John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Poll indicates National has survived political mauling

Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Dirty politics? Did anyone mention dirty politics?

Apparently not, judging from the findings of this week's Herald-DigiPoll survey.

The poll was conducted during what must rate as the biggest political crisis yet to confront John Key, made worse by it happening smack bang in the middle of an election campaign.

Few would have escaped the saturation coverage of the allegations in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics, which shut everything else out of the political picture for more than two weeks.

Yet, today's poll results are such that the book might never have existed.

Backing for National is hovering around 50 per cent - the level the party has registered in four out of the five previous Herald polls dating back to last March.

Moreover, National does not seem to be shedding votes to Colin Craig's Conservatives.

That party is inching towards the 5 per cent threshold such that it is close enough to persuade potential supporters that their votes will not be wasted and will instead get the party over the line and into Parliament .

That will be a considerable relief to National. As much a relief as dodging a voter backlash on the Hager book.

This campaign keeps throwing up surprises, however.

It is too soon for National to dare to dream of running a government with the Conservatives in tow and Winston Peters locked out.

What National desperately wants to avoid - and what the Hager book threatened to achieve - is a repeat of the 2002 election, which saw Labour likewise polling above 50 per cent going into that year's campaign amidst talk it might end up being able to govern alone.

It was not to be. Struck first by the "paintergate" episode and the "corngate" row argument over genetically engineered seed, Labour shed close to 10 points during that campaign.

There are just over two weeks until election day. At the same stage of the 2002 campaign, Labour was polling at around 43 per cent. It dropped another two points in the following two weeks before registering just over 41 per cent at the ballot box.

Those figures make for ugly reading for National's campaign team.

They will have their fingers crossed that the Herald poll truly indicates National has survived a political mauling with negligible damage.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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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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