How polls can change quickly. How something that used to be a subject of dread for the New Zealand Labour Party has suddenly become a subject of intense interest. And how for National something that for 8.5 consecutive years brought nothing but good news whilst the Opposition wallowed in the dregs of despair, has now suddenly become something of alarm, of concern.
Labour has a huge task ahead of it, but one that has become incomparably easier in the last two weeks thanks to former leader Andrew Little realizing he had lost the support of the party and enabling a bloodless transition. It continued to ease as the new leader Jacinda Ardern, a 37 year old daughter of a former policeman, moved quickly to stamp her authority on the party.
It could have all been a disaster. There have been shortage of pitfalls left by the sudden disintegration of the Green Party for Ms Ardern and her deputy Kelvin Davis to accidentally lead the party into, but thus far she has been nimbly side stepping them. Co-leader Metiria Turei’s admission of lying to Work and Income and the subsequent fallout divided Labour’s obvious ally at a time when unity was most needed.
For years the centre right of New Zealand have been watching the polls, barely able to believe their eyes. Sky high support for National, at times reaching 50% or more has been almost too good to believe and yet true at the same time.
During the same time it must have seemed like to the centre left that there was no light at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel. For 8 consecutive years it the polls were so low times as to suggest a looming disintegration of the entire centre left spectrum.
No longer. Labour have surged from 24% just a couple of weeks ago, to 33% or an increase of 12 seats in the House of Representatives. Some of the surge would have come from the Green Party, which has slumped to 8%.
The Green slump will concern Labour. It might yet be the difference between whether or not the centre-left has enough support to approach New Zealand First leader Winston Peters after the election to talk about a coalition. The slump may get worse yet with one co-leader gone and the other one not showing much initiative in his first attempt at getting the caucus all back on the same page. With two Members of Parliament who were planning to stand for another term now heading for the exit, that also raises questions about who will fill their vacancies in the party listing for the election.
But National should not assume the election is still in the bag. The Todd Barclay saga continues to rumble in the background. Health Minister Jonathan Coleman continues to shoot his mouth off over a mental health crisis he clearly does not want to know about. The Metiria Turei/W.I.N.Z. problem has people also pointing fingers at former Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett, claiming she has a case to answer as well. Ms Bennett is not likely to come clean on any misdemeanours on her part, because if she did, the fall out would be hugely damaging to National in an election that is now wide open.