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Is Labour heading for Muriwai-scale landslide win?

Written By: - Date published: 8:15 am, February 22nd, 2023 - 37 comments
Categories: chris hipkins, Christopher Luxon, labour, national, nicola willis, Politics, polls, same old national - Tags:

Here’s my prediction: Labour will not just win the October election, but it will complete a landslide of similar proportions to the 2020 election.

As more polls are published and the recent trend becomes apparent, National will panic again and dump leader Christopher Luxon, installing the “head prefect”, Nicola Willis, in a desperate hope she can do a Jacinda on Labour.

In 2011, MP and former deputy prime minister Jim Anderton, was comfortably leading the mayoral race to overturn incumbent Christchurch mayor Bob Parker when, according to an apocryphal yarn, he jokingly, but prophetically allegedly said “only an earthquake” would stop him winning.

Of course, the aforesaid earthquake occurred, Bob Parker, who was then seen everywhere in his hi-viz vest, won in a landslide.

Labour’s prospects last year looked as gloomy as Bob Parker’s had until the Christchurch earthquake struck. Labour, of course, began its re-invigoration, when former leader Jacinda Ardern launched her own earthquake via her shock resignation. Then came the devastation of the cyclones and the opportunity for strong response.

The rapid, adroit way the leadership change was handled (compare it to what happened with the Tory Party’s shenanigans after Boris Johnson quit) was the first step towards improved support. New leader, Chris Hipkins, has proved an astute choice partly because he had served a tough apprenticeship during the Covid crisis.

But he also showed his skills. He immediately tapped into the mood of the country. As well, he moved decisively in selecting his cabinet and resetting policies. He swiftly introduced the right mix of switching, dumping and instilling new blood in cabinet and then did his policy re-set, dumping unpopular policies like the merger of the state broadcasters and the hate speech legislation while promising to review Three Waters.

Both television station polls shortly after Hipkins assumed the leadership, showed an immediate bounce for Labour that surprised many people. Each showed support at 38 percent, with Labour and the Greens toe-to-toe with a National-ACT coalition.

However, it has been Labour’s response to the cyclones, like multiple Bob Parkers on steroids, that will be the decisive factor in October. In stark contrast to the incompetent, missing-in-inaction, “Mr Fix-it”, Auckland mayor, Wayne Brown, a prime-ministerial-looking Hipkins, and his cohorts have been there, they have acted decisively by declaring states of emergency, and have showed the public they have every reason for confidence. In politics, perception in most cases, is reality.

What has given me most confidence about Labour winning in a landslide is this letter published in the Dominion Post on Tuesday by Julie Hopcroft:

It’s not often over the last five years that I have seen eye to eye with this Government. However, I would like to record my admiration for its impressive response in the wake of what is being felt as a collective national tragedy: the devastation wreaked by Cyclone Gabrielle.
“In particular, Chris Hipkins, Kiripatu Allan, Kieran McAnulty and Michael Wood have stood out. Well done on the hard work already done, the honest acknowledgement of what is to come and the very humaneness of your responses Your response has been excellent and I comment you for it.

Hopcroft hails from Feilding, one of centres of the rural Groundswell anti-government, anti-Three Waters protests, and, while she doesn’t say she is an ACT or National supporter, she certainly isn’t a government fan.

Even the rabidly right-wing commentator Heather du Plessis-Allan acknowledged Hipkins hadn’t put a foot wrong in his first 25 days. So, when the likes of Hopcroft and de Plessis-Allan accept the competent job Hipkins and his team are doing, it gives the lie to Luxon’s cries of incompetence.

Luxon and the opposition have also largely been side-lined by Hipkins and his ministers taking action in a replay of how the government responded to covid.

The former Air NZ CEO has repeatedly been caught flat-footed and tin-eared. Witness him abandoning Auckland to fly to Wellington for parliament’s re-opening only to find Hipkins stayed in Tāmaki Makaurau to be on hand to lend support to Aucklanders.

Visiting Ratana, Luxon managed to offend his Māori hosts while lamely, obliquely appealing to racists by referring to the Treaty of Waitangi as “our little experiment”.

The Tāmaki Makaurau/Northland floods showed the country was already facing its most expensive flood damage in a century even before the fury of Gabrielle struck, but Luxon ploughed on like the Titanic captain, saying the costs wouldn’t change his tax-cut plans.

He said in parliament, in his response to the Prime Minister’s Statement debate, this week that cyclone recovery funding could be “compartmentalised”, again displaying his everything-is-so-simple CEO mentality.

The credibility of his promise not to cut health, education and welfare spending, while not increasing debt and cutting taxes is going to be increasingly exposed. A Dominion-Post cartoon of him on wrack and the torturer Hipkins is shouting: “What are your policies,” had it right.


