The Government has been flailing in recent weeks, yet the National Party has failed to capitalise on a golden opportunity. That comes down to leadership, or a lack of it, writes political editor Jo Moir.

Comment: Labour is clinging onto the low 40s while National has failed to hit the much-needed 30 percent in the latest political poll.

No one in Labour will be thrilled with 41 percent in Monday night’s 1News/Colmar Brunton poll – a two-point drop coupled with leader Jacinda Ardern’s preferred Prime Minister rating tanking to the lowest it has been in two years at 39 percent.

Its saving grace, as is always the case in recent years, is that National is doing worse in the party vote and considerably worse in the preferred PM stakes.

That’s a huge problem for Judith Collins, who is sitting on just 5 percent while ACT leader David Seymour is more than double that on 11.

Even first-term MP Chris Luxon is gaining on his leader, up one since September’s poll, to 4 percent.

Yet, the MP widely tipped to make a move on Collins – former leader Simon Bridges – has almost dropped off the recognition scale. He’s down to just 1 percent.

The common theme here is that National is struggling to find a leader the public actually likes.

But to add to Collins’ woes is her net favourability of -31, which isn’t quite in the doldrums that Bridges experienced when he hit -40 shortly before he was rolled last year, but isn’t much better.

Collins’ score has plunged from -19 in May (approval ratings weren’t polled in September).

The common theme here is that National is struggling to find a leader the public actually likes.

Last week, two other polls were published, both had National in the 20s while Labour hovered either side of 40.

Talbot Mills Research (formerly UMR and the traditional Labour pollster) had Labour down five points to 41 – the lowest seen since pre-Covid times.

Meanwhile, National was up two to 24 and ACT was up one on 17 percent.

Seymour was also ahead of Collins in preferred PM rankings, with 15 percent to her 10.

At the same time, the Taxpayers’ Union Curia poll (formerly National’s traditional pollster), had Labour down six to 39 and National up four to 26 percent.

In any of these combinations, Labour and the Greens can still comfortably govern, but it’s a far cry from the Labour-majority thumping of the election in October last year.

The handling of Covid well and truly won Labour its majority and is single-handedly causing its decline in the polls in recent weeks.

Part of the problem is the clarity around its messaging and what it will take to break Auckland out of its three-month lockdown.

Ardern didn’t help herself at her weekly post-Cabinet press conference on Monday afternoon when she again announced an announcement.

Cabinet has decided when Auckland’s hard border will be lifted and friends and family will be able to reunite again but Ardern wouldn’t budge on the details, saying that would be revealed on Wednesday.

For those separated from husbands, wives, partners, children for months now it’s like a Christmas Advent calendar where the days keep getting added instead of subtracted, and there’s not even any chocolate to sweeten the wait.

Meanwhile, Cabinet has also decided to move the whole country into the Covid Protection Framework at the start of December, because it provides greater protection than the current Alert Level 2 settings do.

That means 90 percent vaccination targets will be scrapped for some District Health Boards.

The Director-General of Health Doctor Ashley Bloomfield told Newsroom it was Sunday when he first discussed with his team the benefits of the whole country moving to the traffic light system earlier.

Ardern had already indicated to Newsroom in an interview on Friday that Cabinet was seriously considering it.

The handling of Covid well and truly won Labour its majority and is single-handedly causing its decline in the polls in recent weeks.

While Ardern says a lack of vaccine certificates haven’t hamstrung the Government from moving into the traffic light system already, Bloomfield was more honest in his response.

He told Newsroom the new framework required vaccine passes to enable it.

He also said the worry with Level 2 was the amount of activity that can go on between the vaccinated and unvaccinated and the likelihood an outbreak could occur.

The problem for Bloomfield and the Government is that outbreaks are already occurring and Covid is already spreading down the North Island.

And as long as the country remains in Level 2, and not the traffic light system, there’s more opportunity for the vaccinated and unvaccinated to transmit the virus.

Waiting another two weeks until November 29 to announce the whole country is moving into the Covid Protection Framework is just another fortnight of increased spread of the virus.

In answering Newsroom’s questions so honestly, Bloomfield has exposed the Government to a ton of criticism about how failing to create vaccine certificates sooner has, and will, continue to allow more time for the virus to spread.

All of this is an incredible opportunity for National to capitalise on.

But when its starting point is having a leader who the public simply doesn’t like, the chances of getting any cut-through are next to nothing.

And if the answer to their problems is a former leader registering 1 percent in the latest poll, National has a whole lot to think about when the caucus meets in person for the first time on Tuesday morning.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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