Labour's popularity grows
The Labour Party and David Shearer are growing in popularity, new polls show, despite a leadership scuffle which overshadowed the party's annual conference.
The first polls since the party's conference two weeks ago showed Labour's support had not been dented by the unsettling events of the last two weeks.
A TVNZ Colmar-Brunton poll showed Labour had risen three percentage points to 35 per cent of the party vote, its highest level since last year's general election.
With the support of the Greens, which rose one point to 13 per cent, Labour would hold 62 seats - enough to run Government. National slipped one point to 44 per cent, and would not hold enough seats even with the support of its coalition partners the Maori Party, Act, and United Future.
A 3 News Reid Research poll also showed growing support for Labour and its leader, but showed the Maori Party would hold the balance of power.
National, United Future and Act would win 61 seats in a 124-seat Parliament, with Labour, Greens, and Mana gaining 60 seats. Neither coalition would run Government without the Maori Party's three seats.
I want to believe the new polls but I think that could be a wee bit too hopeful at the moment. Labour just promised 100 000 middle class children cheaper houses, if they didn't jump a couple of poll points on that, then they should all pack up their Mickey Savage posters and go home.
The right wing pundits who all came out to support Shearer will attempt to spin this jump as proof that Shearer's crucifixion of Cunliffe was the right thing to do. Nonsense, Labour are going up despite Shearer, not because of him. It's more a measure of how sick Key's first sloppy year of his second term has been than skilled leadership by Labour.
Labour went up because the issue of affordable housing is screaming out to be sorted, Labour's rise in the polls is testament of how important that issue is, not a thumping endorsement for Shearer.
What is looking better is the 'left' of MANA + Greens + Labour are now routinely being referred to as the alternative Government. This is important because NZ First are a Party who would thwart any movement on progressive policy from the Greens so the sooner they are written out of the next election the better.
The polls are not picking up the deep discontent within the Maori electorates towards the Maori Party so expect the msm not to see the rise of MANA in those electorates.
The pressure must go on National now to lower the threshold in the MMP review to 3% while holding onto the coat tail feature. A 3% threshold could help the Conservative Party and the newly formed list party only Rural Party that was launched this month. A 3% threshold would also cement in NZ First to possibly spike any left Government by including Winston in the mix.
Once the sugar rush comes off the housing announcement, what then for Labour? I was watching Parliament last week and watching Key machine gun Labour over their attempt to blame him for rising poverty. Watching how he turned each attack by Labour into an issue of political hypocrisy by referring to Labour's 9 years in power and the nothings Labour did for beneficiaries during their time in power was a reminder of how Key beat Clark in 2008.
The first time I realized how good Key is was during the 2008 first debate between him and Clark. Helen had finished giving her position on the environment when Key demolished her policy by highlighting how poorly Labour had handled the environment in their 9 years. Key can play the same game on Labour's record of poverty reduction during the Clark years and he was doing that effortlessly as he slapped Labour around in the House last week.
As much as I despise Key and everything he represents, to pretend that he isn't a National Party leader at the full heights of his power is disingenuous.
At the very least the poll results cement Shearer into place as leader, but the question still is can Shearer articulate a vision when being interviewed and can he front foot it with Key. Based on the evidence to date it still looks like he's going to take 5 more years before being able to do that, sadly for the country he's only got two years before the next election.
I sense Labour could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in 2014. With such a weak performer, Labour need to make the election about the Labour front bench which becomes problematic when Cunliffe, their best performer, has been demoted.