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Shot of confidence for National, Muller

Editorial

After an uninspiring start as National Party leader, Todd Muller has debuted in two political polls now at 13 percent backing as preferred prime minister — and in the One News Colmar Brunton poll out last night, has seen his party’s fortunes rise nine points to 38 percent support.

The rolling of Simon Bridges a day after the last poll in this series had National on just 29 percent seems to have helped put the party back into contention, less than three months out from the election. The new leadership team, their MPs and the party’s supporters will gain confidence from this lift in fortunes.

Of course, with the latest Colmar polling having taken place amid rolling news coverage and commentary on the border blunders that put the nation’s pandemic sacrifices at risk, Muller and his team have benefited from disillusionment with the Government for those who had rallied around it and admired the Prime Minister’s handling of the health crisis.

In that regard, Muller and his party have been gifted much of this bounce in support. To take it further they now need to clearly articulate their vision for the country’s economic recovery, keep making hits on the Government and have the new leader out connecting successfully with communities.

Labour has fallen back to 50 percent from a stratospheric 59 percent a little over a month ago; Jacinda Ardern’s rating as preferred PM has also slid nine points, to a still highly impressive 54 percent.

With voters focused on the major parties, there is limited oxygen for New Zealand First and Winston Peters — whose attempts to create some with characteristic bombast and belligerence of late appear to have backfired; NZ First was on just 1.8 percent support in this poll.

Heading in the other direction is National’s one friend in Parliament, David Seymour and his ACT Party. At 3.1 percent as in this poll, securing the Epsom seat again would mean also bringing in three extra MPs.

The centre right is still a long way from having the numbers to form a government, but it is back to within striking distance and there is everything to play for now as the parties and candidates finalise their pitches to the nation.

No party has had majority support to govern alone in the MMP era, and with Labour back on 50 percent now the performance of the Green Party — on 6 percent in this poll — is critical. The odds are still very much in favour of a Labour-Green government for the next term, but they have narrowed.