Billboard costs may be Little’s lifeline
Labour is in a hole and doesn’t know how to dig its way out.
Andrew Little’s extraordinary admission that he talked to his colleagues about falling on his sword sounds like the death rattle of a leader who knows that come election night he might be offering his resignation.
Labour MPs will be reeling from a poll that puts the party on track for its worst result yet.
It is on 24 per cent - its lowest in that poll in more than 20 years.
Labour’s Pollyannas will argue that all is not lost.
A surge in support for the Greens on the back of co-leader Metiria Turei’s DPB fraud bomb keeps a centre left Government in play – but only if NZ First throws in it’s lot with them.
Yet Little may not even be there to stitch up that deal. On yesterday’s poll numbers, Little is on the cusp of leaving the party not just broken on election night, but leaderless. If Labour drops just a couple of per cent more, Little will be out of Parliament.
That’s one constitutional crisis MMP hasn’t thrown up to us yet.
The most compelling reason offered last night for Little not to go sooner was that the party had already made its election year billboards and campaign ads.
There was no more money for new ones so Little should be safe, was the rationale.
Political convention has it that dumping leaders just weeks out from an election doesn’t only look desperate, it looks ugly and ill disciplined.
But when you’re at rock bottom – and Labour will be praying and hoping that’s what this is – convention can fly out the window.
The party is looking at a rout and many of its MPs, Little included, are likely to lose their jobs.
Little has a popular deputy, Jacinda Ardern. But even if she wanted to challenge Little – and there are few signs that she does – Ardern’s mentors would probably counsel her to wait.
She would carry the weight of Labour’s failure on her shoulders and even if the party could wear that, Ardern might not. Being catapulted into the leadership too early can be a curse.
Little was last night offering few convincing excuses for Labour’s failure. He pointed to the minor parties, the Greens and NZ First, sucking up more of the political oxygen with attentiongrabbing headlines.
But that just puts the hard word back on Little. If a few good speeches and some attentiongrabbing policies are all it takes, how come Labour has failed?
The party’s memorandum of understanding with the Greens will also face some tough questions: Has it given Labour voters licence to switch sides, while forcing many of its more conservative supporters into NZ First’s arms?
Turei’s pitch to beneficiaries is seen as a calculated attempt to cannibalise Labour votes.
But Little is not completely out of straws to clutch. Turei, and NZ First’s Winston Peters, or TOPs Gareth Morgan, won’t get equal time in the leaders debates once the campaign proper gets under way.