National's ministers are looking shakey amidst allegations of cronyism and defamation. So who's benefitting in the polls? Um, National. So what's going on?

The latest One News-Colmar Brunton poll is a kick in the pants for Labour. After a ministerial resignation and a fortnight where the whiff of cronyism was never far from National, the governing party can still command more than 50 percent in the polls. That's astounding.

The suggestion is that voters don’t much care about the whole ACC-Bronwyn Pullar saga. Oh, it’s good theatre and they’d hate to think anyone was getting special treatment, but it’s not enough for them to switch sides. They can see that a minister has gone, so ‘something has been done’. They see a woman on a lonely crusade and think ‘that’s hardly National’s fault’. They see former National Party president Michelle Boag in the gun, but don’t think of that as a reflection on the current government.

And they hear John Key say time and again that if there was any real cronyism going on, Pullar would be in a better position after ten years than she is now. The fact she hasn’t got her way is proof of no cronyism.

Except it isn’t. John Key can’t say that the intervention of Smith, Boag, or anyone else hasn’t influenced the way ACC has handled this case; only the ACC staff on the receiving end can say whether they felt pressured by Pullar’s National Party mates. And as Fran O’Sullivan pointed out on Q+A this Sunday:

“I want to challenge the notion that the prime minister put there that, you know, there’s been no undue influence because this thing’s gone on for 10 years and hasn’t been settled. Well, actually, it may have gone on for 10 years because of undue influence. This thing, you know, this benefit may have actually been brought to a point three, five, six years ago. I don’t know. It seems a very long time for somebody to be on an ACC benefit who’s already had a large pay-out from an insurance company as well.”

All of which suggests a more thorough inquiry than the Privacy Commissioner can effect is the only way for the air to be cleared.

The PM, though, is unmoved by that argument. For now at least. And this poll result – and the private polling National will be doing – is the reason for that. None of this is hurting his party; not much anyway.

The real pain must be felt by Labour; perhaps they need a better ACC referral.

While National is under attack from within and ministers are looking rugged, to say the least, the opposition isn’t benefiting. Voters clearly don’t yet see Labour as a viable alternative government. David Shearer is not the ‘go to’ guy for voters to run to. Some inside Labour may say ‘give us a chance, it’s only April’. But if they can’t make hay now, when can they?

National is in an uncomfortable place – just look at Key on Q+A. He came across as evasive, unwilling to back or condemn Michelle Boag and unwilling to confront the central issue of the Bronwyn Pullar story, which is that she has gained access to ACC in a way you and I could not and has been able to keep her claim going, not just because she's persistent, but because she has had the support of a minister, another MP and two former party presidents (not to mention her ability to drop names).

He was even keeping the door open to the taxpayer picking up the bill for Judith Collins' defamation case. I'm not going to say Collins doesn't have the right to feel peeved. She has explicitly said the leak did not come from her or her office. Andrew Little and Trevor Mallard have effectively said that's a lie, but have presented no evidence to substantiate that believe. I've had that sort of thing happen to me, and it's infuriating.

But I wouldn't sue. She's a politician who likes to be known as pugnacious. She embraced the nickname crusher with pride, called boy-racers "utter morons" and David Benson-Pope a "dirty old man" and "pervert", nearly reducing the man to tears.

She can dish it out, so she needs to learn how to take it.

As for using public money to fund the action, well, I'd be interested to hear if Bill English thinks that's a "necessity" or a "nice to have".

The problem for Labour is that even a damaged National Party that looks as wounded as it ever has still looks more attractive to most voters than it does. Voters are looking at National in turmoil and still ticking their box. If that’s not a signal that Labour needs to up its game dramatically, then I don’t know what is.

Comments (17)

by Danyl Mclauchlan on April 02, 2012
Danyl Mclauchlan

It is only one poll, and, historically, this poll favors the National Party. Let's wait for a bit more data.

by Robert Boyd-Bell on April 02, 2012
Robert Boyd-Bell

Did you watch after Q&A and see Marae Investigates.

Although 6 weeks late, there seems a fair argument that Holmes is past it and should

 retire to the Olive grove.

by Ian MacKay on April 02, 2012
Ian MacKay

Robert. Did you see the Joyce disaster when interviewed by Mr Espiner 60 Minutes TV3 Sunday night, on the Casino question? Never has Mr Joyce looked so un-Prime Ministerial. There will be trouble at the mill over this one too.

And that Poll is not as damning as you would think. Watch the Poliing space.

by Richard Aston on April 02, 2012
Richard Aston

Labour have a lot of work to do to become a credible alternative . Shearer aint it , maybe Robertson but I reckon until they start acting like a true MMP party there is not much hope. They should be building a solid partnership with the Greens and building some bridges with Hone. I am not convinced just waiting for a better poll result is a plan.

 

by Ben Curran on April 02, 2012
Ben Curran

I have to say, I'm more interested in the poll of polls that Rob Salmond does every so often, given the inherent biases of the various polls. Though the polling industry as a whole needs a bit of a shakeup to account for it's obvious failings (like missing all the people who don't have land-lines)

by Rob Hosking on April 02, 2012
Rob Hosking

Just picking up on that last point of Ben's:  I'm always dubious when I hear the 'missing people who don't have landlines' thing.  Partly - well, mostly - because I've heard it trotted out so often by parties right across the spectrum to excuse low polling.  Act used to argue its voters are only accessible on cellphone, for example.  I'm sure I heard National people run a similar line in 2002.   

