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Should Labour replace David Cunliffe?
Labour's support has slumped to its lowest level since the 2011 election, with leader David Cunliffe battling for survival after it emerged he intervened in a residency application for Chinese businessman Donghua Liu.
In the latest Stuff.co.nz/Ipsos political poll, the party has dropped 6 percentage points to 23 per cent. National is soaring on 56 per cent, which would allow it to govern alone. Click here for full graphics.
Cunliffe has failed to stop his party's slide in the poll since he took over as leader in September, and is now facing election humiliation. His support as preferred prime minister slipped to 11 per cent, down two points. Prime Minister John Key edged ahead, up three points to 51.4 per cent.
As he faced fire over the Liu allegations, Cunliffe insisted he retained the confidence of his caucus - but admitted he had broached the subject with senior colleagues.
Tomorrow a pre-election window opens, allowing the caucus to dump its leader without triggering the wider vote of the entire party's membership. After a wave of dismal results, the latest poll would leave Labour with 29 seats, meaning five MPs would get the chop if the election were held today. National would score 71 seats.
Our polling took place earlier this week, before the Liu revelations came to light. It shows disillusioned Labour supporters are now undecided where their loyalties lie. Respondents who voted Labour in 2011, and planned to do so in September, fell from 81.6 per cent in February to 61.3 per cent. The drop in support is greatest among 30 to 44-year-olds.
Ipsos managing director Matt Benson said past Labour voters were now unsure who to vote for.
"An increase in alternate party activity on the Left side may have traditional Labour voters weighing up their options and thinking again about Labour. On the other side, as the party options for conservative voters reduce, we are seeing them flock to National."
Cunliffe was under pressure yesterday to explain an April 2003 letter written on behalf of political donor Liu, asking that Liu be advised on how long his residency application would take. Earlier this week, Cunliffe denied he knew him.
The gaffe came as Labour struggled to determine whether Liu had ever donated to the party through fundraising auctions.
The revelation is embarrassing for Cunliffe because he has criticised a series of National politicians for their dealings with Chinese-born Liu. The property developer - who is awaiting sentence on domestic violence charges - was granted residency by Labour immigration minister Damien O'Connor, against the advice of officials.
He was given citizenship in 2010, after lobbying by former National minister Maurice Williamson and Auckland mayor of the time John Banks. Williamson was forced to resign last month after he rang a top-ranked police officer to advocate for Liu.
Cunliffe insisted yesterday that he had not lied - and still has no recollection of meeting Liu.
The letter was written by his staff, after his New Lynn electorate office was approached by an immigration agent acting on Liu's behalf. "I did not tell a lie, I absolutely did not," he said.
Senior Labour figures publicly expressed confidence in Cunliffe yesterday, but privately admitted the Liu revelations had sparked fresh speculation about the leadership.
It is likely he will be spared because a coup so close to the election would be destabilising. Sources also pointed to reluctance from potential challengers.
The Stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll sees the Greens drop slightly from 12.7 to 11.9 per cent. NZ First also takes a hit - of half a percentage point. Leader Winston Peters was overtaken in the preferred prime minister stakes by Greens co-leader Russel Norman. Support for Colin Craig's Conservative party and ACT also fell.
The fledgling Internet-Mana alliance scored a combined 2.1 per cent, which would give it three MPs if Hone Harawira held on to his Te Tai Tokerau electorate.
The poll surveyed 1014 people between June 14 and 17. It has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.
- The Dominion Post
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