Dr Bryce Edwards: Political Roundup: Is it now all over for the Labour Government?


Labour appears to be in something of an electoral death spiral. The four-point drop in last night’s 1News Verian poll to just 29 per cent – together with National’s bump up to 37 per cent – suggests that the gulf between the left and right blocs is now opening up, and will be difficult to reverse.

Perception is going to be a big part of Labour’s problem. When a party in government drops into the 20s just weeks out from voting, the psychological effect can be huge. It will affect both voters and politicians. Increasingly, the public will not believe that Labour can win this election. Such a mood will risk becoming a self-fulfilling factor in the campaign.

Just as “success begets success”, for Labour a poll result like this will threaten to fuel a further deterioration in support below 29 per cent. It shapes the whole mood of the campaign, sapping momentum and motivation for those on the Government side. What’s more, when a party is losing, the despair can cause infighting and panic, which just makes everything much worse.

In this regard, Herald political editor Claire Trevett says today: “Hipkins’ trouble is that once the polling starts to slide, it is very difficult to reverse it. It is also very difficult to hold on to the discipline, unity and enthusiasm that are needed to reverse it.”

A devastating blow to Labour’s chances

The 1News poll isn’t the first to put the Labour Government into the 20s during the election campaign. In the last month, the Roy Morgan poll put Labour on 26 per cent, the Guardian-Essential poll said Labour was on 29 per cent, and Curia put Labour on 27 per cent.

Labour was able to dismiss these poor polls as being less robust, and they could point to their own poll company, Talbot-Mills, putting Labour on 32 per cent support.

But the 1News poll is the big one that gets taken most seriously – mostly because it’s seen by more of the public than any other. And unfortunately for Labour its result can’t be painted as an aberration – this is the fifth 1News poll in row showing Labour going downwards. There’s no mistaking that the pattern in this poll, together with most of the others, is to show an overall and steep downward slope.

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The race had been looking close for much of the year. When Hipkins took over as PM in January his party was at 38 per cent, and ahead of National. But since then, he’s haemorrhaged about a third of that support, making the race look lost.

This latest poll, like other recent ones, shows National being able to easily form a government with Act. NZ First is also rising in the polls – at four per cent last night – providing National with potential other options for forming a government. Winston Peters has ruled out helping Labour form a government, and so if his party is returned to power, it’s going to be extremely unlikely that Labour will be able to govern.

Should Labour replace Hipkins?

Much of the commentary on the 1News poll points out that Labour has dropped to the point where leaders are normally replaced. Attention has been drawn to the fact the 1News poll puts Labour at the lowest level since 2017 when the leader Andrew Little stepped down, leading to massive recovery of support under new leader Jacinda Ardern. Others point to Simon Bridges being rolled as National leader in 2020 when support dropped this low.

But Chris Hipkins is not in the same situation – commentators generally acknowledge that he’s still the best option for Labour in 2023. Toby Manhire says that even if Labour wanted to replace Hipkins, there is no one capable of doing so, as the only two real candidates for doing better, Michael Wood and Kiritapu Allan, have been removed from Cabinet. Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson is probably the only option, and he also looks increasingly tired and uninspiring.

It is a problem, however, that the latest 1News poll puts Hipkins’ support as preferred PM at only 21 per cent, having dropped 3 points. This is neck-and-neck with Christopher Luxon on 20 per cent. Previously, Labour campaign strategists had been relying on Hipkins’ significantly greater popularity over Luxon. That lost advantage means that Labour can only really rely on policy to try to win the election.

Is policy to blame for Labour’s decline?

The latest poor poll for Labour is being widely viewed as negative verdict from voters on the party’s GST-off fresh food policy. Claire Trevett argues the poll “indicates the GST policy was seen as an attempt to offer something that looked more generous than it was, purely for the sake of votes.”

The 29 per cent result might also be seen as a verdict on Labour’s lack of inspiring policy in general. In the last week or so, the party has suddenly put out a flood of policies – most of which have either been underwhelming, or appeared to be an attempt to shift into National-lite territory: an end to Covid restrictions, financial literacy education, standardised teaching of the basics in schools, transport spending, increased parental leave, and vaping regulation.

Stuff political editor Luke Malpass says today, “A flurry of policies to hug the centre and try to convince voters to back the centre-left party again appear to not be working.” Trying to outflank National on key issues is always dangerous, risking losing Labour’s differentiation. The polls also suggest that jettisoning traditional progressive policies like capital gains and wealth taxes is also not working for the party. If anything, this approach has just enraged traditional supporters.

