Vernon Small writes:
Labour would get an immediate lift in the polls if it dumped leader David Cunliffe, a new poll suggests.
The stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll reveals that Cunliffe may have become Labour’s biggest liability, with a significant number of voters saying they would be more likely to vote for Labour if someone else were leader.
Click here for full poll results in graphics.
The effect is sizeable, making a 13.5 percentage point difference to Labour’s vote.
Although a similar effect is seen on National when asked the same question about John Key, it is much smaller.
Actual leaders always do badly against a hypothetical ‘someone else’, because voters can all project their own values onto an unspecified alternate leader. The question for Labour is: ‘Would replacing Cunliffe with Grant Robertson or David Shearer two months out from the election boost the vote?’
I have no idea. I’m one of the idiots who thought Cunliffe was really gonna turn things around for the Labour Party and lead a victorious left-wing coalition into government. But my guess is that no, a leadership change wouldn’t be a good idea. ‘Someone else’ would still be leading a party filled with people who all seem to hate each other and feel little-to-no loyalty to the Labour Party, yet paradoxically, want to become its leader or, alternately, remain a Labour MP in perpetuity. If they dump Cunliffe they also risk a backlash from the party activists who voted him in and see the poor poll results as a product of caucus disloyalty and National smear campaigns. It’s hard to run a grass roots, mobilisation-based election campaign without activists, and trying to turn out loads of voters is pretty much their only hope.
Speaking of hope, Kim Dotcom has given Chris Trotter, Bomber et al something far more valuable than $3,000,000. He’s given them a dream: that a couple of days before the election Kim Dotcom will produce . . . something that will turn the tide. Again, the big advantage of ‘something’ is that anyone can project their hopes and fears onto it. And maybe Dotcom will deliver. He’s offered a huge cash bounty for any information that could help his case, and his lawyers are still trying to discover stuff to prevent his extradition. But I doubt there’s a ‘gamechanger’ there. If WhaleOil’s taught us anything about politics it’s that people who promise ‘More to come’ never deliver. So I’m predicting a 50% chance that Dotcom will have nothing substantive, a 49.9% chance that he has something newsworthy – another opportunity for the Prime Minister to not remember something, maybe? – and an 0.1% chance that he has something that will cause significant numbers of voters to change their preferences at such a late stage of the election (nine days after advance voting opens).
I do know it won’t be helpful for Labour to have Dotcom dominating media coverage during the election campaign, reminding potential voters that Dotcom and Harawira would be power-brokers in any left-wing coalition government; yet another problem a leadership change won’t resolve.