Dr Bryce Edwards’ NZ Politics Daily Political Roundup: Autumn of discontent reflected in 1News earthquake poll

Suddenly the prospect of Labour being kicked out of power in 2023 no longer seems so absurd. The latest 1News Kantar opinion poll shows Labour dropping to 37 per cent support – the party’s lowest since 2017 and a big change from the historic highs that saw Labour win 50 per cent of the vote just 18 months ago. More importantly, National has surged ahead of Labour for the first time since Covid hit – now on 39 per cent. This is an earthquake of a result, which has shattered all the assumptions about the political landscape. Meanwhile, the minor parties muddle along, with the Greens on 9 per cent and Act on 8 per cent. The smaller parties, including Te Pāti Māori (2 per cent) could once again, to play a pivotal role.

Also shocking for Labour are the poll results showing National leader Christopher Luxon is in the ascendancy, and is now seen as a real challenger to Ardern. On the “preferred prime minister” question, he has jumped up to 25 per cent support, while Ardern’s support continues its downward direction, to 34. But when the public was asked which of the two leaders should be PM, it was almost a dead heat, with 46 per cent choosing Ardern, and 45 per cent Luxon.

Christophoria or Labour-lite?

Some are viewing this as “Christophoria” or “Luxomania”. It’s true that the new National leader is a significant factor in the poll turn-around. But rather than an enthusiastic vote of confidence in National and Luxon, it undoubtedly reflects more of a waning confidence in Labour and Ardern.

Luxon and National have managed to pull themselves together enough that they are acting as the receptacle for swing voters who have grown tired of the status quo. Shifting voters don’t need to be excited about the new National leader and his party – it’s not that the Opposition is offering anything new or of substance – but, crucially, they are no longer repulsed.

Crisis? What Crisis?

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What is driving voters away from Labour? A combination of social, economic and political factors have developed over the last two years that would have challenged any government. Ardern’s response so far risks an “Autumn of discontent”, such as was experienced during the British Labour Government’s winter of discontent in the late 1970s.

In that case, British Prime Minister James Callaghan was notoriously aloof and seen as out of touch with voters’ experience by refusing to see rising cost of living problems as a crisis. He was famously paraphrased in a Sun newspaper headline: “Crisis? What Crisis?”

With the Prime Minister continuing to deny that the public, and especially those at the bottom, are experiencing a cost of living crisis, Ardern is looking increasingly out of touch. And this is providing an easy hunting ground for Luxon. As commentator Martyn Bradbury has quipped: “You know things are bad when Chris Luxon who owns 7 properties can make Jacinda look out of touch when it comes to a cost of living crisis.”

Bradbury also views the decline in the Government’s fortunes as woke chickens coming home to roost. He argues there’s been a tendency for Labour and the Greens to focus on politically correct issues and not traditionally leftwing ones that advance material concerns in areas like housing, inequality, health, or even climate change.

Inequality is a massive problem according to rightwing commentator Matthew Hooton, who writes today about the outrageous increase in the fortunes of the wealthy due to government policies of the last few years, saying “you do not have to be some sort of communist to think this is a problem”.

Here’s how Hooton puts it: “it has in fact done unprecedented harm, by presiding over a one trillion dollar transfer of wealth from the poor and young to the old and rich, the worst in New Zealand’s post-colonial history. This after promising to end child poverty and reduce inequality.”

It’s not just about house prices and inequality, but the fact that Labour have made mistakes in managing Covid, after the first successful year in 2020. Hooton says: “Even since the Government failed to order the vaccine in time to prevent Auckland’s otherwise unnecessary four-month Delta lockdown, and then took a holiday instead of preparing for Omicron, Labour has been in serious trouble.”

The problem of governing during a pandemic can’t be underestimated, and Labour have made some difficult and sometimes highly-questionable decisions on managing Delta and Omicron. As Stuff’s political editor Luke Malpass says today: “Labour has been steadily slipping since the elimination strategy was abandoned during the lockdown last year. Turns out that dealing with Covid is difficult when you can’t just throw up the borders, keep it out and let life continue basically normally here. People get tired of changing rules, restrictions and just Covid more generally.”

And then there have been the parliamentary protests. The 1News Kantar poll shows that although 46 per cent of the public approve of Labour’s handling of the protest, a sizable 43 per cent disapproved.

A Herald Kantar poll showed “a strong majority of people were opposed to the protest – especially in Wellington – but there was 12 per cent support for it among those polled. 72 per cent said they were opposed and 14 per cent neither supported or opposed the protesters.”