Dominion Post Political Editor, Luke Malpass, who leans well to the right, declared Hipkins’ first major speech on the reopening of parliament “a strong speech” while he tore into Luxon’s performance as “low energy”, with “nothing new beyond the talking points Luxon used last year”.

Luxon’s job was made in more difficult by his “Fucking Useless” MP Maureen Pugh hogging headlines with a climate denial statement after which she was arm-twisted into the fastest and least sincere u-turn in history.

Hipkins and his Finance Minister, now also Cyclone Recovery Minister, Grant Robertson will have a couple of months together to put together a budget where a good deal of reprioritising will be done as the focus shifts to the basics. Hipkins, in his Prime Minister’s statement, repeated Labour’s mantra of the covid crisis, saying they will they will get cracking to do whatever it takes to recover.

Robertson already has experience through the covid emergency of reprioritising a budget and the public will take huge confidence from this.

If the next One News/Kantar and Newshub/Reid polls, due out shortly, show Labour making further progress, the pressure on the accident-prone Luxon will intensify. In the January Kantar poll, Luxon had a net approval rating of only 9 percent, while Hipkins debuted at plus 36 percent. If the party position deteriorates and Luxon’s approval slides towards negative territory, then Nicola Willis will be sharpening her well-honed knife.

The conclusion of Andrea Vance’s insider account of the National Party, Blue Blood, published last year, was that Luxon’s honeymoon may be short-lived and Willis, who supplanted Judith Collins as Lady MacBeth, had her knife poised.

If Luxon’s momentum falters, an impatient caucus will soon look around for another silver bullet”, Vance wrote and Willis, according to one of Team Luxon’s less-than loyal MP colleagues, “is there thinking about her future. She is deeply tactical.

(Simon Louisson is a former journalist and also worked two short stints for the Green Party).

37 comments on “Is Labour heading for Muriwai-scale landslide win? ”

  1. mickysavage 1

    Good post and I don't think we can underestimate the importance of Wayne Brown's performance in Auckland. There is a very strong impression that in an emergency Luxon would be just as useless.

  2. observer 2

    Interesting take. Too optimistic, I feel, but that's preferable to the pre-Xmas doom and gloom in some quarters!

    Couple of points: the National leadership issue is not just who, but how. 2020 was a mess for National, whereas 2017 was not for Labour because the latter was a leader (Little) stepping down, whereas the former was a leader (Bridges) getting knifed. So the "Jacinda effect" was begun in party unity, not division. Crucial difference.

    I still think Willis will replace Luxon, but for it to work he needs to have Little-levels of self-awareness. No indication that he does.

    Other point: a small but vocal minority on the right are very unhappy with Luxon (too woke, no backbone, etc, etc). Squashing Pugh is only the latest example. A big factor in the election outcome will be what those people do if Luxon is still leader in October. A general "anti" party could get 5% but they are so disorganised (NZF v New Cons v Matt King v Sue Grey v whoever), they could waste crucial votes.

    So anyway, no landslide, more likely a narrow win would be my prediction. But it needs a bold budget, no more tinkering please.

  3. SPC 3

    There is a lot of work to do. It's going to be a long year.

    They will have to Northland, Auckland, Coromandel and East Coast and Bay segment the "project" because it's too much when looked at as a whole. Then teams can work on the scheduling and resourcing.

    It will be a hard earned “win” at best.

    • lprent 3.1

      Most of those teams are going to be in the local councils rather than the central government – which will make things harder.

      One of the biggest issues is going to be the comms. For instance talking to my niece living on the Piha road – the biggest hassle from the floods 3 weeks ago and more recently is just getting an idea about when the roads are likely to be patched or fixed.

      Same with friends living in Bethells. Probably the same in Muriwia. It means that people in those transport affected communities who work or school outside the area are sitting on tender hooks trying to figure out if they should stay and wait it out, or if they should look for somewhere else to live over the next 6 months.

      AT and the Auckland council are really leaving them hanging right now.

      Another friend who got yellow-stickered in West Lynn at least knows that she has to find a place to live for about 6 months. It will take that long to get builder, insurance payouts, and to be able to move back in.

      • SPC 3.1.1

        Sure, I was referring to the government interface with those in these regions.

        1. coms as per getting info about what needs to be done in isolated areas
        2. coms between locals and the community

        There seems to be an immediate need to identify areas that need coms set up/helicopter connection (local distribution might require trees off roads, and maybe getting some off road vehicles into the area).

        Some will be red-stickered the problem for some will be the have no land to build on despite the insurance – an option is government might supply the land (but own it and get a return when the home is sold).

        • lprent

          There is the immediate need of getting past blocked roads in isolated areas for supply. But that appears to be well underway with the NZDF, choppers, and even the communities pushing their own tracks (as is happening a lot over on Auckland's west coast).

