Politics

Maybe National won’t need Winston come September after all

Pollwatch: A new Colmar Brunton / One News poll suggests NZ First is tracking to overtake the Greens, but a sweet post-budget result for Bill English leaves open the possibility they’ll be surplus to requirements

Bill English can treat himself to a warm bath of tinned spaghetti tonight: the post-budget poll by Colmar Brunton for One News has the National Party in a commanding lead, on a six-month high of 49%. However you slice it, that’s a remarkable achievement for a party approaching the end of its third term in charge.

The conventional wisdom is that National will need New Zealand First to govern after September, but on the basis of these numbers, it would be business as usual: National would be able to govern with a couple of seats from ACT and the Māori Party – they wouldn’t even rely on Peter Dunne retaining Ohariu. Strikingly, National’s 49% is more than Labour, the Greens and NZ First combined.

The headline numbers, with change, if any, from the last CM/One poll, published in March:

National: 49% (+3)

Labour: 30%

Green: 9% (-2)

NZ First: 9% (+1)

Opportunities: 1% (+1)

Māori Party: 1% (-3)

ACT: 1% (+1)

Much of it may be down to a budget bounce – “Steven Joyce’s big spending budget”, as One News had it – but any fears (or hopes) that National’s support might slump with the departure of the since honoured Knight of Parnell have been soundly disabused. Whether down to broad economic satisfaction, or English’s governing chops, or shortcomings on the part of the opposition (or more likely a combination of all of those), National looks as comfortable as ever. They have not apparently suffered from the ongoing strains of the housing crisis, from the mixed messages on Israel, nor from the serious embarrassment of Alfred Ngaro’s outburst.

Of course, it’s just one poll. The UK election may be instructive here: not just because it shows that fortunes can swing during a campaign, but also because of the wide divergence among the polling companies, which put the Conservatives’ lead anywhere from 1% over Labour to 12%.

For what it’s worth, however: a glance back three years. Given the numbers above come from a Colmar Brunton / One News poll roughly three months out from an election, let’s have a look at the numbers from a Colmar Brunton / One News poll from June 2014, roughly three months out from an election. How do they compare with the official (rounded to nearest percentage point) results?

National: June 2014 poll 50% ⇒ Official 2014 result 47%

Labour: 29% ⇒ 26%

Green: 12% ⇒ 11%

NZ First: 4% ⇒ 9%

ACT: 1% ⇒ 1%

Maori: 1% ⇒ 1%

Mana/Internet: 2% ⇒ 1%

Apart from anything else, that augurs well for renowned poll besmircher Winston Peters: there is every chance NZ First will overtake the Greens into third spot in 2017.

For Labour, meanwhile, the only relief really is that their number in this poll, as in the last Colmar survey, begins with a three. Symbolically, to drop into the twentysomething doldrums would be painful for the main party of opposition. Even were that to happen, it’s pretty much inconceivable there would be any pre-election challenge to Andrew Little’s leadership, but cracks might well start to appear.

In other notable mentions, the Māori Party surge in the March poll appears to have been a blip: they’re down from 4% then to 1% today. Gareth Morgan’s Opportunities Party can be satisfied that they’re firmly on the board, registering a single point in both this and the last Newshub poll – just another four to go and they’re in. Easy. And Little has leapfrogged his deputy Jacinda Ardern to make him again the highest ranking preferred PM among Labour MPs – but at 8%, one ahead of the Rt Hon Winston Raymond Peters, no pasta bath for him today.


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