Luxon does not need to be trusted or liked to govern

Jo Moir
Wellington, August 3, 2023

Comment: National, Act, the Greens and New Zealand First are all climbing up the voter board in the latest poll, leaving Labour to wallow in its slump after what has been an extraordinarily bad few weeks for the Government.

Christopher Luxon has trust issues and David Seymour is gaining on him in the preferred prime minister polling, yet despite all that, the National Party leader would comfortably lead the next government on the latest numbers.

Based on Wednesday night’s (August 2) Newshub-Reid Research Poll, National and Act would be able to govern alone with 63 seats between them – two more than is needed to form a government.

Even with three seats from Te Pāti Māori, Labour and the Greens only scraped together 57 in this poll, well short of the 61 required.

Act is continuing its march towards its best result ever with 12.1 points to National’s 36.6 – both up 1.3 since the last poll in May.

On the left, the Greens are on 9.6, up 1.5 points, while Te Pāti Māori slid slightly to 2.7.

As for parties outside of Parliament, move over The Opportunities Party and The New Conservatives – the only game in town here is New Zealand First, which is up 1.1 points to 4.1, inching closer and closer to that  5% threshold needed to return.

Winston Peters notoriously rubbishes all political polls, but it would be a reasonable bet that the New Zealand First Leader said something along the lines of “the comeback is on” after seeing those results.

Preferred PM Rating

But any success for Peters is meaningless for Labour given he’s ruled out working with them.

What this Poll says is that you don’t need to be particularly trusted or liked to still wind-up Prime Minister, with Luxon dropping slightly to 15.9 points in the preferred Prime Minister Polling, while Chris Hipkins climbed just slightly to 24.

Charging after Luxon is his coalition buddy, David Seymour, who is up 3.4 points to 10.9. That development will be just as worrying to Luxon as the eight points between him and Hipkins.

As for that all-important measure of trust, 35% of voters said they trusted Luxon – down 1.9 points – while 51.5 said they trusted Hipkins – down 1.4 points.

Luxon should be in deep contemplation if his preferred Prime Minister and trust polling keeps dropping when he has dedicated so much time since the May poll to getting out and about New Zealand to meet voters face-to-face at public meetings.

He is not alone though, with Hipkins dropping too.

The small relief for Hipkins is that he got a slight bump on his preferred Prime Minister score and continues to stay ahead of Luxon on both counts.

But none of that matters when it comes to forming a government, and whatever small win Hipkins can take from his personal scores, Labour has got momentum and it is all downhill.

Voters do not have to love Luxon – if they simply want a change from the status quo, they will vote for National and Act to be rid of Labour, which is exactly what the latest polls show.

Hipkins’ woes

Hipkins’ biggest problem is that he’s one of the few good things going for Labour at the moment.

As the rest of his team implodes week after week, Hipkins is dealing with a punctured wheel that keeps losing air the closer it gets to the election.

This latest poll captured voters’ preferences from July 26 – two days after news broke of Kiri Allan’s crash and subsequent arrest.

It tracked through the days of David Parker throwing his toys over Hipkins dumping a Wealth and Capital Gains Tax, finishing on Monday with Labour struggling to say whether it would continue to support big transport projects in Wellington and Auckland.

Day after day there is a fire for Hipkins to put out and the weariness is starting to show.

Hipkins puts on a good front in the House when answering Luxon’s questions and in short soundbites for media, but in his Tuesday morning interview rounds and weekly post-cabinet press conferences he is slowly losing the room.

The fact that he has made it this far before the exhaustion kicked in is no small feat given the cluster his colleagues have relentlessly delivered.

While Luxon can take the win in this Poll he will be telling his team not to get complacent because the one thing they all know is to never underestimate Hipkins.

National celebrated Jacinda Ardern resigning and very quickly that joy turned to worry when Hipkins was chosen to replace her.

Much like Bill English in 2017, Hipkins will roar around the country on the campaign trail hungry to win, scrapping it out for every last vote.

Luxon has four weeks left to prepare for that fight and Hipkins has the same amount of time to patch the punctured tyre that is his Party.

Jo Moir is Political Editor at the Newsroom based in Wellington. The above article, which appeared on the Newsroom website (on August 3) has been reproduced under a Special Agreement.

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