I’ve been having a look at the Roy Morgan trend. Oddly, I don’t see this Labour ‘flat patch’ that people are claiming is happening. What is happening is that the Greens are trending slightly down (as it usually does mid-term) and Labour isn’t rising fast enough to offset that. We’re still some way off the safe-zone for Labour+Greens, and the question is whether we’ll get there.
Labour averaged 33.1% in the past three months of Roy Morgans, that’s its highest quarterly average under Shearer. Labour has risen an average of 0.6 per quarter under Shearer, and kept up with that average last quarter. The graph below is 3-month rolling averages.
The combined Labour+Green figure is improving more slowly because of the Greens’ average 0.3% per quarter decline, giving Lab+Green a combined average 0.3% improvement per quarter and stalled last quarter.
In the graph below, I’ve got the rolling average of National vs Labour+Greens and shown the level Labour+Greens needs to beat to govern without other parties, and the level below which National won’t be able to cobble together a coalition. In between, New Zealand First is kingmaker (the conventional wisdom is that makes it odds on National – I wouldn’t put weight too much on the conventional wisdom when it comes to Winston).
But, yeah, trends.
When was the last quarter that Labour averaged as high as it is now? December 2010. It had peaked at 33.6% the previous quarter. Less then a year later, Labour had plunged to its worst result in generations. You can’t bet on these trends, you have to make them happen.
Of course, the situation is a lot better now than then, because the Greens are averaging 12% now vs 8% back then and Nationa’s averaging 43%, not 51%. Then, the fear was that National might govern alone. Now, it’s that National might be able to govern with New Zealand First.
The situation is OK, not fantastic, but victory is in near reach for the Left. The fear is that Shearer will fluff election year like Goff did, and for much the same reasons, and that not enough of the lost votes will go to the Greens. I’m not worried about any current ‘flat patch’ as much as I am about Shearer coping when the acid goes on.
His inability to dismiss a couple of bad polls cleanly, the way that a seasoned politician like Key would, highlights the problem with the relatively raw Shearer.
The votes that have come Labour’s way seem to be more dissatisfaction with National than buying the Labour brand – and that’s because the Labour has yet to firmly brand itself and National, and Shearer and Key. The language and the lines of attack seem to shift each week. That’s self-defeating, and it suggests the same underlying problem that Labour had under Goff – it doesn’t know what it wants to stand for, so it doesn’t really end up standing for anything.
The nascent stuff is there, the party that will roll up its sleeves and get NZ working (jobs, fairness etc) vs the government that’s too busy cutting secret deals to look after ordinary people (SkyCity, job cuts etc) but its never articulated simply and over and over again.
Shearer’s challenge is to pull off that messaging while dealing competently with the predictable and unpredictable events that will arise, and convince New Zealanders that he has what it takes to be PM. The question for Labour is whether it believes he can do the job.