National would be 'morons' to change leaders at the moment - commentators

Despite a poll showing Judith Collins surpassing leader Simon Bridges as preferred Prime Minister, some political commentators reckon National would be mad to change leaders at the moment.

On Monday, the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll showed National dropping to a decade low of 41.6 percent, compared to Labour's 47.5 percent, and Judith Collins passing her leader in the preferred Prime Minister stakes.

Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien told The AM Show on Tuesday that Mr Bridges "has got a real problem", as the party's high poll numbers had previously kept him afloat and safe from a leadership challenge.

"The rot had already started setting in last year after Jami-Lee Ross. There were murmurings from some of Simon Bridges' MPs about whether they would roll him," said O'Brien.

"But MPs didn't want it to seem that Jami-Lee Ross was getting a win if Simon Bridges was ousted then. They were also relying on those strong National Party numbers."

She said the "bullet-proof brand that John Key built for National is starting to wane under Simon Bridges" - which may be scaring some National MPs.

But political commentator Trish Sherson said despite the growing public enthusiasm for Ms Collins to take over as leader, the party would be mad to change leaders while the party was still polling reasonably highly.

"I think if you were in the National Party, you'd be an absolute moron to be panicking around this," she said.

"Labour would have loved a crisis of a poll like this when they were in opposition. For God's sake they were down in the 20s."

Political commentator Chris Trotter agreed and told The AM Show National needed to take stock before it made any drastic decisions.

"If they don't learn from the Labour party experience, they are fools, because a revolving door approach to leadership is just going to drive you down."

He said with few ACT or New Zealand First supporters to attract, National needed to go after the centre ground - something he was unsure Mr Bridges or Ms Collins could capture.

"New Zealanders really have taken Jacinda to their hearts in the same way they took John Key to their hearts, and when that happens it takes an awful lot to shake them loose from that attachment," said Mr Trotter.

"Until [the National Party] finds somebody that can do that trick, that is to make Labour people or people who are now voting or supporting Labour, feel confident about voting for the National Party" the party would struggle, he said.

Ms Sherson noted that with 6.2 percent of voters picking Ms Collins as preferred Prime Minister and five percent choosing Mr Bridges, there was still a massive group of National voters choosing neither.

"I don't think there is anyone showing at the moment and that is why the party needs to hold its nerve," she said.

The poll was conducted in late January, when O'Brien said Mr Bridges had seemed to have shrugged off the gloom of the Jami-Lee Ross controversies last year and had made a good start to the year with impressive tax policy.

On the other hand, while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern bathed in glowing reviews for her performance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, her Government faced struggles with KiwiBuild and the looming report back from the Tax Working Group.

Ms Sherson said there could be a "lag" which sees those issues cause trouble for Labour further on.

"I think there is probably still a lag where we will get into the winter and public sentiment will start to catch up," she said.

Mr Trotter was also concerned in the meantime that Labour riding high on 47.5 percent would be "insufferable" and they may continue on their own way without listening to advice.

"Alan Johnson over at the Salvation Army, and Susan St John at Child Poverty Action Group, no one is going to listen to them now," he said.

"Labour is going to think 'we have cracked it, we've got ourselves going exactly right direction, New Zealand loves us'."

Translating the parties' support into seats in Parliament, Labour would only need the Greens to govern, while National and ACT would only reach 54 - seven less than the 61 seats needed.