Andrew Little's leadership crisis is not over, even if he survives tomorrow's caucus meeting.

If three polls weren't enough, the Labour leader will come under immense pressure to do the right thing and stand aside if the poll slump continues.

Metiria Turei's benefit fraud admission may have precipitated the reallocation of votes on the centre left. (Labour's soft support went to New Zealand First in disgust at Turei).

But part of Little's crisis was his reaction to that. The shock admission on 1 News that he had considered resigning comes close to an admission of defeat.


That was how television viewers saw it and it is a difficult posture to recover from so close to an election.

He might just as well have been wearing a "loser" hat.

Little now has to face the prospect of having to appear his most campaign-confident when in fact he is in the pits of despair in the vain hope the voters don't see through it.

Labour MPs have publicly rallied behind Little but he should not necessarily be heartened by that.

They have an ulterior motive - to prevent Jacinda Ardern taking the leadership cleanly after the election.

The public reason to stand behind Little now is loyalty to the leader and the hope that the party can recover from the polling slump two months from the election.

The less public one is to reserve their own position in a potential future contest.

If Little decided to give it away today or in the next few weeks deputy Ardern would be the only contender, albeit a reluctant one.


She would be obliged to accept. It might be sooner than she wanted but in the interests of the party she would agree.

She might not staunch the flow of voters draining away from Labour but she would almost certainly do better than Stuart Nash, Phil Twyford or Grant Robertson would do.

The party would then expect Ardern to lead the party uncontested into next term as well.

That is an incentive for some MPs to persuade Little to stay in the role for now either because they want to have a go themselves or they support someone to have a go after the election - Nash, Twyford or Robertson.

Ironically, Little staying could also make it harder for National to form a Government through an overhang - a bigger Parliament.

If the party vote, for example, sunk so low it entitled Labour to only 22 MPs but it won its current 27 electorate seats, the 120-seat Parliament would increase by five Labour MPs and increase the number required for a majority.

That would make it harder for National to form a majority.

Sadly for Little, on the latest polls he wouldn't even make it back to Parliament at all to benefit from his own poor performance.

If Little is putting off the inevitable, he may be better to stand aside now for Ardern.