Polling shows that support for vaccine mandates has dropped significantly over the last few months, though the majority of New Zealanders remain broadly in favour.

What can the Government do to turn around their decline?

Labour will be reviewing some of their more unpopular reform areas such as Three Waters. There will be plenty of other areas to review – especially in the cost of living and perceptions of unnecessary government spending, but also income relief for those at the bottom. Like previous governments before them, they have been ineffective at dealing with spiralling housing costs, with much trumpeted policies proving embarrassingly anaemic in reality. All eyes will be on Grant Robertson’s upcoming Budget.

Regardless of what Labour does, they need to take heed of the fact that National and Luxon are prospering through their strong focus on economic matters. And they should reflect on other recent polling that shows National is now more trusted on housing than Labour.

But most urgently, the Prime Minister would now be wise to admit that the rising cost of living is a very real problem, especially for those on low incomes who Labour claims to champion. Waving this away clearly no longer works. And time is running out on Ardern’s previously successful strategy of claiming empathy, but delivering little change.

Further reading on 1News poll

1News: National overtakes Labour in latest 1News Kantar Public Poll
Claire Trevett (Herald): Latest poll a massive boost for National and Luxon, and a massive headache for Ardern and Labour (paywalled)
Luke Malpass (Stuff): Christopher Luxon surges to bring National neck and neck with Labour after only four months
1News: Te Pāti Māori could be power broker at next election – Jessica Mutch McKay
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): TVNZ Poll- National beats Labour
Matthew Hooton (Patreon): The trillion-dollar scandal that should sink Ardern (paywalled)
Miriah Davis (Daily Mail Australia): Kiwis turn on ‘out of touch’ Jacinda Ardern as they struggle to make ends meet
Liam Hehir (Patreon): The government has tried nothing and they’re all out of ideas(paywalled)
Henry Cooke (Stuff): New poll has National above Labour, Māori Party holding balance of power
Thomas Coughlan (Herald): Political poll: National jumps past Labour in TVNZ 1 News-Kantar poll – Jacinda Ardern dips, Chris Luxon up in preferred prime minister race
David Farrar (Patreon): Why the One News Kantar poll should not have been a surprise(paywalled)

Other items of interest and importance today

Jo Moir (Newsroom): More questions than answers for RNZ/TVNZ merger
Broadcasting and Media Minister Kris Faafoi has failed to make the case for what he is proposing, according to Newsroom’s Jo Moir. She complains that he has fobbed off important questions about things like the cost of the new service and possible job cuts.

Damien Venuto (Herald): Will the TVNZ-RNZ mega merger fix anything? (paywalled)
Do RNZ and TVNZ really need to merge? Media industry commentator Damien Venuto suggests that Labour has fallen victim to “continuation bias” which he defines as a psychological condition “that makes us follow a course of action even in the face of changing conditions.” He worries that the Government will hurtle ahead with the decision, ignoring advice about the problems of the current merger concept.

Richard Harman: Questions about political independence of new broadcaster(paywalled)
Veteran journalist Richard Harman, once the political editor of TVNZ, says there are serious concerns about the Government setting up the new public broadcaster in a way in which state funding will influence its coverage of politics and current events.

Ryan Boswell (1News): New public media entity will have editorial independence – TVNZ CEO
TVNZ CEO Simon Power, a former National Government Cabinet Minister, says the new entity will be protected from Government pressure.

Glenn McConnell (Stuff): Merging TVNZ and RNZ could be an absolute tragedy, or triumph for broadcasting
The devil will be in the detail of this major broadcasting merger, but so far there simply isn’t any detail, and so it’s too early to judge whether this is a good idea or not.

Stuff: Editorial – Finally an answer on an RNZ-TVNZ merger, but questions linger
Frustrated with the lack of clarity about the new media merger, this newspaper editorial asks why there is not even a draft of the new charter being released. In terms of the timeframes, the newspaper says: “it is difficult to see how it has taken two-and-a-half years and an entire governance group to answer only a foundational question and establish another group that will do all the work.”

Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): New public media entity could help non-government owned media, says RNZ boss
What impact will the merger have on the rest of the media landscape? According to this report, the merger is about a “stronger push into the digital space, to attract new and younger audiences”, and the public broadcaster will also help out private media.

Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): Decision to merge TVNZ and RNZ draws mixed response
A useful survey of how others in the media industry are responding to the new merger announcement.

Duncan Greive (Spinoff): TVNZ and RNZ to merge into a not-for-profit giant likely to dominate NZ media
There was little that was concrete in the announcement yesterday according to the Spinoff website owner Duncan Greive. He says there are now more questions than answers.

