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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Labour's best hope for Key to hit political banana skin pre-election

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Labour can only sit, wait and watch in the hope that John Key's bubble is pricked well before election day. Photo / Dean Purcell
Labour can only sit, wait and watch in the hope that John Key's bubble is pricked well before election day. Photo / Dean Purcell

Perhaps the most disheartening and debilitating aspects for Labour of today's morale-crushing Herald-DigiPoll survey is that the party's dismal showing though largely its fault is not entirely its fault.

If it was entirely its fault then Labour might be able to do something about it. Not being its fault means it can do little to fix things before election day in late September.

Labour's abysmal rating is in large part the by-product of John Key's astonishingly high popularity. National continues to set an extraordinary modern day precedent in defying the political gravity which almost always brings second-term governments crashing to Earth.

Labour can only sit, wait and watch in the hope that Key's bubble is pricked well before election day.

But there is nothing on the horizon or beyond which would suggest that might happen.

The dire nature of Labour's position is reflected in its support now registering at just two percentage points above the 27 per cent mark the party recorded in the last election, which was its worst result in nearly 90 years.

Falling below the 30 per cent level with respect to the party vote is thus a huge psychological blow.

It is far too easy to blame that feeble showing on David Cunliffe's embarrassing use of a personal trust to hide donations to his campaign for the Labour Party leadership last year.

It is likewise easy to claim that National's 50 per cent-plus score in the poll would not have been so healthy had the fuss over whether Judith Collins had a conflict of interest in her dealings with milk exporter Oravida been more prominent during the earlier stages of DigiPoll's 10-day polling period.

To a large degree, however, that is dancing on the head of a pin. It takes a lot more than those sideshows to shift the party vote.

Even more so when the levels of support for the parties has been largely entrenched since the last election - and before.

The better, more telling indicator of what is driving voter sentiment is whether people think the country is heading in the right direction.

On that score, today's poll shows the gap between those who think things are moving in the right direction and those who do not expanding from around three percentage points to more than 17 points compared to December - presumably because of rising economic confidence.

Those are the figures which should worry Labour.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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