It's defibrillator time at the Labour Party again. Andrew Little has given up on his attempt to kick the old warhorse back to life and left it to his deputy, Jacinda Ardern, to see if she can do better.

And so the musical chairs that has been going on at the top of the Labour Party since Helen Clark resigned after her 2008 general election defeat, goes on. At the 2011 election her successor Phil Goff resigned after the party scored just 27 per cent of the vote, 7 per cent less than Clark's 2008, 34 per cent. His successor, David Shearer, lasted less than two years before being rolled by David Cunliffe. A year later, in September 2014, Cunliffe continued the downward trend, gaining just 25 per cent of the popular vote.

Former union boss Andrew Little replaced him but now, less than two months out from the general election and Labour polling around the 23-24 per cent mark, he's not waiting until election day to throw in the towel. Indeed by announcing in weekend media interviews that he'd offered to step down to his senior colleagues following the most recent round of dispiriting poll results, he'd as good as pinned a huge loser target to his back before the election campaign even kicked off.

Party president during the halcyon Clark era, Mike Williams says Little agreed there was need for a circuit-breaker. Yet the steady decline in popular support since September 2005, when Labour won 41 per cent of the vote, suggests that the malaise is rather deeper than a simple change of face will arrest. Still, their National rivals are living proof that miracles do happen in politics.


In 2002, current Prime Minister Bill English led National to a humiliating defeat against Clark, polling just 20.93 per cent to Labour's 41 per cent. Yet three years later under Don Brash, they bounced back to almost double their support.

What Labour has failed to come to terms with in the post-Clark era, is a resurgent Green Party, which has hidden away its hippy beads - like Labour did with the Red Flag years before - and emerged as a credible rival on the left for the social issues which Labour once saw as its territory alone.

What's more, the Greens are better at selling their message. Yesterday morning while Labour's leadership woes were hogging the headlines, National Radio's Morning Report took us to the real world of poverty, reporting on a well attended public meeting in Manurewa on homelessness in the area organised by local Green MP, Marama Davidson.

Surveys are showing that issues like poverty and the gap between rich and poor are of growing concern amongst voters. This is core Labour Party territory, yet the Greens have captured it. Indeed Green co-leader Metiria Turei's recent admission that as a student, she cheated the benefit system to ensure food on the table for her baby, helped trigger Little's demise.

Despite the pundits predicting Turei's downfall as a result of her confession, Greens support in the TVNZ-Colmar Brunton poll last Sunday, rocketed up 4 per cent to 15 per cent, its highest level in that poll ever. Labour slumped 3 per cent to 24 per cent. Turei's admission was a calculated risk, but like fire-in-the-belly Labour politicians of past times, she took it, and thanks to the media focus that followed, was able to lock in, and get her wider message of the present government's failure to address poverty adequately, out to the public, along with the Greens' policy to deal with it.

In resigning, Little admitted his failure to do the same for Labour policy, handing the leadership over to "a fresh face," who he hopes will do better. After four previous failed attempts along these lines in quick succession, could it be time for something more radical. Like a formal marriage perhaps.

The Labour and Green leadership are already involved in some sort of de facto relationship, and at past elections, a sizeable number of supporters have treated their votes as interchangeable. A formal union might help remind them what they went into politics to solve.