Juliet Speedy (Newshub): TVNZ-RNZ merger: Still unclear if new public media entity will be taxpayer or commercially funded
Funding for public broadcasting is the big issue in the new media merger, but details on this are scarce.

Bill Ralston (Stuff): Success of TVNZ/RNZ merger will all come down to money
The former head of TVNZ says Faafoi’s “announcement was strong on rhetoric and weak on detail.” Funding is still the key question for the merger.

Paul McBeth (BusinessDesk): Clear the airwaves – it’s all online (paywalled)
Kris Faafoi’s decision for the new public broadcaster “to go chasing the digital realm is more interesting” than the other details to emerge yesterday.

1News: Support for mandates drops to 60% in latest 1News Kantar Public Poll
Support for mandates is down from November 2021’s poll, while the Government’s handling of the recent protest at Parliament has the public fairly evenly split.

Claire Trevett (Herald): Exclusive poll: Covid 19 Omicron – What Kiwis think about vaccination mandates and the Parliament protests (paywalled)
A Herald/Kantar poll shows 65% of the public support mandates in certain jobs, with most believing the mandates should be lifted when Covid poses less of a threat to the population. The poll shows strong opposition to the recent protest in Wellington.

Jamie Morton (Herald): Experts say officials ‘flying blind’ on case numbers without better data (paywalled)
A lack of reliable data means modelling experts are relying on educated guesswork to estimate the size and scope of NZ’s Covid outbreak. This will severely impact our decision making and public health strategy as the outbreak unfolds and into the future.

Michael Neilson (Herald): Covid 19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins disclosed personal information about journalist despite MFAT urging him not to
Information on journalist Charlotte Bellis, which included a briefing and media lines, was provided to Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta under a “no surprises” convention. It was then passed on to Hipkins by Mfat officials who stated all personal information was “not for public comment”.

Herald: How NZ’s vaccine roll-out ‘failed’ Māori
A study published in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal looks at how the Covid vaccination programme was rolled out.

Peter Dunne (Newsroom): Why we must separate the protesters’ cause from the protest itself
Former Cabinet minister Peter Dunne dismisses calls for a “Trumpist” wall around Parliament or “ludicrous and insulting” pleas for better education around conspiracy theories and vaccination. He says the “problem lies with a much more basic level of polarisation and alienation in our society that needs to understood and addressed with care and respect

Matthew Hooton (Herald): Boomers must share youth’s Covid burden (paywalled)
Matthew Hooton writes that “Nearly exactly as predicted two years ago, the Government has overseen the greatest transfer of wealth from the young and poor to the old and rich in New Zealand’s history.” He calls for the Government to now tackle these intergenerational inequities caused by the $1 trillion dollar transfer of wealth to asset owners, but also to deal with other consequences of the Covid response.

Josie Pagani (Stuff): Don’t give tax cuts to those who don’t need them
Leftwing commentator Josie Pagani puts forward a traditional leftwing critique of the National Party’s latest economic policies, and says that there isn’t “a tax problem in this country. We have a wage problem.”

Max Rashbrooke (Stuff): NZ’s problem is it doesn’t tax enough, or fairly enough
The New Zealand state simply doesn’t collect enough tax – regardless of which party is in power. Max Rashbrooke argues that our public services are desperately underfunded and new ways to increase tax need to be found.

John MacDonald (Newstalk ZB): Does the PM have her head in the sand?
Remember when the National Government refused to accept there was a housing crisis? Newstalk’s John MacDonald says that Labour is falling into the same absurd trap.

Nikki Macdonald (Stuff): How do you memorialise a protest?
It’s important to document political struggles and protest. But it’s not going to be easy to work out how the country’s National Library or Te Papa will record what happened at the Parliamentary protest.

RNZ: Chief Ombudsman ‘more unhappy’ than ever with aspects of OIA process
The number of complaints about the way government agencies are using the Official Information Act increased 33 per cent last year. And Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says he is more unhappy than ever with the way the OIA is being treated.

Jordan Bond (RNZ): Billionaire steel magnate heads list of Russians with NZ business interests
In light of the focus on wealthy Russians who might or might not be affected by new Government sanctions, journalist Jordan Bond looks into some of the big Russian names in New Zealand, including steel magnate Alexander Abramov who is worth about $6 billion

Matt Robson (Herald): No debate on the issues of war and peace – a rush to judgement(paywalled)
The former Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control and Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Matt Robson, says more public scrutiny is needed of the sanctions being adopted by New Zealand against Russia.

Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): First fuel, now food: is our competition watchdog letting us down?
The backlash against the Commerce Commission’s mild report on supermarket reform continues. This is one of the more in-depth evaluations of the issues.

Marc Daalder (Newsroom): Shaw’s mixed messages on 1.5C goal
Merely “aspirational” is the description of the Government’s climate change commitments, according to James Shaw’s lawyers in a court case. But Daalder says this contradicts what Shaw himself has promised.

Bernard Hickey: Housing and food stress intensifies (paywalled)
Financial journalist Bernard Hickey forecasts that we are heading into “our worst winter of homelessness and food poverty”, but the political parties don’t have any sufficient answers to the problem.

Karl du Fresne: Pssst … don’t mention the iwi
On the release of the Government’s working group report on Three Waters, Karl du Fresne sums up the whole process as a debacle: “From disgrace to sham to travesty and back again”.

Chris Trotter: This Meddlesome Human Rights Commissioner
Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt controversially visited the parliamentary protestors to hear their concerns, and then wrote a newspaper column about what he learnt – but in deliberately flouting the PM’s “rāhui”, this was a big mistake according to Chris Trotter.

Chris Trotter (Daily Blog): 2023: The one to lose
Responding to my column yesterday in which I suggested that the Government may need to ditch the co-governance element of Three Waters, Chris Trotter outlines how much of a serious fight this would cause within the Labour Party and the wider political class.


  1. THe short version:
    Labour have less than 12 months in order to redeem themselves.
    Unfortunately it ain’t going to happen too easily.
    In pollytuks, NICE people are not necessarily competent people, and while outwardly they might pretend to
    have your back, sometimes they’re the most scheming self-interested pile of shit you could grow a decent mushroom in.
    Public Service reform should have been the first major undertaking back in ’17 – but cudda shudda wudda.
    And then the missed opportunity in ’20 with a huge mandate delivered in an MMP environment.
    Cudda Shudda Wudda.
    There are a few people around that could coach some of them in the art of bullshit detecting, but I’m not sure they’d now want to go anywhere near them. Some of them, Labour seem to want to bury.

    I think we probably have to go through some more pain and experience a bit of ‘beat me, beat me’ under a gNactoid junta before Labour (and the ‘Left’ generally) get their shit together.
    Que Sera sera.

  2. I saw a car window sticker in town this morning. It was a rip off of the “Unite against Covid” one.

    “Unite against Ardern.” Can’t understand how they had the freedom to be getting around actually. You know, what with a pandemic killing millions and half a billion having had a dose of it.*
    AND with her being the most evil dictator in the world taking away everyone’s freedom.

    * Just kidding, silly me, of course there was no pandemic, it was just a punt up job.

    However, each to their own. They may consider Liz Gunn some sort of High Priestess. You know, the Liz who said that Ardern was the most evil person who’d ever been given birth to in New Zealand.

    • Was Jacinda responsible for the 7 deaths overnight or those from previous weeks or was she the evil dictator whom saved thousands of lives during covid. What position does Lizz Gunn hold in government again, what portfolio and what responsibility does Lizz accept for the result of any comment she makes?

  3. Its a bit far out from the election for this poll to be an indication of the election result. Although i acknowledge its not looking too good The problem for Labour is that everything they do now will be painted as a knee-jerk reaction to polls. They could start bringing 1000 state homes a week online and National would say its because of the polls.. and they would be correct. I hate to say it but Labour are toast. I don’t see the fire in Jacinda’s eyes any more. Her unwillingness to punish poor performance in her ministers has resulted in them thinking they are doing well. If she’s to stand a chance (and i’m not convinced she wants one) a major reshuffle is required with some of the dead wood being relegated to positions unlikely to make it in on the list. that will spark a few into gear.
    The really sad thing is National are not winning, Labour is losing.

    • A good post Kim. I look forward to National fixing housing, poverty, inflation, petrol and supermarket increases within their 100 day forecast. No excuses, it must be done. However they haven’t promised anything other than tax cuts. So we can expect nothing from National, even worse, the majority of N.Z. can expect to go backwards.

      • Like they did when they were in power under The Mighty Sir John Key, developed NZ into one of the World’s Leading Powerhouse Rockstar Economies, which the world holds in high esteem.

      • They have promised to bash a few on benefits too. Classic National. Back to the tried and true. You can bet they blame the problems all on unemployed, never mind the fact that the majority of the debt was generated supporting people in work and providing a gold plated benefit for those that lost their jobs due to covid.
        My daughter has just decided to move to Australia and I blame that squarely on Labour. She just doesn’t see how she can ever get a house here. She is well paid works full time and has had a job since she was 14. But she’s living week to week. Its just depressing. I can’t find any reason to even try and talk her out of it.

