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Labour needs wider revamp?than simply changing leader

Opinion Piece

The Labour Party is reeling from its latest poll disaster but there is no room for complacency on the part of National as the run-up to September’s general election gains momentum.

The One News Colmar Brunton poll out yesterday had Labour at its lowest level ever, just 24 percent, and prompted Andrew Little to discuss standing down with senior colleagues.

They counselled him to stay and fight, which is the obvious course as it is extremely risky to change leader just eight weeks from the poll that really matters; also, Little is not solely to blame for the situation, and it is doubtful any replacement would do better.

The essential problem seems to be that Labour’s message is not getting through. The latest three-point fall is just a continuation of a downward slide that has been going on for some time. Several commentators are even questioning whether this is the beginning of the end for Labour as a major political force. That is a step too far, but the party is in dire need of a revamp beyond simply changing the leader.

Despite Labour’s slide, the electoral mathematics is little changed and the coming election will be extremely close.

The Greens rose by four percentage points to 15, their highest level ever, so the two largest opposition parties are basically where they were. New Zealand First is steady on 11. Conceivably the three could form a government in September.

Prime Minister Bill English acknowledged that on television this morning, warning supporters the election will be tight and urging them to work harder to try to reach a position where National could form a government on its own. This is made more important by the risks faced by their three coalition partners. The seven Maori electorates are a key battleground.

In the meantime it is hard not to feel sorry for Andrew Little. He has brought discipline to the party and thrown himself into the role. He faced the latest setback with dignity and an open response to media questions. But Labour is on the ropes and the fight back is going to be a hard one.