National should consider 'radical' changes to catch Labour after 'astonishing' poll - commentator

"Radical" changes in the National Party are likely needed to help it claw its way back from dire poll results, a political commentator says.

Monday's Newshub-Reid Research poll found Labour had gone stratospheric with 56.5 percent of respondents supporting the governing party, with National falling to a low 30.6 percent. The Green Party held relatively stable just above the threshold at 5.5 percent, while New Zealand First would be gone from Parliament on these numbers at 2.7 percent.

If the poll was replicated on September 19, Labour could govern alone with 72 seats, while National would see 16 of its MPs booted from the House, driving it down to just 39.

The results will place pressure on National leader Simon Bridges who over the last two years has consistently polled poorly in the preferred Prime Minister stakes and has again been at the centre of leadership rumours recently.

Political commentator Bryce Edwards says Labour's high polling reflects what is happening internationally, where incumbent Governments are being rewarded for keeping their citizens safe from the COVID-19 pandemic. He says that is bad news for National.

"Throughout the world we are actually seeing incumbent governments being rewarded by the public for their handling of this crisis. So we shouldn't be entirely surprised that Labour is going so far ahead of their main opponents in the poll," he said.

"It just seems very unlikely that this Government is going to lose power. So really, National is in a lot of trouble. It is setting up the Labour Party to be able to govern alone after the next election."

He said the 26-point gap between Labour and National was "astonishing".

National should consider 'radical' changes to catch Labour after 'astonishing' poll - commentator

"It really is quite extraordinary to see really just a two-horse race between Labour and National and with Labour just so far ahead of National. The minor parties are just doing so poorly in this poll, that it should also be very frightening for a lot of MPs in Parliament."

Edwards said National may need to do something "radical" to have any chance of gaining power at the election. 

"It is going to be extremely difficult for National to catch up to Labour in just the few months we have got to go until the election. There is no doubt there will be discussions in National about changing the leader," he said.

"[But] there really is no clear alternative [to Simon Bridges]. People will be looking at Judith Collins as probably the frontrunner. But she will be as polarising as Simon. It is really the centre vote that needs winning over."

National may be helped, however, by the fact the conversation is slowly changing away from the health response - which the current Government has been near-universally praised for - to the economic one. Edwards said as unemployment jumps and businesses close, people will likely forget how well the Government did to keep Kiwis alive.

"The conversation will soon change from the health crisis to the economic crisis. In that area, National might have a chance of coming back to some degree."

He said this poll will still be taken seriously by MPs - especially those with their jobs on the line - but a lot can change in the next few months. 

"This is such a strange year in politics that no one will presume that the numbers won't change between now and September. Depending on what happens with the economic recession, National is still likely to jump back to some degree."

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