Labour MP David Parker says party falling in polls because 'everyone's over COVID'

A senior Labour MP has blamed COVID-19 for the party's recent drop in the polls, but expects it to "bounce back" once the alert level restrictions are lifted. 

Two polls in the past fortnight had Labour down significantly - Talbot Mills (formerly UMR) putting them on 41, down 5 percent and their lowest score since before COVID-19 emerged; while Curia had Labour on 39, down 6 percent. 

Talbot Mills also had Prime Minister Jacinda's personal popularity dropping to 47 percent - while that's still miles ahead of her rivals, it's 4 percent lower than a month earlier and nearly 20 points down on her results in 2020. 

Public perception of the Government's handling of COVID-19 - hailed as among the best in the world in 2020 by experts - is also slipping. Just 46 percent now say it's good, down from 60 percent, while those ranking it poor rose from 16 to 26 percent. 

"I think everyone's over COVID," Labour MP David Parker told The AM Show on Friday.

"They know that we're in a transition from border protection to vaccine protection, caused by Delta, but it's hard. I think that's essentially what's behind it. I think things will bounce back a bit once we're through this stage of this transition from border protection to vaccine protection. It's going well." 

Alert level restrictions are expected to be dropped in Auckland by the end of November, as the city's vaccination coverage edges closer to 90 percent of those eligible. That's despite more cases being recorded now than at any other time since the pandemic began - the Government hoping one of the world's best vaccination rates will prevent the health system being overwhelmed with new cases, which predominantly occur among the unvaccinated

"Some people say we're going too fast, other people say we're going too slow," said Parker, suggesting it's difficult to tell what's behind Labour's polling slide - and defending the Government's handling of the outbreak. 

"The death rate in New Zealand's the lowest in the OECD. At a similar stage in the NSW and Victoria outbreaks, they had far higher rates of transmission than we've got in Auckland."

We're on day 87 of the Delta outbreak in New Zealand. In this outbreak there have been 4998 cases, according to the Ministry of Health. At the 87-day mark of NSW's Delta outbreak there had been 36,000 cases, and in Victoria's, almost 67,000. Both were reporting more than 1000 cases a day at that stage.

"We're on that transition that the Delta virus makes necessary," said Parker. "We're opening up in Auckland, we've got retail going again, more kids going back to school in the next couple of weeks. The signal's been given about opening up Auckland for Christmas so people can have a good Christmas and get back to more normality and more of their freedoms back, but it's hard." 

Many Delta outbreaks overseas, for example the UK, have been driven by transmission in schools. The Pfizer vaccine is not yet approved here for use in kids aged five to 11, but it is in some overseas countries, including the US. Medsafe on Thursday said it had received an application from Pfizer, but has to do its own analysis of the company's data rather than rely on assurances from overseas health officials that it's safe. 

National MP Simon Bridges said while the COVID-19 situation would partly be to blame for the Government's polling wobbles, "what's underneath" also counts.

"I think it's a Government people have always had a residual worry about, certainly in the last term, and we're starting to see it again in those right/wrong numbers. They talk a big game - there's those big announcements, there's the 'podium of truth', but under that the delivery just isn't there.

"If you take COVID, that's the biggest example of that. The results, what's trying to be achieved, it's falling apart… The Government can't chew gum and walk at the same time." 

Despite Labour's woes, National's fortunes haven't improved - up just 2 percent in the Talbot Mills poll to 26 percent, a move within the margin of error. Curia also put National on 26 percent, up 4. 

Bridges said it still wasn't time to dump leader Judith Collins, who has never once brought the party's polling up to her once-declared sacking point of 35 percent.

"I don't think that's the right analysis. I think we've gone up a bit. In the end though, we're a couple of years from an election… it's about whether the picture voters have right now of the Government is one that sticks. That's the question. 

"Will David's thesis that it's all going to come right over summer - everyone's going to be happy because they're going to be able to have some fun in the sun - come true? Or will people still feel very frustrated?"