          What isn't happening (according to locals wherever I look) is getting any idea about when the roads are likely to patched, fixed, or bypassed with metalled tracks so people can get to jobs and their kids can get to school. Certainty or even strong hints are in short supply.

          By the sound of it, NZTA aren't too bad at giving the good to unpleasant news. It is usually just not what people affected want to hear. But at least they have usually heard time frames in a reasonably timely manner.

          Councils and local transport authorities like AT look like they are pretty bloody awful at giving bad news in a timely manner.

          • SPC

            I suspect some areas are a step behind the Aucklanders (and may lack the numbers to effect local actions without help).

  4. tsmithfield 4

    I agree, it has the potential to be election winning for the government. I am sure no party would want natural or human-caused disasters to be their winning strategy.

    However, one point is that it is a long way out from the election. So, there is time for the grind to set in due to this situation. And the government will have to be as proactive up until then as it has been in its initial response.

    In fact, I heard on ZB that Hooten had written a somewhat mischevious article (paywalled in the Herald I think) arguing that the government should call an early election, possibly in April, to avoid this uncomfortable stretch of time. Never going to happen of course. But it reinforces my point.

    I heard several Labour politicians, and Coster downplaying reports of looting in the affected areas. Whether accurate or not, this sort of messaging could start to derail the governments good performance up until date. And, there is going to be the thorny question of how the recovery will be paid for. And, what will happen to those living in at-risk areas.

    So, I think it would be a mistake to assume it will be a cake-walk to the election.

    • woodart 4.1

      "in fact, I heard on zb" well theres a tui ad.

    • lprent 4.2

      I am sure no party would want natural or human-caused disasters to be their winning strategy.

      In a lot of ways it actually is. National and Act are essentially 'business-as-usual' and 'do not scare the horses' political expressions.

      That is why they're both classed as some variation of conservative looking backwards into the past that was clear of rapid population growth, climate change, and general societal and economic change. They work best when their world doesn't move beneath them. Their usual response when it does is some variation to deny, dither, and blame others. It leads to some really stupid decisions.

      Think of George W Bush and the twin tower responses. Putin with his rapidly liberalising younger population (that he has been rapidly exporting over the last year). Or National with their ChCh earthquake responses.

      Progressive parties like Labour or the Greens tend to focus forward into future issues. It shows in the legislation they actually pass much of which tries to anticipate the future or recognise change that has already happened, even when some of their members are kind of conservative personally.

      More importantly they usually don't dither when the world does shift beneath them.

    • Thinker 4.3

      "I'm sure no party would natural or human-scale disasters to be their winning strategy"

      By which you mean things like the recent cyclone and not Pugh, Luxon or tory parties in general.

      Agree this site needs to be careful to not be seen to spot advantage in others misfortune. It goes without saying but for people who have suddenly been thrown into a dark place its easy to misconstrue terminology, not least the unfortunate term “landslide victory”

  5. Tiger Mountain 5

    Nonsensical and potentially insensitive header, and the piece itself seems punditry rather than a solid case. But hey the writer is authorised to post, and readers are entitled to give their views on it.

    A deadly real world landslide is a rather negative comparison to make with a positive election win with good numbers.

    There will likely be a Labour led Govt. in October, but close election in my opinion, and as expressed in the relatively few polls done.

    • lprent 5.1

      … and the piece itself seems punditry rather than a solid case

      Basically your comment is an excellent example of punditry. This post isn't.

      This is a site for opinions. This is an opinion piece, but not punditry. Point to anything in the post that isn't likely, or anything that isn't backed with the reasons that formed it.

      Punditry is just an opinion without pointing to the reasons underlying the opinion. In other words it is what morons like Mike Hosking do. They wipe their arse with their finger and display the excreta without demonstrating the process.

      Or what your comment does. The nearest you got to reasoning was saying "relatively few polls" without expressing the basis for your opinion in those polls.

      Your comment is simpleton's punditry

  6. Alan 6

    Really, really poor taste

    [lprent: Yes you were. End of day whiner. ]

  7. Ghostwhowalksnz 7

    This was Nationals idea of disaster politicking '

    Prime Minister John Key says the Government is willing to pay for an operation to recover the remains of 29 miners from the Pike River mine if it is credible and safe


    As we all know at the time , he walked away from his public and private promise to the families ( video taped) which was even more emphatic – 'no ifs , no buts … dont let anyone tell you otherwise'

    The promise was made publically , the back off less so

    • Mike the Lefty 7.1

      Plus National had the audacity to criticise Labour for not recovering the remains of the dead miners, after a very long and expensive recovery operation eventually proved too difficult and problematic to complete – but at least they tried.

  8. Stephen 8

    Maybe the right are right. Some of us are terribly woke.

