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PoliticsAugust 31, 2017

All has gone topsy-turvy, as Labour, astonishingly, breaks ahead of National


Pollwatch: The new One News poll proves the Jacinda effect is no blip. And the game has changed dramatically ahead of the first debate.

For anyone who has been paying attention to New Zealand politics over recent years, these latest numbers from One News and Colmar Brunton don’t so much speak for themselves as shout in your ear at such an ethereal pitch you think you must be dreaming.

Just look:

For Labour to be in the front, both in party vote and as preferred leader, is gobsmacking. Labour is up six points from the last CB poll, and above their old foe in the head-to-head for the first time in 12 years. Who’s to say the momentum won’t continue? There is so much hanging now on tonight’s leader debate that it’s pretty much bound to be a disappointment.

For the Greens, to have clawed their way back to 5% will be a relief – though, again, to say that 5% is a relief for the Greens seems to be a statement from another time. They’ve underperformed on poll numbers in recent elections, however, so they’ll hope they can build further.

For NZ First, who had their own lap of scandal park in recent days – though the heat on Winston Peters for superannuation payments quickly transmogrified into heat on the National Party for what some suspected was a blast of Dirty Politics 2.0 – 8% is a solid enough number. Amid this dizzying result it’s easy to overlook that it still puts NZ First as the likeliest kingmaker (Labour-Green-Maori could just get over the line, but barely).

But while NZ First’s status remains, this is now unmistakably an old-fashioned red v blue contest. To grasp the magnitude of the Labour Party turnaround under Jacinda Ardern, look at this from RNZ’s latest poll of polls earlier this week:

This One News poll confirms that it was no blip – if anything the trend is accelerating – and tonight’s debate begins, incredibly, with the National leader firmly on the back foot.

English would have entered the campaign thinking, if not that it was in the bag, that he’d have to do unfathomably badly to be anywhere but well in front going into the first leader debate. The Labour leader, we’d have expected, would have nothing to lose. Everything has gone topsy-turvy now. The pressure is on both leaders, but not the pressure we expected.

We could all use a drink.

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