A case of jumping the Budget gun only to shoot yourself in the foot? David Cunliffe, Labour's finance spokesman, found himself a laughing stock in Parliament yesterday after a poll asking families whether they were better off or worse off as a result of the Budget appeared on his website.
The poll was an embarrassment for Cunliffe for two reasons. First, the Budget has yet to be delivered. Second - and worse from Labour's point of view - nearly 90 per cent of those responding said they were better off.
Those respondents must have known something about the Budget that the rest of us won't until this afternoon.
More likely, National supporters organised enough votes to skew the findings in their party's favour.
Having ensured the poll was taken down from Cunliffe's website, Labour was insisting the survey was one that appeared on the site after last year's Budget. A computer glitch had resulted in the poll reappearing.
Labour was staying mum in the House, however, and was offering no explanation for the gaffe. National was not so reticent. Finance Minister Bill English relished the chance to have some fun at Cunliffe's expense.
"I was a bit surprised to see this [poll] question because the Budget has not been delivered yet and it might be difficult for those families to be able to tell. However, the results were impressive ... I thank the Opposition's finance spokesperson for running this poll on his own website, which has now been mysteriously removed because of the outstanding results."
National backbencher Louise Upston, who had dutifully fed the required patsy questions for English to answer, then tried to table the poll results. Having waged war on MPs' efforts to table anything and everything, Speaker Lockwood Smith seemed reluctant to allow this.
Upston's case got backing, however, from a very unusual quarter - Trevor Mallard, Labour's shadow leader of the House. "I think having the precedent of having websites that have been taken down tabled in the House is a very good one."
No doubt National MPs were smelling a huge rat. It did not take long for them to discover Mallard's motive. A few minutes later he was seeking to table a Facebook page which had English saying "stop asset sales" and which also had since been taken down.
English objected - one "no" being sufficient under Parliament's rules to block the tabling of material.
However, the afternoon's embarrassment belonged to Cunliffe. Given web-based polls are open to manipulation by rivals, he may ponder whether running them is a good idea.
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