Voters appear to be deserting the Labour Party for the Greens as Phil Goff’s election chances look increasingly hopeless.
The Greens have leapt to 11 per cent in today’s Fairfax Media-Research International Poll – and their rise has come at the expense of Labour, which has slumped to 25.7 per cent.
On these results the MP allocation would be National 70 (+12), Labour 32 (-11), Greens 14 (+5), Maori 4 (nc), ACT 1 (-4), United 1 (nc), Mana 1 (nc).
With 86 days until the election, there are echoes of 2002 in the latest poll results.
That year National crashed to a disastrous 20.9 per cent vote on election night, with supporters panicked into voting strategically for the minor parties, particularly NZ First, after deciding Bill English had no hope of victory.
In one sense, Labour is beating National. They are well ahead of National in dropping into the 20s.
Three months before the 2002 election, National was averaging 31% in the polls. They didn’t drop to 25% until the final month.
The Green Party’s improved result in this poll shows the party may be benefiting from a shift in its position towards National. It had previously ruled out working with National in any sort of coalition deal.
The Greens now say that although a deal with National is “highly unlikely”, they will not shut the door completely.
The Greens will have some interesting thinking to do. If they got 14 MPs, they would be a much stronger party. MPs would be able to focus more on just one or two areas than have five portfolios each.
One path open to them would be to try and supplant Labour as the leading left-wing party. However that won’t get them into Government for a long time. It is hard to see how a loft-wing Government would be in contention for even 2014, if today’s poll becomes the 2011 result.
The other path open to the Greens is to use their numbers to get a more substantive deal from National. Now lets again be very very clear – the Greens would never prop up a National-led Government if a left wing Government could be formed as an alternative.
But if National is the only game in town, what do the Greens ask for? There are two broad alternatives.
The first is what they had in 2008 – 2011. A co-operation agreement where they work with Ministers in a few defined areas.
The second is actual taking of Ministerial portfolios, in exchange for an abstention on confidence and supply. Maybe one could even innovate, and only have the Green Ministers required to abstain on confidence and supply.
The scale of the challenge for Labour to win is best illustrated by iPredict. The market has the odds of Phil Goff becoming Prime Minister at 5.4%, while the chances of Labour winning Helensville is at 6.5%.
This means that people think it is more likely young Jeremy Greenbrook-Held will win Helensville off John Key, than Phil Goff will win the Prime Ministership off him. Perhaps Labour would be better if Mr Greenbrook-Held was made Leader!