Matthew Hooton wrote his NBR column before Micahel Wood won Mt Roskill. Hooton did expect that and so his column about the crisis still facing Andrew Little and Labour is valid.
Fortunately, Andrew Little will and has claimed this as the beginning of the end of John Key, so nothing will change inside Labour.
Labour is close to revealing the maximum life expectancy for a major political party in New Zealand.
By legend born of working men in the West Coast mines in 1916, Labour has governed the country five times, including introducing the welfare state under Michael Joseph Savage, leading New Zealand through World War II under Peter Fraser, saving the economy under David Lange and restoring confidence in the political system under the first-term Helen Clark. There is now no prospect of another name joining the list of Labour’s greats.
Eight years into John Key’s National-led regime, every poll now has Labour under 30%: UMR on 29%, Colmar Brunton on 28%, Roy Morgan on 23% and Curia also within that range. Labour is now as many as 10 points behind where it was three years ago, 10 months before its 2014 debacle, the worst since 1922. In the long history of both the Labour and National parties, neither has ever been doing so badly eight years into its opponent’s term in government.
The future looks worse.
In working class Porirua, former Labour mayor Nick Leggett has announced plans to run for National. Across the Cook Strait in Nelson, Labour members have resigned en masse in protest against plans by the party’s Wellington bigwigs to abandon the seat to the Greens.
It is a mark of Andrew Little’s desperation that he will try to present this weekend’s win by a deeply unimpressive party apparatchik in the safe Labour seat of Mt Roskill as some kind of victory for his leadership and platform for renewal. In fact, no opposition has ever lost a seat to a government in a byelection in New Zealand’s history. More pathetically, if the Roy Morgan poll corrects next month and has Labour back up to the mid-to-high 20s, Mr Little will claim some kind of prescience.