  9. Some have had to deal with the victims and families of this tragedy. It is terrible and ongoing for them and the ACC officers involved. (A family member)

    I held off commenting, after some bilious responses. Just take a breath, back off with the over sensitive personal blasts. Step in other shoes and look at that header again. It lacks sensitivity at the very least.

  10. Ad 10

    What fuck-knuckle put this crass headline up? We haven't had most of the funerals yet.

    Our worst disaster turned into lurid speculation about power.

    Just stop.

    [lprent: Moved this dimwitted comment that violates our policies to the end of the day. That makes it easier for me to deal with comments on it.

    See my response below. ]

    • observer 10.1

      Agree, it's crass. No problem with the opinion piece (politics and speculation goes on across all media) but the title is tin-eared. Please change it.

    • SPC 10.2

      It is a crass headline, it deserves an edit.

    • lprent 10.3

      That would be me. In exactly the same way that I allow some of your more obnoxious (often even to me) headlines and topics up.

      Like it or not, this site is about allowing authors opinions to be published, and for people to comment on them. The same access that you have is given to others.

      If you don’t like that, then I guess your ability to seek freedom of expression is somewhat attenuated to “the expressions that I approve of”.

      BTW: having this at the first comment in the post, which now means that I’m going to do a strict enforcement of the self-martyrdom policy on this post about:-

      Abusing the sysop or post writers on their own site – including telling us how to run our site or what we should write. This is viewed as self-evident stupidity, and should be added as a category to the Darwin Awards.

      Look it that – Ad has just limited the level of freedom of expression. Also cost me some valuable time.

    • Liberty Belle 10.4

      Sometimes humour is irreverent. I mean the whole article is satire surely, so I assume the headline is too?laugh

      • Incognito 10.4.1

        Indeed, for your eyes only, the whole article is satire. And for you, TS stands for The Satirist. Now, if you don’t have any further comments to make on the actual OP then I’d suggest your comments will be better suited to OM, which for you means Obvious Mockery, obviously.

    • Incognito 10.5

      The headline is meant to grab attention but sometimes it goes too far and grabs all the attention aka a red flag to a bull. As it stands, it could be construed as confirming David Seymour’s accusation that Labour “loves disaster politics” sad

      • woodart 10.5.1

        if thats seymours position, he could be accused of being a woke snowflake.lol.

      • Mike the Lefty 10.5.2

        Disasters would be too much like hard work for ACT.

        They prefer the easy jobs like increasing road speed limits.

        • lprent

          Good at blaming others. Completely incapable of seeing just what a pack of pillocks they are themselves. Useless at doing anything really constructive.

          3 strikes comes to mind. Only good at increasing prison populations, forcing the construction of prisons and providing a pressure to raise taxes (someone should nark on Act to the Taxpayers Union!).

          What can't be shown is that 3 strikes performed its intended functions.

          The Sentencing and Parole Reform Act 2010 introduced the three strikes law. The law was intended to deter repeat offenders with the threat of progressively longer mandatory prison terms, and to penalise those who continued to re-offend through a three-stage process.

          There hasn't been a single documented instance of a 3rd strike deterring anyone.

          What can be shown after some very expensive cases that went all of the way to the supreme court was that it was effective at penalising anyone who was mentally incompetent in some social skills. And that it was in direct contravention of the Bill Of Rights Act.

          But hey – Seymour "loves blaming people politics" and "wasting taxpayers money on shitty slogans like 'three strikes'".

          Basically that Seymour would be as completely useless in government as his predecessors were. Bauble hunters for implementing stupid slogans.

          • dvT

            The punishmentment regime supposes that the offender THINK AND CAN work out consequences.

          • adam

            I agree Seymour(house) would wreak society with his economic policies alone. Let alone the other kaka pekapeka-tou-roa policies.

            And yet more than 10% of angry white males treat him like their own personal Borzoi.

    • gsays 10.6

      Thanks Ad, for saying it.

      Crude, insensitive and beneath what you would expect from something with the Red Standard at the top.

  11. adam 11

    Just one more reason to vote for Te Pāti Māori.

  12. James Simpson 12

    I think its to early to tell. If people are still travelling on detours in October and inflation is still running above 5% there will be plenty of grumpy people in punterland.

  13. Sabine 13

    We buried two volunteer firefighters who died in a Muriwai Landslide. But never let a good pun go to waste ey?

  14. Lukas 14

    Could you at least wait until we have cleared out our houses in the Northwest before you start trying to make political gains from our misfortune??

    Abhorrent headline.

    Id appeal to your sense of decency but clearly you have none.

  15. Mark Howe 15

    Is the headline suggesting that if Labour win, people will die, families will be left homeless and communities shattered? I really don't think the tragedy in Muriwai is a suitable reference for piss-poor puns.

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