Two years ago Labour's Grant Robertson declared that he couldn't stand by and see the party polling at 24 percent and not have a crack at the leadership.

Today his feet must be itching.

The latest Roy Morgan opinion poll's put Labour's popularity at just 23 percent, enough to give its leader of two years Andrew Little a nervous tic, looking over his shoulder at Robertson, the man who lost the laborious leadership battle to him by just one percent, thanks in large part to the trade unions' support for the eventual winner.

So what's wrong with Labour, why is it still languishing in the eyes of the great unwashed?


There are many reasons.

One is the serious, unsmiling Little who's up against the populist John Key whose mouth may be full of his feet, and who doesn't have an ideological bone in his body but is a politican who can say black is white when we all know it's black, but he gets away with it.

He's self deprecating, like no other leader before him, but to the voter, he's just one of them - he's willing to take the piss and he generally gets away with it.

By contrast Little comes across as so earnest that he's more like a trauma therapist and he's clearly got an uphill battle to convince the punters that deep down there's a sense of humour somewhere - and there is, but it's shown about as frequently a solar eclipse.

It's often been said that being leader of the opposition is the worst job in politics. Helen Clark once confided that the job doesn't lend itself to showing the pearly whites very much and Little has certainly lived up to that.

2014: Prime Minister John Key comes out of his Parnell home to receive his traditional election night pizza. Photo / Chris Loufte
2014: Prime Minister John Key comes out of his Parnell home to receive his traditional election night pizza. Photo / Chris Loufte

But this Labour Party is very firmly Little's and he, more than anyone else, is responsible for where it's sitting at the moment.

Dissent isn't tolerated, think of how the Trans Pacific Partnership supporters were muzzled, even though it was Labour's idea in the first place.

Think of how the party was brought into line over the flag debate, even though a change of the ensign has been Labour policy for decades. And think of his intemperate outburst after his recent ill advised entry into local body politics, labelling Labour loyalist and Wellington mayoral hopeful Nick Leggett a right winger, when in reality ridiculous Labour rules ostracised him after the party instead backed the winner Justin Lester.

Now Leggett's about to run for National, garnering publicity by praising Key, and Little has no one else but himself to blame.

Little has recently put in place a new communications team and for his sake they've got a year to do the job - teaching him to communicate!

Barry Soper is the Political Editor for Newstalk ZB