National leader Christopher Luxon is on course to become prime minister, (Image: Tina Tiller)
National leader Christopher Luxon is on course to become prime minister, (Image: Tina Tiller)

OPINIONPoliticsAugust 8, 2022

The crucial number in TVNZ’s new poll

National leader Christopher Luxon is on course to become prime minister, (Image: Tina Tiller)
National leader Christopher Luxon is on course to become prime minister, (Image: Tina Tiller)

It’s not just that a National-Act combo could form a government, but the growth in the gap between blocs. 

With the next general election campaign now just a year away, a new Kantar poll for 1 News has a National-Act coalition in pole position. With National on 33% and Act on 11% the parties combined would command 62 of a likely 120 parliamentary seats. That’s a wafer-thin majority, but nevertheless would represent a remarkable swing back to power after the devastation of 2020 that saw Labour achieve an unparalleled single-party majority.

The best way to look at the next election is in terms of the blocs. Both National and Labour in fact have dropped by a couple of points in today’s result. It’s clearly bad for Labour to have dropped to 33%, its lowest number in the survey since 2017.  But the more remarkable numbers are for the big parties’ putative coalition partners. 

David Seymour looked like he was about to burst out of his suit in happiness as he pedalled a bicycle in the 1 News clip, and fair enough, too: to jump four points is one hell of an achievement, especially given the suggestions that the party’s heights in recent times were solely a result of National’s self-immolations. On these numbers Act would expect at least five cabinet seats in a coalition.   

For the Greens, meanwhile, they’ll be popping the kiwifruit wine at falling by just one point, to a statistically nominal 9%. Looks like sending former and almost certainly future co-leader James Shaw for a quick spell in Siberia wasn’t the disaster some diagnosed. 

But to the blocs – here’s how the 1 News / Kantar polling is tracking when we consider the contest of National-plus-Act against Labour-plus-Green:

That trajectory is telling. There are, of course, other factors in the mix – especially the role of te Pāti Māori, who registered 2% today, as well as NZ First, up two points to 3%, but it’s the biggest centre-right bloc advantage over the centre-left since February 2018.

While Christopher Luxon might have hoped for a higher personal rating – he was down three points to 22%, with Jacinda Ardern also down three to 30% – that will not much bother National strategists. What’s more, this poll, with fieldwork completed on August 3, didn’t capture all of the cost-of-living fallout, nor any bounce the party might have enjoyed from its conference. 

John Key’s rating of his protege as a 10 is, well, aspirational, but Luxon has passed more tests than he’s failed. The success of Luxon’s debut conference as party leader can be measured not so much in what happened as what didn’t. There was no undercurrent of internal loathing. For the most part his missteps in recent months have been born of a lack of grasp of detail and a lack of savvy in choice of words. That could go one of two ways as we race toward an election. He could be found out under the mounting pressure, that’s certainly possible. But he’s still relatively new to it all; as he reiterated today, he’s by his own description “not a career politician”, and will surely be learning from every mistake.

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