Could National lose the unloseable election? After today’s stuff.co.nz/Ipsos political poll, that might seem like a ludicrous proposition. But the biggest threat yet posed to National’s chances of securing a third term may not be Labour, but complacency among its own troops that it already has the election in the bag.
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Less than two months out from polling day, John Key has abandoned the campaign trail for a break in Hawaii. If it wasn’t for the fact that his rival, Labour leader David Cunliffe, is also taking time out for a family holiday in Queenstown, Key would have been accused of sleep walking to the finish line.
Admittedly, National is aware of the dangers of complacency and has sounded dire warnings to its grassroots activists not to rest on their laurels.
But as the election date marches closer it must be getting harder and harder for National to believe it hasn’t already got the election won.
On today’s results, National would comfortably govern alone. But history is against such an unlikely outcome. And as always there is more beneath the numbers than a single column entry. The number of National voters contacted by our pollsters has not markedly changed since our last poll in June – the real movement is among Labour-leaning voters, who appear to have become a highly volatile bunch at this point in the electoral cycle.
Admittedly that is not much of a lifeline for Cunliffe to cling to.
Our last poll had Labour crashing to a morale-busting 23 per cent support. At 25 per cent, today’s result is not much better. But it does show that a statistically significant number of Labour voters have moved back from the undecided column to decided. Labour’s election year congress, where Cunliffe focused on schools and education with some well targeted announcements, may have done the trick for some of those waverers.
The challenge for Labour is to convince more voters that it is relevant to the election result, which on 25 per cent will be tough. It must battle the mindset that a vote for Labour is a wasted vote because it won’t change the government.
But the glimmer of good news for Labour is that the slide has been arrested. Of course, it may be too little, too late. Unless National starts taking polls like today’s too much for granted.