Its also a bit dubious because the proportion of households with landline phones is actually higher, not lower, than it used to be.  98%, according to the last Social Report by MSD.  It was 95% back in 1996, the first election I covered.  

If you look at the socio-economic spread of cellphones, landlines are a damn sight more well spread across society than cellphones.

That said, I suspect this  particular poll result is a bit of a rogue. But we'll have to wait and see.

by alexb on April 02, 2012
alexb

Just checking that everyone realises that we actually just had an election, and there isn't another one for three years. As such, polls at this time are somewhat redundant. 

by on April 02, 2012
Anonymous

Love the propagander as truth model.  How silly your wee rant is. Remeber - if you lie to yourself enough - it becomes truth. 

by Robert Boyd-Bell on April 02, 2012
Robert Boyd-Bell

I think Tim's comments on the Port dispute are getting close to the nub.

Auckland does not need a grossly expanding import port at Quay Street, with the associated traffic and ongoing deep dredging and expanded wharves.

For all the talk about Tauranga, it is a limited entry port with at least two recent groundings to warn us.

Northport is deepwater and could take the new generation of enhanced container vessels without the extensive dredging that both Auckland and Tauranga will require.

Where is the planning, where is the media insight, how can we can past the PR competing campaigns - and where has Rob Campbell gone, again!

by Frank Macskasy on April 03, 2012
Frank Macskasy

 

The latest One News-Colmar Brunton poll is a kick in the pants for Labour. After a ministerial resignation and a fortnight where the whiff of cronyism was never far from National, the governing party can still command more than 50 percent in the polls. That's astounding.

 

Sorry, Tim, but not only do I disagree with your assessment of that Colmar Brunton Poll - but a good look at the figures, and a simple bit of arithmetic suggests that National is not doing as well as some might believe.

In fact, their support is DROPPING, whilst the Labour/Green support is minutely gaining.

It's all here; https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/bugger-the-polls/

The rest of your piece is spot on.

Your assessment of Key's performance on Q+A on 1 April was accurate. Now that the 'teflon' has been scrapped away, he's going to have to cope with some unpleasant stuff sticking to him.

 

by Tim Watkin on April 03, 2012
Tim Watkin

I agree with you on the landline argument, Rob. I used to make it myself, but the more pollsters I've talked to the more I hear they try to allow for it and that it doesn't make a material difference.

Yeah, maybe I'm reading too much into this. But it's not just one poll. The latest Roy Morgan, which had National sliding through Jan and Feb, also showed them picking up again more recently. So the two most recent polls both show National's slide stopping, and those are the only polls we've got at the moment.

And Frank, your mistake is that you're looking at just one poll, rather than the trends across all those available. Maybe C-B skews National a little high, but whereas polls had National sliding since the election, the latest two have them picking up again. A longer trend will tell us more, of course, but that alone surprises me given the current mess.

by Tim Watkin on April 03, 2012
Tim Watkin

Robert, nice to see you here, even if you seem to commenting on the wrong thread. You talking about this post? (Never miss an opportunity to point folk to an old post. And yeah, I think as the lockout goes on, I'm shown to still be more right than wrong).

by jack on April 03, 2012
jack

I truly doubt the polls.  Horizon Polls actually got it right.. National got 35 percent of the votes in November.  Suddenly a very positive pole rating for National when they are getting kicked left, right and centre.  Tim, do you think it's the timing??  Let's wait and see what unfolds with this ACC fiasco.  Key certainly looked shaken on Q&A and I agree with Fran O'sullivan, he needs to have that independent inquiry. 

by jack on April 03, 2012
jack

I truly doubt the polls.  Horizon Polls actually got it right.. National got 35 percent of the votes in November.  Suddenly a very positive pole rating for National when they are getting kicked left, right and centre.  Tim, do you think it's the timing??  Let's wait and see what unfolds with this ACC fiasco.  Key certainly looked shaken on Q&A and I agree with Fran O'sullivan, he needs to have that independent inquiry. 

by Tim Watkin on April 04, 2012
Tim Watkin

Jack, where do you get the 35 percent from? Is that some extrapolation from the turnout? I'd argue that's a nonsense figure, a contrived fiction, because in an election what matters is the proportion of people who actually vote. As serious polls say, it's a poll of likely voters.

Of all votes, National got 47 percent and that's the only percentage that counts. So Horizon was woefully out on that, and I think it was pretty off on a number of others as well.

by Frank Macskasy on April 06, 2012
Frank Macskasy

Tim, it appears that the latest Roy Morgan poll backs up my earlier analysis; http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/bugger-the-polls-part-rua/

by Tim Watkin on April 10, 2012
Tim Watkin

To Jack and others, I'd meant to link to this, which suggests that the One News-Colmar Brunton poll was the most accurate one of all just prior to the election: http://www.colmarbrunton.co.nz/index.php/polls-and-surveys/one-news-colmar-brunton/one-news-colmar-brunton-poll-media-releases

It's interesting to note that every pollster had National high, which perhaps suggests some late tactical voting?

Of course our poll of polls was pretty good too, although but as Rob has written, he's tweaked it to be more responsive to changes that happen late and close to the election

 

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