Of course, some on the left will just move over the Greens. At the moment, the Greens are indeed picking up some of the disillusioned Labour vote, but much of it seems to be shifting elsewhere. One analysis of poll respondents preferences shows that for every voter lost to the Greens, one is going to National as well. Nearly as many are shifting to be “undecided”.

So what does Labour do now? The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire asks today why Labour won’t announce anything bold and big. His own suggestion – free dental care for all.

However, even if Labour manages to fight back with bolder and more inspiring policies over the next few weeks, it might just be too late. After six years of being in government, Labour has developed a reputation for not being able to deliver, even to its own supporters. Hence, more promises on the campaign trail aren’t exactly going to be fully believed and embraced, even by those on the progressive side of politics.

Voters are gloomy

There is no doubt that the economic recession and the rising cost of living have played a significant part in Labour’s declining popularity. The 1News poll asked voters which issues were most likely to influence their voting choice, and 48 per cent pointed to the cost of living. The next biggest issues were a long way off – Crime at 14 per cent, and Healthcare at 13 per cent.

If you take one of the cost of living issues – rising mortgage rates – there is some sign that voters blame the government for this. A poll undertaken this month by Curia Research for corporate clients – they also poll for the National Party – asked whether or not voters blamed the Government for higher mortgage rates.

About two-thirds (64 per cent) said the Government had either contributed “a great deal” or “a fair amount” to the problem, compared to only 22 per cent who thought the Government’s contribution to increasing mortgage rates was either “Not very much” or “Not at all”. The poll showed that the public also blamed other factors such as the global economy and the Reserve Bank.

Curia, who also polls for the Taxpayers Union, also surveyed recently on levels of satisfaction with public services. As reported by Stuff’s Luke Malpass, dissatisfaction with government services appears to be skyrocketing. According to the survey, voters say public services have got worse since 2020 in the following key areas: Health (70 per cent say it’s worse), Criminal Justice (64 per cent), Education (57 per cent), Transport (47 per cent), and Welfare (37 per cent). Notably, most Labour voters also say things have got worse.

It is in this context that we can better understand Labour’s current electoral doldrums. Regardless of whether it is fair or not, there is a perception that things are getting worse, and that the current government is at least partly to blame.

Could Labour’s support collapse?

Chris Hipkins is talking today about turning the tide around over the next few weeks and beating National. Few will be convinced that he can do this. In fact, there’s every chance it will only get worse. Labour might well struggle to mobilise and motivate its activists and voters.

A low voter turnout at the election is therefore Labour’s nightmare. Supporters are probably starting to tune out. Therefore, it’s vital that the party brings forward anything it’s holding back to give their chances a boost. They desperately need to show the public that they are still competitive, and that the election result is not now a foregone conclusion.

We’ve seen in other elections what happens when parties start tanking, and a death spiral occurs. In 2002 the Bill English-led National Party dropped below 21 per cent in the final vote. And last election Judith Collins crashed National to only 25 per cent.

Of course, the big differences is that those failing parties were in opposition, up against extremely popular prime ministers. That isn’t the case at the moment – Hipkins is taking Labour into a campaign defending a 50 per cent win at the last election, up against a National leader that is relatively inexperienced, unpopular and uninspiring.

Despite having the biggest caucus in political history, there is every sign that a big defeat is coming for Labour. Labour’s support from 2020 could even halve in this election – which would be something for the record books. It would also be a bloodbath for the Labour caucus, with senior MPs on the party list out of Parliament.

You can even bet on this. Although in New Zealand gambling on politics is illegal, the Australian TAB is offering bets on our election outcome, and the odds they are offering are quite instructive about what might happen.

At the last election, the bookies gave National very long odds – paying about $5 for every $1 bet on National winning, whereas they were only offering Labour bets $1.16. This time around, bets on National winning the election and forming a government are paying out $1.25 for a $1 bet, while the TAB is offering $3.75 for a Labour win.

It’s hard to disagree with those odds. Although the Australian TAB is promising a big payout to anyone successfully backing a Labour win, it’s unlikely that you’d find many in Labour willing to take that gambling bet.


