The huge 27% gap in this morning’s Fairfax poll suggests that the electorate have not just taken the phone off the hook for Labour, but they have pulled it out of the wall, thrown it in a furnace and scattered the ashes out at sea.
One has to go back 18 years to find the last time a Government was 27% behind – late 1990.
And having the PM trail the Opposition Leader by 17% has never occurred before in a NZ poll.
Also noticeable is the first poll to have NZ First at 5%. It may just be a blip or it may suggest the start of a repeat of 2002, where Labour this time loses support to minor parties.
The total number of seats on this poll would be
- National 68
- Labour 35
- Green 7
- NZ First 6
- Maori Party 6
- ACT 1
- United 1
- Progressive 1
This would have Labour losing 15 MPs, going from 50 to 35. So who would be lost? Well first what seats would they be left with. If one assumes the electorate vote would also be 27% apart, then you have them also losing 17 electorate seats (including two to Maori Party) – retaining only Tamaki Makaurau (Mahuta), Mangere (WIlliams), Manukau East (Robertson), Manurewa (Hawkins), Mt Albert (Clark), Rongotai (King), Christchurch East (Dalziel), Te Atatu (Carter), New Lynn (Cunliffe), Christchurch Central (Burns), Mt Roskill (Goff), Dunedin South (Curran), Dunedin North (Hodgson) and Rimutaka (Hipkins).
With new candidates in Rimutaka, Dunedin South and Christchurch Central – even they could be vulnerable. But anyway if they hold 14 electorates, they will have 21 List MPs. Now we don’t know the list for 2008, but if we use the 2005 list that gives us an indicator, removing known retirements.
The 21 List MPs would be Cullen, Horomia, Mallard, Dyson, Ririruni, Burton, Tizard, Laban, Barker, Okeroa, Choudhary, Jones, Gosche, Gallagher, Chadwick, Hughes, Street, Parker, Fairbrother, Hereora and Pillay.
MPs who would miss out (if list ranked in same order) are: Mackey, Moroney, Fenton, Chauvel, Soper, and Wall plus those who were not on the list such as O’Connor, Duyhoven, and Cosgrove. And no new blood except maybe Burns, Curran and Hipkins – and none of those seats would definitely be safe with a 27% margin.
The poll suggests tax cuts are a major issue for many voters, and Labour’s refusal to deliver tax cuts despite surpluses per capita amongst the highest in the world is hurting them. This week will not just be too little, but also far too late. It is a deserved response for being so ideologically oppossed to tax cuts,, and even worse promising them in 2005 and cancelling them in 2007.
It is hard to see how Labour can pull back the gap. Their focus may need to shift on how to minimise the loss and still get some new MPs in. One thing they can do is to make it very clear that even if re-elected, this is Michael Cullen’s last budget. They will not win back support by campaigning for Michael Cullen to deliver a 10th, 11th and 12th budget.