Labour MPs at home of unions as polls show male support under 20.

The Runanga Miners' Hall (Est 1908) is in a desperate state, as Labour leader David Cunliffe saw for himself at the weekend when he visited the West Coast, considered the spiritual home of the party.

It is a Category 1 building with a fine history to organised labour in New Zealand. Already in disrepair, the Easter rain storm left the floors sodden and dangerously soft. Parts of the plaster ceiling are coming away.

A few of us tweeted the picture of it on Saturday after Mr Cunliffe and MPs Damien O'Connor and Andrew Little obliged reporters' requests for muscular union-style poses.

"That hall looks as healthy as the Labour Party," someone remarked.


He was not talking about the state of Labour's party machine, which is still strong and organised on the ground with thousands of dedicated activists who remain optimistic the party will be in contention to lead the government in two weeks.

David Cunliffe faces Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB this morning. You can hear the live stream here from 7am.

They are promoting a more cohesive policy programme than before, the campaign is better organised and there has been relatively good discipline and unity of purpose.

But Labour's polling is in a parlous state - at 23.8 per cent two weeks before the election.

It is the lowest it has ever been in the Herald's records of DigiPoll, going back to October 1999. But it was lower in several other polls in 1995 under Helen Clark when Labour was fighting three fronts: National, New Zealand First and the Alliance.

The only time either of the two main parties has been lower under MMP was in July 2002. Two weeks before the election National polled 23.1 per cent (and 20.93 per cent on the day).

Not surprisingly, many Labour supporters are not willing to openly discuss the poor polling - preferring to suggest polls are wrong or the media biased , or both.

Mr Cunliffe's confidence and campaigning skills have improved in the past few weeks. Aside from Mr Key's ambush of him over capital gains tax in the Press debate, he has been able to foot it against the PM in a way that David Shearer almost certainly wouldn't have been able to.


MPs Andrew Little, David Cunliffe and Damien O'Connor with hall custodian Les Holmes, list candidate Hugh Tyler and local James von Hooker at the Runanga hall. Photo / Audrey Young

There are two televised leaders debates left, on TV3 this Wednesday, and on TVNZ next week, his best opportunities to stop the decline. Mr Cunliffe is personally on the rise but the party is not.

It is becoming clear that the timing of Nicky Hager's book has not helped the Left one jot, and has probably helped Winston Peters the most.

It prevented David Cunliffe - only one year into the job - getting the profile he needs to lift the party.

Three polls on Friday had National at over 50 per cent and Labour on 23.8, 24.3 per cent and 26 per cent, and all falling. Friday's DigiPoll gender breakdown showed that only 18.4 per cent of men supported Labour, an incredible low for the party founded by and for organised labour.

But one poll earlier in the week, TV3, showed that Labour could still have led a Government, albeit a five-party coalition. Small movements in MMP can have big consequences. That may be the only hope Labour can cling to.

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