Voters punish uncertainty, and Jacinda Ardern's left enough of it for National's attacks to work

RNZ

Jacinda Ardern said she agreed with Jim Bolger's assessment that neoliberalism had failed, in an extended interview with Radio NZ.

OPINION: Has the mood for change hit a wall of fear? National will be letting out a very deep breath with the results of the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll putting it in a commanding position in the final two weeks of the campaign.

Jacinda Ardern's rise appears to have stalled as voters weigh up the risks of the unknown against a mood for change.

The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll has Labour on 37.8 per cent, down 1.6 points on the same poll earlier this month. But the biggest change is National - up 4 points to 47.3 per cent. With the Greens dropping below the 5 per cent threshold, National would have the numbers to govern alone on those numbers.

Jacinda Ardern needs to be clear about what's on or off the table.
MAARTEN HOLL/STUFF

Jacinda Ardern needs to be clear about what's on or off the table.

National appears to have got back its momentum off the back of its relentless attacks on Labour over tax - in particular Ardern's plan to defer to a tax working group on the crucial issue of a capital gains tax.

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While Ardern has been forced to rule out a raft of possibilities, including a capital gains tax on the family home, or an inheritance tax, the lack of clarity has left holes big enough for National to drive a very big truck through.

Are National's tax attacks hurting Ardern?
CAMERON BURNELL/STUFF

Are National's tax attacks hurting Ardern?

It has sown the seeds of uncertainty about a raft of other taxes, including an inheritance tax, and Labour's plans for a water tax has stirred up a brewing farmers' revolt.

The poll may even be a validation of National's big $11.7 billion fiscal hole gambit; finance spokesman Steven Joyce has been roundly rubbished for making up the numbers. But on Tuesday night's poll result, he won't be backing down.

Of course all polls should probably be taken with a grain of salt by both sides -  the latest One News Colmar Brunton poll had their fortunes reversed, and it was taken over roughly the same period. That points to a hugely volatile electorate, and nothing can be taken for granted.

Bill English is fighting back.
GETTY

Bill English is fighting back.

But the poll should be a red flag to Labour that the tax issue nees to be sorted and with urgency.  Ardern needs to be clear about what's on or off the table by releasing the terms of reference, and even the likely make up of the group.

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And if she really wants to put the issue to bed, she should make a cast iron promise not to implement its recommendations till she seeks a fresh mandate.

Maybe that is a step too far for Ardern, who has made it an issue about leadership. But Tuesday night's poll may be a useful reminder to Labour that voters punish uncertainty.

Chris McKEEN/Stuff

Jacinda Ardern cast an early vote at a Mt Albert voting booth.

 - Stuff

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