Labour’s Andrew Little is moving to New Plymouth in the next two weeks but he already has a mountain of work to do.
The man many are touting as the next Labour leader and prime minister will have to quickly roll up his sleeves after a significant poll of the New Plymouth electorate he covets this week indicated National’s lead in recent nationwide polls is being reflected in the city, previously the country’s most marginal electorate.
The election may be five months away, on November 26, but incumbent National MP Jonathan Young has the early jump on his main challenger, polling well ahead of the former Labour Party president in a Witt School of Journalism survey.
Mr Young secured a tiny 105-vote majority in 2008, but he won 41.56 per cent of support in Witt’s random telephone poll compared with Mr Little’s 25.33 per cen
The poll, which had a margin of error of 4.55 per cent, asked 820 voters to choose between Mr Young and Mr Little. Of that number 462 people responded.
Mr Little said Labour’s internal polling showed the race was a lot closer than the New Plymouth survey suggested. “The feedback I’m getting is positive but I certainly don’t take anything for granted.
“I’ll be in New Plymouth virtually fulltime in a couple of weeks. It’s hard running a campaign from Wellington.”
I don’t know how robust a poll is when its carried out by a journalism school – but the stakes for Andrew Little in this race are pretty high. There’s a leadership gap within the Labour Party, Little is considered a candidate to fill that gap. If he wins his seat then he might be the first and only Labour MP to capture a new electorate in six years, which would be a pretty strong argument in his favor.
But if he loses then his pitch for party leadership goes something like: ‘I was party president during a period in which the party disintegrated, I have no parliamentary experience and I came in on the list because I got beat on the campaign trail by Jonathan Young.’ That’s not a winning spiel.
So if Little wins his electorate race he could be Prime Minister in four years time; if he loses, nada – seems like he’s leaving things a little late.