Has David Cunliffe done well as Labour leader?
National has been delivered a Labour Day present with its support undented in the latest Fairfax Media-Ipsos Poll.
The results will be a blow to Labour which has had a change of leader in the hope of turning around stagnant poll ratings.
Instead, today's poll that shows the narrowing gap between the two big parties, in the wake of Labour leadership ''primary'', has reversed leaving National on track to win the next election.
Labour is up two percentage points to 33.6 per cent since the last Fairfax poll, completed in August before the leadership spill that saw Cunliffe replace David Shearer.
But National is also up two points and holds a huge 17 point lead over Labour, winning the backing of more than 50 per cent of committed voters.
That comes after several high profile overseas trips by Mr Key where he has rubbed shoulders with world leaders and chaired top level trade talks during the Asia Pacific Economic Copoeration summit.
On the latest poll numbers National would win 63 seats in a 124 seat Parliament and be able to govern alone.
That will be a major blow to Labour's morale after a series of polls since Cunliffe took up the reins showed National slipping into the mid 40s with the combined Labour-Green bloc having the numbers to win power.
But there is still cause for concern for National, with its 50 per cent plus rating unlikely to be sustained on election night, and the poll confirming that potential coalition partners for a third term remain thin on the ground.
While Labour's main ally the Greens retain a solid block of support at 10.7 per cent, National's allies ACT and United Future are barely registering and the Maori Party is polling at just 0.7 per cent, the same as its rival Mana.
Colin Craigs Conservative party is on 0.7 per cent, but National strategists believe it is doing much better in Auckland, where it is believed to have polled as high as 4 per cent in one internal National Party poll.
The creation of a new seat in Auckland after electoral boundary changes may open the door to National doing a deal with the Conservatives in order to help them into Parliament without needing to cross the five per cent threshold.
Craig confirmed on Sunday he would likely stand in the new seat if it fell within the North Shore area where his base is strongest.
National strategists are pinning their hopes on the arrival of the Conservatives in Parliament giving them a third term by providing them with a crucial ally.
The strategy in part is based on a hardening resolve against being dependent on NZ First leader Winston Peters, who senior National Party figures believe would do a deal with Labour if he held the balance of power on election night.
National's attitude toward ACT also looks to be hardening after leader John Banks was ordered to stand trial on electoral fraud allegations. Banks is seeking to have that order overturned in the High Court this week but if he fails the case would be heard in the run-up to the next election, putting pressure on National to distance itself from the trouble plagued party.
Today's poll comes a week out from Labour's annual conference in Christchurch - Cunliffe's first as leader - where he will be under pressure to seize back the intiative.
He will also be under pressure to ensure the party presents a unified front to show that under his leadership the party has moved on from the bitter divisions on display at last year's conference.
* The survey of 1030 voters was taken between October 19 and 23 and had a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.
- Fairfax Media
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