Fairfax Media-Nielsen puts Labour on 35% and National on 51%, a gap of 16% and with National still able to govern alone. The ONE News Colmar Brunton poll puts National on 52% and Labour on 35%, a 17% gap, and again National still strong enough to go it alone.
Basically, this is not good news for Labour. It is jsut that the previous poll news has been so bad that it looks like good news. The ONE News headline, "Labour bounces back in new poll," is absurd.
To progress from here, Labour need to start moving votes back over from National to Labour. This sounds obvious, but they haven't managed to make any significant progress with the people weho are indicating support for National - consistently over half of those expressing an opinion. For all that Labour have eroded a couple of points from National, they have done the same with other parties' support as well - their likely coalition partners.
It is a mystery to me why National's support has held up above 50% for so long. Hell, this support HAS to be soft - surely more than half of the New Zealand electorate can't actually really want John Key as Prime Minister? I thought the man's appeal is all based around not being interesting enough for anyone to particularly want or not want him.
Labour have to drag National back under 50%, and they have to do it soon. Only then does coalition specualtion become semi-meaningful. Then, National will start to feel a little bit threatened - though polling 49% is still obsencely high, it is psychologically very different from 51% - especially for potential voters from either party.
Labour's main hope may be the drip-drip of National policies unsettling voters. Perhaps they only liked John Key when he was an empty canvass they could project onto. Now that they are starting to hear about what a National government might actually be thinking about doing, they are havig to consider carefully whether or not they like it. If this will discomfort enough people to give Labour much more of a lift, or National much more of a dent, remains to be seen.
As I've said before, Labour need to start laying out their vision - to Hell with National's non-vision. That might drag a few more over, and then National will be forced to respond, which might move a few more. Labour up $5, National down 4%, then there might be something to play for.
1 - "Labour closes gap to 16 points," by Tracey Watkins in The Dominion Post, 19th of July, 2008. Reproduced on stuff.co.nz.
2 - "Labour bounces back in new poll," unattributed ONE News story, 20th of July, 2008. (http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/1316907/1921695)