Despite all the noise that has come from anti-vaxers, last night’s One News Colmar Brunton poll shows the National Party has been unable to capture any significant chunks of the anti-government vote.
Even ACT appears to have plateaued, and while the Government has gone down, it has survived, albeit by the skin of its teeth.
The real test will come when Auckland moves out of its Alert Level Three to a much more relaxed traffic light state.
Last night’s poll puts Labour on 41; the Greens on nine while National is on 28 and ACT on 14.
Since the end of last year, Labour has lost 12 per cent of its vote, and six per cent of that has gone to ACT while only three per cent has gone to National.
The centre-left block (Labour and the Greens) have lost 11 per cent, and the centre-right block (National and ACT) have picked up 11 per cent.
So what the poll says is two things; Labour is losing support, but National is not capturing it.
That throws the focus on to National’s leadership.
Very few people within the National Caucus or the wider party will be surprised by that. Her failure to articulate a coherent consistent message that resonates with the electorate is undoubtedly behind the party’s poll failure.
She is on only 5 per cent as preferred Prime Minister but Christopher Luxon is now on four per cent. The pressure will now go on to him to declare whether he would stand for the leadership.
Arguments about whether he has been in Parliament long enough (13 months) might begin to fade in the new year when he will have been there as long as Don Brash was (15 months) when he took the leadership in 2003.
Simon Bridges, on one per cent, the current Caucus pick to replace Collins, is in trouble, and it appears his attempts this year to soften his image with his book and a host of light media appearances has not worked with the public.
Bridges problem is that though he is thought to have the support of over 50 per cent of the caucus he does not seem able to gather together a conclusive enough majority to prevent the caucus being divided should he succeed.
This suggests that any resolution to National’s leadership issue is still some distance from being achieved.
That gives the Government some space.
But though it has survived, the poll will be a warning sign. It can’t afford to lose any more support, and it must know that the Auckland lockdown will have been a major factor in its drop in support.
Though nothing is official, it does seem that December 1 will see the end of the Alert Level lockdown in Auckland. That is the date a group of Auckland business leaders have been talking about as the end of the alert levels in their correspondence with Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash.
Ardern was keen yesterday to extol the virtues of the new traffic light system; not only would it offer better protection from Covid than alert levels because it was built on vaccinations, but, obviously, it would also allow more freedom.
“There is a strong view coming through from the Ministry of Health that we should consider moving to the protection framework (traffic lights) earlier because it provides greater protection for New Zealanders than we even see with the current alert level system,” she said.
And with that came a hint that the Government may be very flexible on its earlier target of 90 per cent vaccinated.
Ardern seemed to hint that might now mean 90 per cent who have received at least one jab.
“Keeping in mind, we set that high vaccination rate target, and that has served us well,” she said.
“Many DHB are already hitting that 90 per cent first doses.
“So there is the opportunity for us to get the best of both worlds; high vaccine rates, but of course, the protection of this new framework.”
All of this stacks up to suggest that when she announced the future of Auckland on November 29, it is likely she will announce the same traffic light level for most of the country, which she will justify by the fact that by then, most DHB areas will be near 90 per cent vaccinated with at least one dose.
Currently, only Northland, Lakes, Tairawhiti and Whanganui are in the low 80s for first dose vaccinations; everywhere else is above 85 per cent.
Ardern was keen to reconcile the new “protection framework” with the elimination strategy which the country pursued until recently.
“When Covid reached New Zealand almost two years ago, our goal was simple; get cases to zero by staying at home, and we did, and we avoided the worst of Covid; the death tolls and the economic difficulties experienced by so many others,” she said.
“But as we transition to a new phase, there will be different views, but we’re moving to the same place where we are all safer still because of vaccination, where our businesses are guaranteed to remain open, and jobs are filled, and one where we have huge opportunities ahead with that same loved ones that we haven’t seen for some time in Auckland or travelling overseas or just getting out and about safely.”
That statement was almost purely political, aimed at getting the country back to as near normal as possible and thus preventing any further slide in the polls.
Yesterday, both the poll and the announcements from the Prime Minister marked the end of the zero covid strategy.