail project in Auckland.
ACT, which is finding fresh support, believes Labour has lost its way, but as Point of Order sees it, Labour ministers, freed from the shackles of NZ First, are now feeling their oats and pursuing the reforms they believe the country has urgently needed as an array of issues emerged in the era since the Clark government held office.
For example, Andrew Little will not be diverted from his health reforms which – he insists to colleagues – must be implemented at top speed, even though it is already clear the system is under enormous stress.
The health-sector reforms are also bringing into focus the trend to Big Government always favoured by Labour, with power exercised from the centre.
It takes a while after Labour takes office for this trend to become fully visible, and even longer for its effects to fully penetrate to the grass roots level. The real problem stems from the quality of the bureaucrats available to run a reformed system.
Meanwhile the government’s solutions to the housing crisis, to child poverty, and to inequality have been slow to appear.
Radical changes involving a return to a national pay agreements system may satisfy union leaders but could compound the economic problems that already are rising to the surface as inflation takes hold, and shortages of essential goods, as well as labour for key industries, become acute.
Looming up for the government are the hard decisions it must take on how to combat global warming. Almost certainly these will not satisfy green lobby groups like Greenpeace and Forest and Bird, let alone all of the Green MPs.
That’s where the support for Labour from the Green Party will be put to the test and where the comfortable relationship which Greens co-leader James Shaw enjoys with Jacinda Ardern may lose some of its cosiness.
In the latest poll the Greens were up 1.4 points to 8.5%.
Shaw said this showed the 2020 election result – enabling Labour to form the first majority government in the MMP era – was an outlier.
“I think that what the poll shows is more of a reversion to normality. We’d be very pleased to be able to form a government with Labour after the next election.”
ACT leader David Seymour is confident ACT and National are closing the gap with their opponents.
“I think it’s very clear that with both ACT and National increasing in this poll, it’s not an ‘either or’ it’s an ‘and and’ and the net result is a serious proposition for the voters not only to have a change of government but with ACT, a change of direction.”
The Reid-Research poll has Seymour in second place for preferred prime minister – up 3 points to 8.6%,with Judith Collins at 8.2%.
Collins said she was not concerned.
“No, it makes no difference at all. The fact is is that the National Party’s around three times the size of ACT, that’s the way it normally works. That’s just silly stuff coming out of Newshub. I also well remember the days when Winston Peters was significantly more popular as prime minister than Jim Bolger. It just doesn’t work like that.”
So what does NZ First leader Winston Peters think about the trends I n the poll?
He told RNZ he did not care to know his party had got 3.4% in the poll.