What the polls indicate is that most New Zealanders appear to want John Key as Prime Minister. However, they would narrowly prefer his current opponents to be running the country, while leaving the ultimate decision on that score to New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Strange, but true.
As things stand, Peters would be able to either install Labour leader David Shearer as the next Prime Minister – or alternatively, he could choose to keep the current government in power. He could virtually name his own price either way.
There would be very few New Zealanders (beyond the former member for Tauranga and his fan club) overjoyed at that prospect, but it is what the polls are currently projecting.
More than anything, the latest Morgan poll is bad news for Labour, and its leader.
All year, David Shearer’s strategists have been claiming that as New Zealanders gradually get to know him, they will come to like what they see.
Instead, what seems to be happening is that voters are going through periodic fits of disenchantment with the government and then looking more closely at the alternative, only to rebound in alarm.
So far, Shearer has simply failed to make the case that he could lead a credible alternative government.
I think Campbell has a point here and it troubles me deeply. My fear is that the having been handed the benefit of the doubt for nearly a year Shearer hasn’t managed to rein in the rogue elements in his party and communicate a coherent vision. If there’s not a big change in how things are being done before election year there’s a real chance any polling gains made won’t withstand the pressure of the election campaign. The last thing we need is for Labour’s vote to collapse in election year the same way Bill English’s did in 2002, or for the campaign to be derailed by faux pas like Brash in 2005.