First we had to find the New Zealand equivalent of Donald Trump - although the question was the wrong way round.

It should have been whether the United States realised it had elected the American Winston Peters.

Now we are looking for Kiwi comparisons with Jeremy Corbyn who boosted UK Labour's support by 10 points.

Can Andrew Little do a Jeremy Corbyn here and bridge the chasm with National, which widened by 4.7 points in this week's Newshub Reid Research poll, 26.4 per cent vs 47.4 per cent.


Or will Metiria Turei be a Corbyn, as the Green Party campaign director suggested this week?

Or will Peters and New Zealand First continue their march up the poll charts and into contention in a power-sharing arrangement with Labour?

The poll this week confirmed the sense most commentators have expressed since December, that the veteran anti-establishment politician will do well against two new leaders of the main parties.

His party's increase to 9.4 per cent represents a 24 per cent rise.
But the main focus has been on Labour's result.

"Labour crumbles, falling towards defeat," one headline read.

At the risk of sounding like Winston Peters, that is bunkum and first-past-the-post thinking.

With just under 100 days to go to the election, the contest is wide open.

Translated to seats, National and its current support partners would have 61 seats and a Labour, Greens, New Zealand First government would have 60 seats.


It's a knife-edge and almost every party has the potential to make a major difference and end up on the Government benches.

And the poll was taken before Labour's immigration policy was announced, aiming to cut immigration by up to 30,000 a year.

If anyone can be compared with Jeremy Corbyn it is probably Matt McCarten who is spearheading a campaign to motivate non-voters in Auckland, a group who are assumed to be anti-Government.

Corbyn was credited with activating the downtrodden and disaffected youth vote.

McCarten's campaign, using overseas volunteers, will be wider than that.

While Electoral Commission figures from last election show that almost 220,000 of 18 to 29-year-olds who were enrolled did not vote, almost 300,000 of voters in their 30s and 40s did not vote, and about 160,000 of those in their 50s and 60s.

Small movements can have big consequences under the MMP system.

In 2008, for example, how different the result might have been for Labour's prospects of a fourth term if another 23,000 voters or so had pushed New Zealand First to 5 per cent instead of the 4.07 per cent it got, which wiped them out of Parliament temporarily.

The what-ifs in New Zealand are so different to the UK where Labour's landslide recovery was still not enough.

There is an assumption that fuels the belief that National has the election virtually sewn up.

The suggestion that New Zealand First will naturally go with the biggest party, National, is based on flimsy historic precedent.

Peters once set out his party's coalition position in a speech in the 2005 campaign and for that specific time.

It was a position he eventually failed to follow.

He said he would not go into coalition with Labour which was seeking a third term in Government with Helen Clark or with National, under Don Brash.

His party would sit on the cross-benches and let the biggest party try to form Government first - which was Labour - and that he would not give confidence and supply to either of them, except in the interests of stability, if a group of parties tried to bring down a minority Government.

Illustration / Guy Body
Illustration / Guy Body

He didn't care about the baubles of office.

He didn't want the Greens or Act anywhere near Government.

In the end he ended up becoming Foreign Minister in the Labour Government and delivering his party's confidence and supply votes to Labour, alongside United Future.

There is an argument that he ended up doing the opposite of what he had said because there was a potentially unstable alternative Government.

But the same stability could have been achieved by offering confidence and supply without having to join the executive.

Winston Peters was recently pushed on whether the biggest party should have first go at forming a Government to which he agreed but without any sense of conviction that he must do his utmost to make it happen.

The possibility of being Prime Minister with the other lot might alter one's convictions.

He tried it unsuccessfully in 1996 and this is probably his last but best chance.

What Peters refuses to say is whether he still wants Greens well away from Government.

Another assumption that cannot be sustained is that the Greens would have no choice to support a Labour-New Zealand First Government even if it excluded the Greens from a formal coalition.

Maybe it would. But the even the remote possibility it had the numbers to deal with National should increase the Greens' leverage in any post-election talks.

While most polls since the last election show New Zealand First holding the balance of power, every single poll would have allowed a National-Green coalition government.

It must be stressed that it is not likely, and that changing the Government will remain the Green's priority.

But it is hardly in the Greens interests to rule it out completely.

It is their insurance against a thoroughly bad deal being struck between Labour and New Zealand First.

And it would hardly be in the interests of National or Bill English to rule it out either, as John Key did last election.

Staying above 30 per cent in polling has been important to morale within Labour. But falling below it does not mean the party is out of contention.

It is MMP and New Zealand and we do things differently.

Postscript: In the wake of the Newshub poll, Labour decided to share the results of its own recent polling by UMR. Its results were National 42 (-2); Labour 32 (+2); Greens 13 (no change); NZ First 9 (no change).