Two weeks ago, I wrote that if the leaked UMR poll was reflected by the published TVNZ and TV3 polls, panic in the National Party would be a possible outcome.
With both polls putting National support at around 30 per cent, panic did indeed grip the National Party caucus and the hapless Simon Bridges was toppled by the largely unknown Todd Muller.
Muller's elevation might have seemed like a bolt from the blue, but his travel expenses in the period before the caucus vote suggests that he had been canvassing MPs in preparation for the vote.
Bridges could have waited a few more days until the next scheduled party caucus meeting to perhaps solidify his support but in one last error of judgment he called an emergency meeting to advance the vote he was to lose.
Todd Muller made a hesitant and unconvincing start to his leadership and was tripped up largely by symbols. It was not a good idea to have a Donald Trump "MAGA" hat on display in his office and a front bench made up of exclusively white faces was always going to be noticed in an increasingly diverse country.
The mis-identification of National Party finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith as Maori allowed Shane Jones the opportunity to make a hilarious parliamentary speech in which he welcomed a new tribe to Maoridom - Ngati Epsom.
Though I would not entirely agree with Willie Jackson's characterisation of Muller's first week as leader of the National Party as a "train wreck", the man does seem to be out of his depth.
The findings that would have had the greatest impact on National MPs was the TVNZ Colmar Brunton which had the National Party vote at just 29 per cent, meaning a loss of at least 18 seats, one of which would have almost certainly been the local Tukituki electorate.
The TVNZ poll has generally favoured National when compared with other polls, so an election outcome may have been even worse than the 29 per cent would indicate.
If the National MPs had held their collective nerve and taken a bit more time to think, they would have realised that the outcome predicted by these polls is extremely unlikely.
The Labour vote was clocked at 59 per cent on the TVNZ poll and 56.5 per cent on the TV3 poll and, while this is a just reward for Jacinda Ardern's sure-footed handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is unlikely to fully translate into votes in September's general election.
We should remind ourselves that neither John Key nor Helen Clark at the height of their powers and popularity got to 50 per cent of the vote and only twice in New Zealand's long democratic history has a party got across the 50 per cent line. Once was in 1938 when the first Labour Government was re-elected and the second was the snap election of 1951 which was occasioned by the long and bitter waterfront strike.
Both TV polls made bad news for the New Zealand First Party on 2.7 per cent at the TVNZ poll and 3 per cent on the TV3 poll, though the leaked UMR poll had the party comfortably back in Parliament on 6 per cent.
The two television polls have a history of underestimating support for New Zealand First and it is possible the differing data capture method goes some way to explaining why this is so.
UMR conducts its research entirely by landline and always has. With more and more people doing without landlines, Colmar Brunton (TVNZ) now does a proportion of its polling via random dialling of cellphone numbers and Reid Research (TV3) captures around a third of its data by online methods.
New Zealand First's support over many years has skewed towards older voters and Winston Peters with initiatives like the Super Gold Card has maintained this appeal.
As older New Zealanders are statistically less likely to answer cellphones or participate in online questionnaires it is possible that TV3 and TVNZ are not finding the NZ First supporters that are identified by UMR.
All this sets up a fascinating contest in the Northland electorate where New Zealand First minister Shane Jones will be trying to win the electorate that would validate a New Zealand First Party Vote of less than 5 per cent.
Although NZ First's Winston Peters won the seat in a by-election in 2015, National took it back with a margin of 1389 votes in the 2017 general election.
Either of the major parties, National or Labour, could curry favour with New Zealand First by tipping its supporters the wink that a candidate vote for Shane Jones would be in the best interest of their party.
Labour is particularly well placed to offer just such a deal. Labour candidate Willow-Jean Prime scored 8599 votes in 2017 and will have a safe list seat come September.
Mike Williams grew up in Hawke's Bay. He is CEO of the NZ Howard League and a former Labour Party president. All opinions are his and not those of Hawke's Bay Today.