  1. This is what needs to happen urgently. Legalise all drugs and ban fucking political forecasts. For Christs sake, does no one else realise the dangers of the powers of suggestion. Am I the only who’s read Professor Stanley Milgram? STOP FUCKING PREDICTING! And re the polls? FUCK THE POLLS! The polls are merely plastic surgery play grounds guffing about the mysticism surrounding election outcomes. Stick to runes or freshly removed goat guts writhing on a magic rock of your choice, you’ll get a more reliable prediction.
    Look. People, generally, are fucking over it. Labour and National and ACT and @ Maori party and the Greens etc are the same fucking thing. THey’re all neo-liberal and if you don’t know what neo-liberalism is then for Christs sake don’t breed because the Natzo’s and ACT are all the morons we’ll ever need. I understand the requirements for something to laugh at but rogers back bottom baby david seymour is going that one step too far and all you dopy old cockies out there fresh back from your mud, gumboots and debt will be banking on National, the same cadre of worthless polished crooks with all the slick styles and rhymes of a snake oil rep who’ve beguiled you into a thinkers oblivion are waiting, bottomless pockets at the ready for the proceeds of your blood sweat and tears.
    We’re at a fork in the road. We can wander off down Liars Lane to the National/ACT lair or we can re humanise ourselves but taking Labour to the vet to get roger and wee davy’s neo-liberal worm removed from up Labour’s arse hole.
    Some of you might think the choices are that simple but when I read RNZ and watch TVNZ we have no choice at all if they’re to be believed and that’s because both those public news media outlets are all bought then re-bought by the capitalist-criminal elite for which we must all acquiesce to just because we’re too fucking dumb to believe otherwise.

    • Ok Battlefield….although I can’t recall you foaming at the mouth about Polls etc when Labour were riding high, now Labour on the downward slope and under 30% we should ban all polls and ‘forecasts’…hmmm ok Battlefield ok!

  2. Dr Bryce’s swingeing, slightly less simpering than David Farrar columns, have long portrayed him as anti Labour first and foremost–which is interesting given that the tories he seems to so desire will not address anything for working class people. To the contrary they have stated plans to make it worse for you unless you happen to be a 1%er or a 9%er enabler and crawler to the ruling classes.

    NActFirst will not lower inflation by intent, they will not lower petrol prices, they will not build thousands of public houses and apartments. They WILL freeze the minimum and living wage, they will union bust, they will attack Māori rights and Te Tiriti with a tyranny of the majority referendum, they will roll back most of the incremental reforms Labour did establish–period products, lunches, PPL improvements, FPAs, free prescriptions etc. etc.

    Another pundit not worth the bytes on TDB.

    • If Labour had any brains they’d make a list of the most important shitty things we are all facing (or that we want to protect) and then develop a quick fire campaign around these shitty things that the Natz n Co will either”not” address or “not” protect. Call it the “not” campaign. Make it fast n slick, bang, bang, bang, emphasize the nottiness of the Natz. Bottom line being, in sport, when you’re getting beat, you have gotta make adjustments. The Labour campaign clearly is not working, they need to make changes, pronto.

      • Whoops…that is shit we are facing (but good things we want to protect that the Natz will look to roll back)

      • They get traction saying bread and butter and then don’t do anything about the electorates number one issue cost of living crisis by taking gst off bread and butter. Just adds to the incompetence narrative.

        They print billions in the pandemic to save businees and instead of mopping up the excess cash by taxing the rich who were saved as was suggested by the reserve bank governor they press their middle class supporters with high interest rates. The mortgage rates are being refixed at plus 3% voters will lash out.

        • ah, a 9%er pops his tory head up above the parapet…

          heh, I am not popular at the Standard either because I have been a critic of NZ Labour since 1984! and on TDB I take on the torys that have slipped their collars from Kiwiblog…

    • Back to The Standard Tiger….they don’t allow any form of any left party criticism, or if they do it’s followed up be ‘but look National will do this’, just like you have…
      If TS were a business it would have gone bankrupt a year ago, about half a doz commenters in an echo chamber, think they have only topped 60-70 comments on a posting in over a month, unless it’s of course mentioning National or ACT, makes you wonder what Micky Savage actually does for his constituents all day when all seems to do is post on TS.
      Go back to the echo chamber and enjoy non free speech.

  3. Pity the NZ electorate is as ill-informed as it is because boy, the economic and geopolitical climates are nosediving, and the Left is better at navigating through rocky waters than the Right has shown to be.

    But the electorate is largely ignorant to international matters, mistakenly believing that what happens within NZ is a result of ‘local’ governance rather than it being the result of international-led policies that both sides of the NZ political system are cajoled into accepting.

    In short, the world is turning to shit and it looks like we are about to get an even shittier neolib party about to take the reins than the one we have already got. Meanwhile, the international architects of our ignorance, the neolibs wins, either way. Talk about a broken political system!

    • Yep most Labour voters from 2020 have learnt their lesson the hard way for voting Labour in 2020. Many and especially those with some economic nouse are surprised and shocked at how quickly things have gone down hill under Labour since 2020. (Bad policy has consequences) Pub talk was fairly decided months back among the tradies and small business owners. We will not vote Labour in 2023!

