Labour leader Andrew Little's speech was not the most entertaining at the party's all-singing, all-dancing launch of its campaign to win the Maori seats but it marked a landmark moment in the campaign - the moment of panic.

The prize for entertainment to Maori campaign chair Willie Jackson, who gave the kind of speech it is usually the leaders' prerogative to give - and for which he was gently chided by Little later.

But Little's speech did signify the first signs of panic over Labour's polling and a change in the party's approach toward its two potential support partners, the Greens and NZ First.

When he spoke, Little would have known what the results of the One News Colmar Brunton poll showed - that Labour was at its lowest ebb since the 1990s and the Greens up.


He was already contemplating his admission that he had discussed stepping down with his senior colleagues - likely including Phil Twyford, Grant Robertson, Jacinda Ardern and Megan Woods.

The Memorandum of Understanding between Labour and the Greens ruled out open warfare, but it obviously wasn't clear enough on the rules around cannibalism, and the Greens were bleeding Labour dry.

That explained Little's oblique criticism of the Greens co-leader Metiria Turei for letting the saga of her welfare fraud confession drag on in his speech on the marae. He has remained largely silent on the matter until now.

While Turei's confession has not harmed the Greens - and may even help them - Labour's concern is some of its own voters who do not approve of people ripping off the system will abandon ship rather than vote for a Labour-Green government.

The second jab was aimed at NZ First. Little has always counted NZ First as one of the likely support partners in a future Labour Government.

The concern is that on the weight of that, Labour supporters are decamping to NZ First in the belief Peters will opt for Labour.

Little's aim is to cut off himself as a supply chain for Peters.

So he is now spelling it out that a vote for NZ First could well be a vote for a National Government.


The clear concern is that Labour's own supporters are trying to vote strategically to ensure their preferred coalition partner is the stronger one in any arrangement.

As a result, the goose responsible for laying the golden egg was being starved- Labour..

There is little else Little can do than try to stem the flow. But it also indicates a hint of panic is settling in.

Labour had previously dismissed polls with them in the 20s as 'bogus.' That it is now acting on them rather than dismissing them speaks volumes.

Both Willie Jackson and Little himself raised the polls, admitting it was a "bit rough" but trying to bolster morale by claiming a lot could change in the next eight weeks.

The problem is that those Labour supporters have been here before. It was just three years ago. This time round, Labour can't even blame the seemingly insurmountable popularity of John Key.


Has Groundhog Day dawned again?