National will be surprised by last night’s Colmar Brunton poll.
Senior front bench members of the party thought they might be ahead of Labour (presumably that is what their own polling was showing) and were expecting they might be in the low to mid-40s in the poll but not 46 per cent.
Even National’s pollster, David Farrar, seemed to be surprised, tweeting “amazing result”.
The poll will also leave Labour with red faces after their widespread spinning last month of their own poll which showed them nearly 10 per cent ahead of National.
But National’s strategists didn’t believe that was a long-term trend and always said that the Jami Lee Ross affair was a blip.
More importantly, the Colmar Brunton poll will come at a time when even members of the National caucus have been wondering whether Simon Bridges has got what it takes to lead the party to victory.
There has been some criticism both from the caucus and from within the party at large to his ‘garage dog”constant barking opposition to the government.
One caucus member told POLITIK last week that it was a symptom of the pressure he was under.
Maybe recognising this, there appears to have been a change in strategy.
Last week’s statement on tax is said to be the first of a new raft of statements which will set out National policy rather than attack the government.
These will continue through next year.
If there are repercussions from the Jami Lee Ross affair, they appear to be centred on the party rather than the caucus.
Already there are indications the election for the party’s ruling board next year will be a contest.
Usually National prefers that its party elections are done deals.
New Zealand First’s fall to 4 per cent; below the five per cent threshold would see it out of Parliament but seasoned MPs round Parliament believe that Leader Winston Peters is capable of raising that with one of his scare campaigns against migration or big business.
However, what that fall does do is open up the question as to whether the next Government (assuming Labour forms it) could be a Labour=Greens government.
POLITIK understands that were that to be the case the Greens could be willing to form a coalition with Labour rather than standoff with a confidence and supply agreement as they do now.
Labour will, however, be unwilling to alienate NZ First lest they cross the floor of the House and support National.
If they did that with five per cent of the vote and National held the support last night’s poll showed, National would form the Government.
That does show that NZ First could once again end up holding the balance of power after the next election but how credible they would be trying to convince the electorate that they could support National would seem questionable.
Comar Brunton’s first poll this year was in March and had National on 43% and Labour on 48%; so over the course of the year National has gained 3%, and Labour has lost 5%,
That will be another reason that National can go into the summer break with their spirits revived and Simon Bridges probably relieved that his leadership is safe — for now.