COMMENT:

The 1 News Colmar Brunton poll last night delivered National Party leader Simon Bridges his only sigh of relief in a week.

It showed National had slipped two points - down from 45 to 43 per cent. It could have been so much worse, because it was taken over National's most disastrous week in a long, long time.

The polling began on the day Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross was blamed for the leak of Bridges' travel expenses and retaliated by flinging accusations at Bridges and releasing secretly taped conversations with him.

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The week ended with Ross expelled from caucus, having been accused of inappropriate behaviour towards women, and admitted to a mental health facility. The Herald understands he was discharged last night and is away from Auckland.

Bridges' already abysmal rating as preferred Prime Minister slipped further, from 10 to 7 per cent, while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern went up, to 42 per cent.

Bridges' three percentage points went straight to Judith Collins, who was right behind him on 5 per cent.

The relatively small dent to National could be because National Party supporters accepted that what happened with Ross was an isolated incident.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It is also a case in which National's biggest problem - its lack of natural support parties - is also now its saviour. Supporters simply have nobody else to vote for.

In the past, parties such as NZ First, Act and United Future benefited from National voters seeking a temporary shelter to show their dislike for National. Now no self-respecting National voter would vote for NZ First, for it would effectively be a vote for Labour to get a second term.

In that regard, NZ First leader Winston Peters crowed with delight over National's agonies throughout the week but NZ First's polling stayed where it was, on 5 per cent.

The party that benefited most was the party that stayed quiet - Labour, which overtook National to hit 45 per cent while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern went up to 42 per cent as preferred Prime Minister. What will worry National is if that is the start of the soft centre voters shifting.

National leader Simon Bridges with MPs Judith Collins and deputy leader Paula Bennett. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National leader Simon Bridges with MPs Judith Collins and deputy leader Paula Bennett. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Now comes the job of rectifying the damage to Brand National - and to Bridges.

Despite losing the high ground to Labour, there are glimmers of hope in the poll.

Pessimism about the economy soared again, up six points to 41 per cent. That gives National something to fight with.

So after the horrors of the week in which the polling was taking place, National's game plan yesterday was to project a "back to business" aura.

Rather than lock off their corridors, it held the usual pre-caucus media run meaning all MPs had to walk past the media in their corridor.

Bridges addressed the issues of last week by announcing a review of the party's policies and processes for dealing with workplace issues, saying while he did not believe the allegations levelled against Jami-Lee Ross showed a culture problem in the wider party, he wanted to be sure it was a safe place for women.

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross holds a press conference outside the Wellington Central Police Station. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross holds a press conference outside the Wellington Central Police Station. Photo / Mark Mitchell

He admitted to just enough mistakes to show National accepted it had made some and had learned from the past week.

In Question Time, Bridges was back on the staple diet of hammering away about petrol prices and Collins was back to harrying her favourite target, Phil Twyford, on housing.

In the short term, there will be no move against Bridges. The MPs - including Collins - have all backed him to the hilt.

They also recognise that the only thing that could make their plight worse would be a second patch of disloyalty and leadership ructions.

It is safe to say that over the week in question, voters were changing their mind on an almost daily basis about Bridges' merits or otherwise. He will be given a chance.

As yet, Collins herself has some way to go to show she would be more palatable to voters than Bridges. Five per cent is hardly a massive endorsement. She will also have to win over caucus, many of whom distrust her although that sentiment is changing.

This week she has been the picture of loyalty. But if Bridges does not rally and Collins continues to creep up in the polls, Collins will not even have to lift a finger.

They will come to her.