Key Points:

Open-heart surgery on the Labour caucus, an extreme makeover for Helen Clark, the economy and John Key have been picked as the factors for a Labour-led government to stay in power after 2008.

Former Prime Minister Mike Moore, political scientist Jon Johansson and union official Andrew Little have all pointed to a change of personnel as critical, as Labour struggles with both personalities and policies in its third term.

Dr Johansson, of Victoria University, says beyond the economy and the worn-out face of the Labour Government - and perhaps just as dangerous - is John Key, National Party leader.

Mr Moore thinks the new kid on the block can be dealt with the good old fashioned way: "Give him more rope and demand policies from him. Then cost them and tear them apart - the traditional way of destroying Leaders of the Opposition."

But Dr Johansson said it would be a tougher battle. Labour's attempts to project Mr Key as the third wave of Rogernomics had been very successful.

"The negatives around Clark are a lot stronger than they were during the last two elections, and she is up against a younger opponent who really represents a generational shift from what she offers.

"To stay relevant, there needs to be a bit of a project about making her seem a bit more humble. Are you laughing yet? It's a bit more substantive than an airbrushing."

He said Mr Key's battle was to get the people to trust him, and to push out policies so National became a viable alternative.

"Clark's test is going to be to show there is a reason for us to stick with Labour, that she remains relevant and that her Government's programmes and ideas remain relevant to New Zealand heading into the next three to six years.

"And she's got a lot more difficult job to achieve than what Key has, in my view."

A line-up change was also the first thing raised by Mr Moore.

"I think Helen Clark understands what she needs to do, and it's extremely hard. Governments get tired, people get tired and a pretty savage re-ordering and regeneration is necessary."

EPMU national secretary Mr Little saw encouraging business investment and raising productivity as essential.

While Labour had delivered income increases and savings incentives for its traditional workers' support base and should reap rewards from that, another problem was "tiredness and electoral fatigue".

"The talent pool available at the next election will be critical. Labour will need to go in looking fresh and still competent and confident, and there's every reason they should be able to do that."

Then, of course, there are policy issues. Mr Moore had no handy tips because "I come from a different world".

"But it's the economy, stupid, and those things can't be turned around quickly."

Top priority was less growth and expenditure in the public sector and more productivity in the private sector.

"Get some people who are prepared to look at problems afresh and are not defending their previous decisions."

Dr Johansson said Labour's basic support base was holding, and it was tracking much the same as the Holyoake Government, which went on to a fourth term.

But Helen Clark wears an albatross that Sir Keith Holyoake was spared.

"There are really unwieldy coalition arrangements. That means, while their majority is safe, they can't actually do much. And that is palpably evident, and that fuels that sense of drift that many New Zealanders are starting to feel."

Mr Moore also refuses to write off Labour. "The political skills down there are stunning. And under MMP, two bronzes and a silver trump a gold."