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Poll: Labour, Greens close gap on National

Sunday 26 May 2013 4:54 p.m.

The latest 3 News/Reid Research poll shows Labour and the Greens closing the gap on National. We've got the numbers on the reason why: the left-wing bloc's joint power prices policy.

Labour and the Greens are operating as one, and it's working for them. National remains on top, with 47.3 percent – down 2.3 percent. Labour goes up to 33.1 percent; that's up 2.9 percent. The Greens are up a tad, at 12 percent. And New Zealand First drop to 2.2 percent, beneath the 5 percent threshold required for leader Winston Peters to get back.

As for the minor parties, there is not a lot happening there. ACT is on 0.2 percent, meaning just two people in 1000 would vote for them.

In the Parliament, National would have 59 seats. It would need its support partners to win electorate seats to get a majority.

The Labour-Greens bloc would have 57 seats – close, but even if they got the Maori Party over, it's still a seat away.

But the Left is on the up, and you can put that down to its policy aimed at cheaper power bills.

But Prime Minister John Key likes the poll result because he holds onto power – although only just.

"We are under no illusions about the threat we face from Labour and the Greens," says Mr Key.

And that threat is increasingly real for Mr Key. It was Budget month, but the Labour-Greens bloc made the big play – a radical joint policy to nationalise the power companies, which they say will drive prices down.

"We are going into winter," says Labour leader David Shearer. "Bills are going up and we can bring those bills down, and that's what people are warming too. Excuse the pun."

And the policy, timed for winter of course, is clearly popular. Asked "Do you support the Labour/Greens policy to reform the power market?" a clear majority, 54 percent, said yes. Thirty-nine percent said no. The rest didn't know.

But out of National voters, 29 percent said yes, supporting the Opposition's policy.

"It showed people that there was a government in waiting that had some better ideas on electricity than simply privatising the companies," says Green Party co-leader Russel Norman.

"If you believe the argument that you'll get cheaper power prices, people will always be for that, but the reality of the Labour-Greens policy is it won't deliver that," says Mr Key. "In fact, what it will deliver is blackouts!"

Mr Key is still on top as preferred Prime Minister, on 40.7 percent. Mr Shearer is way back, on 10.5 percent. So Mr Key remains boss – and his advice for Mr Shearer?

"It seems to me that by joining hands with the Greens, what he's really indicating to his support base is that he's going to take New Zealand to the far left, and I don't think that will work at all well for David Shearer," says Mr Key.

"Bringing down the power bill is one of the reasons we've closed the gap," says Mr Shearer.

Mr Shearer is banging a happy stick, but he will have to bang it a little harder if he wants to close that gap completely.

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