The first political poll of the new Parliament shows most parties largely unmoved from election night, but Judith Collins has some cause for discomfort heading into Christmas, Sam Sachdeva writes

Yet another bad political poll, just months after a crushing election defeat, would have to be up there with socks on the list of unwanted Christmas gifts for National leader Judith Collins.

But the 1News-Colmar Brunton poll has dropped down Parliament’s chimney nonetheless, with the underlying numbers behind Jacinda Ardern’s landslide still in effect.

Labour has crept up a couple of points on its election night result, moving to 53 percent, but most of the other parliamentary parties are all but unchanged, with National on 25 percent, the Greens and ACT on eight percent apiece, and the Māori Party on two percent.

The lack of any major movement is hardly a surprise.

It may have been close to two months since the election, but in reality there has been little time for the parties to make any fresh impressions – favourable or otherwise – given Parliament only returned to business as usual last week.

Then there is the simple fact of political fatigue: with most of the politicians sleepwalking towards the Christmas break, one can only imagine how disinterested the public is after a year like no other in recent memory.

The numbers are hardly good news for Collins, but in some respects they are not as bad as they could have been.

A chasm remains between her party and Ardern’s Labour, but at least it hasn’t grown even more gaping as National indulges in navel gazing and Labour makes merry with its outright majority in the House.

Chris Luxon has been at Parliament less than a month, but the National MP is already rising up the preferred prime minister stakes. Photo: Lynn Grieveson.

That is clutching at straws, however – and there is worse to be found for Collins in the preferred prime minister stakes.

Ardern is as ascendant as ever on 58 percent, while Collins’ support has almost halved (down to 12 percent, from 20 percent in 1News’ last pre-election poll).

The National leader had outpolled predecessors Todd Muller and Simon Bridges on that front after taking on the role, bolstering the argument that while her caucus colleagues may not have always appreciated her, the public certainly did.

Now, she has been knocked back into the pack, similar to Muller’s numbers during his ill-fated reign and Bridges’ when he first took on the National leadership.

Perhaps more alarming is National’s second-highest performer, on two percent: former Air New Zealand chief executive, new Botany MP and much-discussed leadership contender Christopher Luxon.

Luxon hasn’t delivered as much as one sentence in the debating chamber, but he received a warm reception and plenty of laughs during a brief “meet the new MPs” cameo at National’s AGM last month (although in fairness, so too did Collins).

Collins put her MP’s rise down to name recognition, and there is undoubtedly some truth to that. But it makes little difference when an opposition leader faces endless questions about the ostensibly junior colleague breathing down their neck (just ask Andrew Little about Ardern, who first registered at 1.7 percent in an NZ Herald-DigiPoll preferred PM poll three months after the 2014 election).

Collins may be simply stating the obvious, but the remarks open her up to a suggestion she is hardly fostering party unity, while talking about Bridges’ internal numbers sets the stage for caucus leaking should her own polling take a dive.

It hardly helps that Collins has continued to relitigate the failures of previous leaders, even as the party’s campaign review progresses behind closed doors.

Speaking to Magic Talk on Monday, she said that Bridges’ internal polling was “nowhere near [the] stellar heights” in public polls before Covid-19 struck, while also criticising Muller’s decision to scrap the policy work which had been done before he assumed power.

Collins may be simply stating the obvious, but the remarks open her up to a suggestion she is hardly fostering party unity, while talking about Bridges’ internal numbers sets the stage for caucus leaking should her own polling take a dive.

In that respect, Luxon could be seen by National voters and the wider public as a breath of fresh air, untainted by the factionalism of the last term.

He may also act as a bridge of sorts between the different wings of the party, with his blue-green credentials for the liberals balanced by his religious bona fides for the social conservatives.

Of course, such talk is beyond premature, and plenty of previously anointed leaders in waiting have failed to live up to expectations.

But while it may not be Luxon leading National into the next election, it is increasingly clear that it will almost certainly not be Collins.

Sam Sachdeva is Newsroom's national affairs editor, covering foreign affairs and trade, housing, and other issues of national significance.

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