Voters pick up the dog tucker signals

On a day out on the campaign trail last week, Labour leader Phil Goff sounded for all the world like a man who knew his task was next to impossible.

He conceded that he was leading Labour at the wrong time in the political cycle – and when it was put to him that National would have had to blunder on a monumental scale to lose after just three years in office, his answer was curiously telling.

"They would have to have had Ruth Richardson running the finance portfolio," was his response.

He went on to suggest that the National Government had had "some pretty good alibis" in the past three years, including the global financial crisis and Christchurch earthquakes.

It may not have been a concession speech but it was an admission of the extent to which Labour has struggled to gain traction while the headlines and country are focused on issues that have rendered the Opposition largely irrelevant.

The bad news for Labour is that the election campaign will be defined by the disasters; the news yesterday of a staggering $4 billion blowout in Earthquake Commission costs, which will help push the deficit out to a record $18b high, will probably only cement the view that the Government is being buffeted by factors outside its control.

Today's poll, of course, should be read in context – while 25.7 per cent is disastrous for Labour, other polls in recent days have had its support higher, and it could be at the outside of the margin of error, though the trend in all the polls is unmistakable. And as the sudden drift of Labour supporters to the Greens shows, once the polls decide you are dog tucker, voters are inclined to do the same.

The Dominion Post