Editorial: Polls apart

19:07, Feb 21 2013

Labour supporters, keen to see their party back in office, have been getting confused opinion-poll signals about their party's prospects. Leader David Shearer might be confusing them, too.

On Valentines Day, the New Zealand Roy Morgan poll showed a fall in support for National and the Maori Party but increased support for Labour and the Greens. A general election held then would have seen Labour and the Greens, with some minor party support, win the day.

The doubters who feared Mr Shearer wasn't up to it were obviously wrong.

Three days later the Colmar Brunton poll showed National on an upwards march. Labour leadership concerns would have been revitalised (and some ambitions rekindled). But this week the Fairfax poll showed National support sliding. Again, Labour and the Greens had a good chance of forming a new government - on that day, anyway.

Expectations of a further slide in support for the Government should have been bolstered by events in Christchurch (closing schools is always politically fraught) and the report on the inquiry into the SkyCity deal (despite Prime Minister John Key's bold attempts to insist his government had been vindicated).

Mr Shearer, however, is saying the sorts of things that may perplex some people. He seemed relaxed about working with Mana Party leader Hone Harawira, for example, declaring he would respect ideas wherever they came from. But Mr Harawira has a penchant for making contentious remarks about Pakeha. Phil Goff (when he was Labour's leader) ruled out going into coalition with the Mana Party as long as Mr Harawira was in charge.

On the other hand, Mr Shearer ruled out NZ First MP Richard Prosser as a minister in any administration he might head.

Mr Shearer's tolerance threshold was tested also in an FM Breakfast interview. Asked if there was room for MPs with homophobic views in the Labour Party, he hastily replied: "Oh look yes, absolutely . . ." He struggled from there to explain he didn't think there were homophobes on his team, although some disagreed with same-sex marriage.

Mr Shearer's openness to ideas is laudable. Not so laudably, this may include the views of some bigots.