Labour’s reaction to a third poll in the past two weeks showing it has dropped will be that it could have been worse.
That is because National’s reaction to the same poll will be that it should have been better.
Monday night’s 1News-Varien (formerly Kantar Public) poll did not deliver much joy to either of the two major parties – both had dropped by two points since the company’s last poll in May. Labour was down to 33 and National to 35.
It is the third recent poll to show Labour dropping - and the second poll to show National’s support has also slipped, despite hurling new policies out left, right and centre (although mainly right and centre).
However, in National’s case the latest poll had a silver lining: It was the second poll in a row to show leader Christopher Luxon’s ratings as preferred Prime Minister inching up.
It’s still a thin silver lining. But the Varien poll was a similar result to last week’s Taxpayers’ Union Curia poll, which also had both parties slipping down – but Luxon inching up to within a few points of Labour leader Chris Hipkins.
The second poll confirming a bump for Luxon will be reassuring for National – it shows Luxon is starting to win over more of National’s own support base at last after his string of public meetings and taking every media opportunity going.
All up the poll is better news for National – which remains in the strongest position to be able to form a government with Act, which has bumped up one to 12. But it is tenuous - things are still very close.
The party will be left wondering why it has so far failed to capitalise on Labour’s woes – and why its slew of policy announcements have not got the traction hoped for. Its apparent attempt to win votes back from Act has got it nowhere and the centre ground remains elusive for both.
Hipkins’ early advantage and ability to rely on his likeability and trust to get undecided voters to opt for him over Luxon has eroded.
However, the Prime Minister won’t be willing to give up that easily. He will be hoping he can win back some of the early honeymoon vibe. His overseas trips are done, and he will be hoping he has seen the back of the personnel issues which have given him headaches.
He moved very quickly to resolve Justice Minister Kiri Allan’s issues on the day he landed back from China. She keeps her job but has acknowledged she may have upset people in her office and apologised for it. She probably had to swallow some pride for that. Labour is putting management support in to help. It is an appropriate response: Allan is a capable minister and there were no grounds to sack her.
She and Michael Wood will both return to Parliament this week, and there will be a flurry of attention on their return. However, Hipkins is hoping he can now move into election mode.
He will have new moves on law and order announced throughout the week - that started yesterday when he – perhaps inadvertently – used a Luxon phrase, saying he had had “a gutsful” of ram raids and youth crime.
He is clearly hoping people will think his recipe – including addressing social media posts of crime online, tackling adults who use or pay youth to commit crimes, and requiring young offenders to attend rehabilitation programmes or do community service – is enough to hold young people accountable for their crimes.
He is also clearly hoping it will be seen as a more proportionate response to youth crime than National and Act’s harder-line policies such as boot camps.
Claire Trevett is the NZ Herald’s political editor, based at Parliament in Wellington. She started at the NZ Herald in 2003 and joined the Press Gallery team in 2007. She is a life member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.