David Cunliffe had said his new front bench would be based on merit rather than composed along factional lines. On Monday, he mostly delivered and, in the light of Wednesday's Herald-DigiPoll survey results, Cunliffe's line-up could be the next cabinet.

In the poll, Cunliffe climbed to 17 per cent as preferred prime minister, and John Key dropped nearly 10 points to 56 per cent, his lowest result for years.

Labour jumped 6.8 per cent, putting the Labour-Green combo ahead.

Here's my assessment of the new team:


1. David Cunliffe: The party made the correct choice. He hasn't put a foot wrong since he won the top job. The man's confidence is infecting the whole party. 9/10.

2. David Parker: The architect and the glue of the next government. He's liked and trusted by all. The new Michael Cullen. 8/10.

3. Grant Robertson: His talent and stature will become more public in time. He has the support of a majority of caucus and could have stayed deputy if he'd wished. A critical player in the inner sanctum. 8/10

4. Annette King: She would have made a great leader and deserves to be in the top five. Labour can't afford to have her retire. 8/10.

5. Shane Jones: The new Mike Moore, a man with charisma and brains. He is not fully redeemed, but has earned his place. 7/10 for now.

6. Jacinda Ardern: Demoted. Finds combat icky. Dropping Social Development for Children, Arts and Culture is her mistake. 5/10.

7. Clayton Cosgrove: A born scrapper. He's the new Trevor Mallard. Smart to leave him on the front bench. 7/10.

8. Chris Hipkins: A vicious enemy of Cunliffe, he now turns his mongrel on National. A clear example of merit winning over personal differences. 8/10.

9. Nanaia Mahuta: Cunliffe owes her big-time, and that's the reason she's on the front bench. Her portfolios are very light for good reason. 4/10.

10. Sue Moroney: Another Cunliffe loyalist rewarded. If she can put Paula Bennett under pressure, she will have earned her place. 5/10 for now.

11. Phil Twyford: Moving a top performer off the front bench to make way for women is understandable. But giving his transport portfolio to last-ranked Darien Fenton is a mystery.

12. Maryan Street: Getting her to withdraw her euthanasia bill when David Shearer as leader couldn't, shows that a confident Cunliffe is calling the shots.

Shearer is ranked a modest 13. But backing Jones for leader loses him future patronage from both Cunliffe and Robertson and effectively ends his career, alongside Phil Goff and Trevor Mallard.

Andrew Little at 17 adds labour to his justice portfolio and marks him out as a winner for the future.

My overall ranking for Cunliffe's new fighting team is 8/10.

If he hadn't had to placate political sensibilities I'd have given him a 10. Nevertheless, it's a winning team.