    • Don’t worry Trevor. if NACT wins there will another equally incompetent administration to compare them with.
      Anyone who thinks that lot will improve the lives of anybody, not just the poor, is dreaming.
      They are not committed to anyone but their big donors. Maybe 1,000 people tops. Half of them don’t even live here.

  4. Labour is toast. I don’t think that any cogent defence can be made of it. In my longish life, I cannot recall a more incompetent administration. And its sneakiness over he Puapua, along with the concomitant destruction of democracy, is simply astonishing.

    Vote it out at the election!

    • ” In my longish life, I cannot recall a more incompetent administration ”

      I remember the run up to 1990 and the then PM Geoff Palmer who had take over from Lange who was then replaced two months before the vote on October 27th by Mike Moore in his words knew they were finished but felt that he should do everything he could to minimise the losses.

      This government has the same rotting carcass smell and the visceral hatred of its exploited supporters in just wanting to lance the boil and get rid of them. I was one of them and ended up voting for Jim Andertons NLP pre Alliance who stood to express his disgust at Douglas , Prebble , Caygill , De Cleene , Bassett and many more who were seduced by pure greed and by then become totally brainwashed by unregulated capitalisim that in the end the NZLP had been a convenient camouflaged vehicle to deliver changes masked as reforms we had to have in order to save the economy from the Muldoon privileged to the free market capitalist elite whose first act was to reap millions from mum and dad kiwi taxpayers when the devaluation threatened and Douglas quoted by Lange tipped off his financial mates that he would devalue the currency and then went on to make hundreds of millions extorted from kiwi tax payers when they bet against the currency which created the financial ” hiroshima ” or possible IMF intervention as the country was bankrupted. And they needed a huge crisis to invoke fear throughout the country that the reforms were the only way out to save the country.

      The BNZ bailout due to unregulated capitalism mismanagement and to put the bank up for sale was used in 1990 to once again to invoke fear and a sense of crises to convince the country we needed to implement severe austerity measures that exist up to today.

      The opening of the books soon will be used by NACT as the catalyst for the next wave of austerity measures the new government will have to take to ensure the wealth and its supporters and donors are protected by harsh measures taken against the under $100,000 salary club which includes the working poor , the destitute including old age pensioners , poor families children , minimum wage students and adults , renters non property owning scumbags , the homeless , victims of disease and mental severe mental health conditions , and the many who will be unable to pay their mortgages to the parasitic banks or buy food from the greedy corporate supermarket duopoly and power companies.

      It might be over for LINO as a government but its just the beginning of even more suffering at the hands of the Nasties and their donors.

      There is in the land of the long white cloud no escape from destitution unless you are financially independent and privileged.

      The ones that can escape are heading to Australia as we speak.

  5. They are not toast..yet.Brash looked sure to win when he stood.
    Chris Hopekins needs to get some ‘mean’ and get stuck into a Nact opposition very light on any talent.
    They have all the questions and none of the ..answers.
    A couple of resonate policy statements would help too.
    Who is running Lab strategy these days…whoever it is would give McCarten a run as to having N.F.I.

  6. Yep they are done, lost the room, you have to start with ethos (trust and credibility) They have lost that, both as a party and as individuals, nothing they say matters now. They are just a barking dog that no no one is taking any notice of

  7. No question they’re done.
    You can’t spend 6 years making grandiose claims or promises and delivering FA.
    Let’s face it, take the spin doctors bluster out and all they can hand on heart say they achieved is lower the prison population.
    Queue the slow clap.

    Rent and house price increases are directly attributable to Labour policy in the last few years. This sentence alone will mean the mods almost certainly won’t post this. For some reason you can swear and abuse on here. But try to suggest Labours in part responsible for rental crisis. No post.

    Too many have been hurt by policies, see the divisive politics at play.

    We’ve had a guts full. Good riddance.

  8. “We’ve seen in other elections what happens when parties start tanking, and a death spiral occurs. In 2002 the Bill English-led National Party dropped below 21 per cent in the final vote. And last election Judith Collins crashed National to only 25 per cent.”

    Which brings us back to my question, since forever when this all began, as it should be of all serious political scientists: how is poll punditry legal?
    There should be only one poll day. Everything prior should be talk about values and principle and policy. Not figurative self-fulfilling numbers.

  9. Who cares any more
    Vote labour or vote National all the same neo liberal self interest.
    We will be talking and doing the same shit next election.
    Over and over and over with short term memories and a tribal delusion that will do no favours for our future generations.

  10. innit innit. Luxon might ride a dead cat bounce in the global economy but it’s all a slow slide from here. OPEC is not going to come and save us with cheap energy any more. Get used to it.

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