        • Labour have forced the banks to change the rules on lending. Forward focus on spending rather than past history. Labour not Nact have made this change, remember that when voting.

          • It would be snowing in hell before I voted for that bunch of wankers. (nats) I am in a weird place vote wise. The Greens are gutless. NZ first has Jones, Top, Conservatives etc are all crazy. I just don’t know any more. And for me.. that’s a first.
            For the first time in my life, I may not vote.
            The problem is.. The people that we all vote for already have it all. They can never understand what its like to have no hope of having a basic human right of a roof over your head. To them. Its not broken. But the fact is, It fuckin is. When a house is unaffordable by 80% of the population it is only a matter of time before a significant portion of that 80% says..ENOUGH. and just takes it.

    • The poor performers come right across the board. Andrew Little has allowed the medical workers claim get to the point of a strike by people who would have been gutted to let patients down. 3 Waters has been presented in such a bully boy style that most councils are of side even those with exLabour MP’s. Prison Officers are resigning on mass as Kelvin Davies says nothing.
      Kris Faafoi Poto Williams and Megan Woods seem to be there to collect their pay and do as lttle as posible and never front for interviews and now Clarke has had to wind in his I’ll thought out revise of loan policy.
      Chris and Grant work hard but not getting many scores and even Jacinda is losing her zest and made a bad call not acknowledging a cost of live crisis as inflation hits 7 per cent.

      • Sorry Trevor National but you have faith National will be any better? Littles continued enquiry into Pike River has seen a closure for the families, compare that to Key wanting to seal the mine after promising, yes promising to get the men out. National cannot be trusted.

    • You are correct, National is not winning but this Labour government is losing like no government since Muldoon.
      They looked rather arrogant and dismissive in the first term and oh my god I’ve NEVER seen any government as arrogant and out of touch as this government is, especially during the protest.
      Aunty Helen’s “wreckers and haters” comment was positively conciliatory compared to this.
      New Zealand needs it’s Left parties to suffer Armageddon so that this current dross can be replaced. Hopefully with people not focused on pregnant men and other mental shit like that.
      All around the western world, the Left parties have become entirely disconnected from the people they claim to support, but don’t really do.

  4. You haven’t seen anything yet!

    The septic wound of race based politics is about to be accompanied by the infected poultices of inflation followed by recession as consumers cut back on inessentials in order to pay for basics. This government is a dead man walking.

  5. In this last period of polling Labour announced its reheated light rail plan. Futuristic, horrifically expensive and more complex than a space program to Mars, I will argue that because that was 2017’s policy that never eventuated few if any took the blindest bit of notice. Actually, few believe it will ever happen. That points to credibility issues with voters.

    They raised the minimum wage, an easy win for them but courtesy of businesses, and probably at the worst possible time. It did not rate.

    People aren’t listening anymore. That is bad for Labour! And I’m surprised they are polling as high as they are!

    Short of announcing AND getting a mass house building underway to finally start addressing the housing catastrophe, they’re stuffed. But of course, that is as likely to happen as petrol falling to $2 per litre overnight.

    It will be a long and agonising 18 months awaiting the inevitable for them. But ultimately, by their inaction, they wanted it this way.

    • Cray
      Treasury calculated the rail thing to go to 30 billion. 30 billion later and I’ll still just drive to the airport….like 99% of all AKL. The thing is dead already. What Labour don’t get is there’s social engineering and then there’s real engineering.

      • Like Transmission Gully , Nationals massive failure .
        National don’t get it…neoliberal engineering and then there’s real engineering.

  6. Well, I said a couple of years back I would eat my hat if Labour were a transformational government. So here I am, with my Firstflex towelling hat ready to munch on down.
    Transformative they have been on NZ but for all the wrong reasons. What astounds me the most is the amount of chardonnay sipping socialist who fell for transparent, fake, Ardern is.
    Voting purely on personality without doing due diligence was never going to end well.
    You’ve got the government and economic results you deserve, now suck it up and deal with it.

    • Well maybe not transformational but a fuck side better than Nationals make the wealthy richer again government.

  7. ” And they should reflect on other recent polling that shows National is now more trusted on housing than Labour ”

    That statement sums up how moronic New Zealanders actually are !!!!

    • NOT NECCESARYLY when the nats say ‘I don’t care the homeless can fuck off’, I believe that and trust they will stick to it, WHEREAS when lab say ‘we will build x thousand state houses’ I don’t believe a fuckin word and believe them untrustworthy.

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