The Dominion Post has done a profile of the candidates for Mana, and also an article about the race to win, which includes quite a few comments from me. I thought I would use the blog to expand on my printed remarks and out a bit of context around.
First if all, I have consistently said that the chances of a National win are low (but not of course non existent). I say this for two historical reasons:
- This particular seat, and its predecessors, have never been won by National. Now that is not a guarantee – Nikki Kaye broke a 95 year old lock Labour had on Auckland Central. But it is a seat which is consistently Labour.
- No Government has won a seat off the Opposition in a by-election for at least 80 years – if not for ever. I’ve checked back to the 1930s.
The article quotes me:
He said the Government’s popularity meant there was little impetus to vote. Mana is a Labour safe seat. “Is there an incentive to give a government that already has a majority an extra seat?
This is why I think no Government has even won a seat off the Opposition – because they don’t actually need it. If people want to change the party that represents them locally, they tend to do it to send a message they are unhappy to the Government. It is harder to motivate people to vote to send out a message they are happy, and like the Government.
Now again this is not to say it isn’t possible, but that the incentives are harder for the Government than they are the Opposition.
The way for National to win, or at least reduce the majority, is not to only frame it as give National an extra seat because John Key is a good PM. The message needs to also be about who will be the best local MP for Mana.
“Hekia will pull `I will be a better MP’. People who have met Hekia and like her, could well respond. But you don’t get to meet the entire electorate.
The context of this is that when people meet Hekia, they are normally very impressed with her, and the more people she meets the more votes she will get. I think her career and background make her a considerably stronger candidate and MP than Kris. That is not to say that Kris won’t make a fine contribution if given the chance – but Hekia has a very formidable record of achievement, and a strength of character which I believe will see her become a Minister in the next term.
But the reality is it is very hard to meet every voter, or even half of them. And those who don’t meet Hekia, will then be faced with the question “Why do we vote to give the Government an extra seat”. That is the difficult part.
John Key’s smile only goes so far.
I really must restrain my sense of humour. This was short-hand for the PM is a popular Prime Minister, but being popular doesn’t necessarily mean voters will want to take a seat off the Opposition and give it to the Government as a thank you note.
So yes the chances of National achieving two historic firsts – winning Mana and a Government gaining a seat off the Opposition in a by-election is remote. But it is not nil, and the way to improve the odds is to have as many voters as possible meet Hekia and decide they want her as their local MP. She would be an outstanding electorate MP if given the chance.