Stand up Jacinda, or inherit a ruin - political commentator Chris Trotter

Is it time for Jacinda Ardern to roll Andrew Little in a last-ditch attempt to right the sinking Labour ship?

Veteran political commentator Chris Trotter says if she doesn't, when the inevitable happens and Mr Little resigns on the morning of September 24 after helming Labour to an historic defeat, she'll be inheriting "a ruin".

"Step up for the party for the cause and for decency's sake, because your leader clearly feels unable to go on," he told The AM Show on Monday morning.

Mr Little says he met with senior colleagues last week, and is now determined to fight on. But Mr Trotter says it will be an "indictment" on Ms Ardern and finance spokesperson Grant Robertson to let him drive the party down even further.

"Why would you back a Labour Party whose leader doesn't feel equal to the task, and whose caucus is willing to let him swing in the wind, rather than risk the fight that needs to take place?"

Newshub political editor Patrick Gower says Mr Little's broken a rule of politics by floating the idea of standing down during a campaign.

"You just don't do that," he told AM Show host Duncan Garner.

"He should be saying, 'Yes we're struggling in the polls, but I could still be Prime Minister - we could form a Government, we could get these guys together.'"

Which is true - even the worst polls show Labour, the Greens and NZ First in striking range of having the numbers to form a Government.

"I don't understand why he's going publicly and saying, 'I'm considering giving up the job.' There's a lot for them to look forward to," says Gower.

The admission puts Mr Little at serious risk, he says - and it was totally unnecessary.

"Andrew Little cannot be safe as Labour leader right now - it's as simple as that."

Gower isn't convinced Mr Robertson nor the other obvious contender, Phil Twyford, would do any better than Mr Little - but Ms Ardern potentially could.

"She could be a game-changer if she wants to step up and do it."

Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Next magazine

Ms Ardern has repeatedly said she doesn't want the leadership. But Mr Trotter says it's time to add some spice to the party's "vanilla with water added" image.

"This is your moment. If you want to inherit a ruin, you just stand back and let Andrew fall."

Why is Labour doing so badly?

Mr Trotter says Labour's been here before - in 1990 under Sir Geoffrey Palmer the party was facing "a hiding", before Mike Moore stepped up. They still lost - 47.8 percent to 35.1, a landslide under first-past-the-post - but Mr Trotter says it could have been a lot worse.

Helen Clark.
Helen Clark. Photo credit: Getty

It actually did get worse under future Prime Minister Helen Clark, with Labour's polling falling into the teens as voters fled to the left-wing Alliance. Mr Trotter says this parallels the Green Party's recent rise in the polls.

"We're seeing a reprise of Labour and the Alliance in the 1990s. Why did the Alliance surge in the '90s? Because people felt Labour had betrayed them, walked away from them," he says.

"Labour seems no longer to have a cause, and its MPs no longer even seem to have a party. They seem to have themselves and their careers - and that is it."