Little safe for now but for how long?
By Richard Harman (author)
Despite Labour's disastrous polls and comments from Leader Andrew Little saying he had thought about resigning there appears to be little appetite at present within the caucus to force him out.
MPs as diverse as Stuart Nash and the presumed replacement, Jacinda Ardern, were going public last night declaring their lack of interest in a leadership spill.
However if he were to resign the leadership it would be a different story.
Ardern, who previously has been unwilling to commit to the leadership,is believed to have told colleagues last night she would accept the role but only if Little resigned which he said yesterday he was not going to do.
But that is not to say that behind the scenes there are not re al concerns about his performance and that his time could yet come before the election. .
For some time now MPs have found themselves either squeezed out of events involving their leader or being greeted with announcements that they didn't know coming.
Front bench spokespeople have found themselves having to defer to Little over policy announcements in their area of expertise.
One MP told POLITIK last night that Little was fronting everything but he was failing to connect when he did.
That was why the polls were falling.
But though he may be safe now, it may only be for the meantime.
It will all depend on the polls.
If the part's rating were to fall below 23% and particularly if Labour were to look in danger of becoming the third biggest party in Parliament, then the mood within the caucus could change dramatically.
But for all that, and probably for a variety of reasons, though the idea of deposing Little is certain to have been discussed among MPs, there were no signs last night that any move was on.
The reality the party has to face is that the polls are now consistently bad with the One News Colmar Brunton poll showing 24%; the UMR poll which goes to both Labour and NZ First showing 23.0% and the Reid TV3 poll showing the party on 24.1%.
At these figures and assuming that the party loses Hutt South to National’s Chris Bishop, but wins 26 electorate seats it would get four list MPs in at the most.
They would be Andrew Little, David Parker, Priyanca Radhakrishnan and Raymond Huo.
Assistant Speaker, Trevor Mallard and high profile Maori candidate, Willie Jackson would miss out.
At 43% only Little and Parker would make it back.
Mallard seems resigned to his fate.
“It has been some time since I was highly confident of returning to Parliament,” he told POLITIK last night.
To be assured of a return Mallard, given his 32 ranking on the list probably needs Labour to score in the low 30s.
With the three polls hovering in the mid-20s, that would seem a huge challenge.
Ironically Little could still find himself the next Prime Minister.
That’s because all three polls are showing improving numbers for NZ First and the Greens.
But relations between Labour and The Greens remain tense.
Napier MP Stuart Nash last night told Newstalk ZB that he thought that despite Labour’semorandum of Understanding with the Greens, Labour should pursue its own campaign path.
That comment reflects a wider frustration within Labour that the Greens have decided to go it alone with a hard left agenda this campaign.
And NZ First which rates as high as 16% in the UMR poll is busy raising money for what it says is its "seriously exciting plans" for this campaign.
In a fund raising email to supporters last night, Leader Winston Peter said: “What New Zealand First has found as we have travelled the roads and highways of New Zealand meeting and speaking to locals is that people are not happy. They want a change - not just in political power but a change in policies and principles. That change is what New Zealand First stands for.”
And National is using the prospect of a Labour, NZ First, Greens Government to raise its own funds.
That possibility is because no poll so far shows National able to form a government without NZ First.
In a fund raising email last night, Energy Minister Judith Collins warned: “The opposition is bitterly divided, but under MMP the polls show they can still win.”
As long as that remains a possibility, then Andrew Little will be relatively safe.