As a poll shows Labour at 29%–surprise, surprise–Ministers open fire on National leader

Pass the salt again, please, for the Prime Minister. She may need it, after another poll contained dismal news for Labour.

Last week she contended the Newshub Reid Research poll, showing Labour on 32% trailing National  by nearly  9 points, should be taken “with a grain of salt”.Labour’s  own polling,  she said, had the two main parties running “neck-and-neck”.

The latest Roy Morgan poll has Labour at 29.0%. That would  mean, if an election were held tomorrow, 27 Labour MPs would lose their  seats.  

As Ardern noted last week, NZ is roughly 12 months away from the election and the government’s focus is “people, not polls”.

Certainly her colleagues have heeded her, and  put a heavy focus not so much on “people”, but, rather, on one person: the Leader of the Opposition. They are criticising him  at every opportunity.

Here, for example, is an exchange in Parliament on Wednesday (from Hansard):

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: ….. and this is the issue that New Zealanders had for some time in our education system—that, when people like the National Party get hold of the levers of power, they put in place their ideological experiment like national standards, which has been a massive failure. And the member might like to think about some of the people he’s worried about in terms of literacy and numeracy standards—exactly when they entered the education system. The member shouldn’t be making that sign about going around in a circle on policy on a day like today.

Christopher Luxon: Is he concerned that the finance Minister is so distracted from his day job that in a recent keynote speech he only mentioned the cost of living crisis once and, while I appreciate he’s a fan, mentioned me nine times?

 Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The very real and present danger that the Leader of the Opposition represents to New Zealanders definitely needed highlighting. I think the member might want to have a think about today, in his career as the Leader of the Opposition, because what he managed to do was a U-turn on a U-turn on a U-turn—the first politician in history to complete a policy doughnut.

Christopher Luxon: What is he more concerned about: the cost of living crisis or me?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What I am concerned about is that member making the cost of living crisis worse.

Luxon also  came under fire  from Education Minister  Chris Hipkins  (underlining that  Labour’s strategy  is to concentrate  ministerial big guns on Luxon). Here is a report from Newshub:

The Education Minister has called on National leader Christopher Luxon to apologise to principals for pointing the finger at them for the truancy crisis. 

Luxon’s digging in, but he’s pulled an almighty U-turn on a climate policy.

Luxon took aim on AM on Wednesday morning. His target was the truancy crisis, but principals became the point of impact.

“Absymal levels of attendance at our schools… We need to make sure that we’ve actually got leadership in schools that is  very much focussed on getting kids into school,” Luxon said.

“There is a mixed standard of leadership across our schools and across our principals that actually means they’re not focussing as strongly on getting kids to school as they can.”

 Hora Hora School principal Pat Newman – a former Labour candidate – is unimpressed.

“Very, very disappointed in Mr Luxon,” said Newman. 

Education Minister Chris Hipkins also wasn’t impressed. 

He believes an apology is in order. 

“Principals up and down the country actually might feel aggrieved and I think an apology wouldn’t go amiss,” Hipkins said. 

Luxon wouldn’t apologise on Wednesday afternoon. 

But he did try to clean up a clean car mess he also made on AM.

“We would keep the Clean Car Discount and make sure we have low-emissions cars coming in,” Luxon said.

That’s a U-Turn. National has been very opposed to the Clean Car Discount scheme – or what they call the ‘ute tax’. 

But Luxon is walking that back. 

“I misspoke this morning. What I meant was we’re gonna keep the Clean Car Standard,” he said. 

With a  byelection approaching in Hamilton West, a  seat won by Labour in 2020 by 6000 votes, it is not surprising Labour ministers are concentrating  their fire on Luxon. They know  a defeat in that electorate will signal the floodgates have opened.

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