John Hartevelt at Stuff reports:
The party may yet take a serious run at trying to win the Auckland Central seat in 2014. It is one of four electorates considered potential targets if the party decides to run more than just a party vote campaign next time.
The candidate there, Denise Roche, has a solid history in the electorate and there was a strong Green Party vote there in 2011. The third element needed to encourage serious optimism about a Green winning an electorate is weakish Labour and National candidates – not the case in Auckland Central but potentially true in Rongotai or Dunedin North by 2014.
I had been meaning to write on this issue for a while, as the Greens are indeed considering a number of seats which they could possibly win in 2014. It is unlikely they would ever drop below the 5% threshold and need the “safety net” but there are considerable benefits from having one or more seats anyway in terms of certainity plus broader community mandate and the like.
The three seats I thought the Greens should (and were) looking at are Wellington Central, Hutt South and Rongotai. I hadn’t considered Auckland Central and Dunedin North so let’s look at them also.
This is arguably the most winnable seat for the Greens, for two reasons. The first is it had their highest party vote of any seat – 27.7%. They actually got more party votes than Labour did. So if all the Green party voters voted for the Green candidate, then they would be in the game. 62% of Green voters voted for the Labour candidate. If the Greens made it clear they wanted to win the seat, and have it as a secure base for the party, many of their voters would respond.
Now the incumbent Labour MP, Grant Robertson, is generally well regarded in the seat, and you would expect him to retain some support from Green voters. But then we come to the second factor – National voters. 15,000 people voted National, 11,000 Green and around 10,000 Labour. If National voters accepted their candidate could not win the seat (which is my view), how would they vote in a choice between the Labour Party Deputy Leader, and the Green candidate (especially if it is again James Shaw who has wide appeal)? I’d say many National voters would vote for Shaw over Robertson, and the Greens could well win the seat – and hold it for a long time. Worth remembering Wellington City has a Green Mayor.
Rongotai had the second highest party vote for the Greens, at 24.2%. Co-Leader Russel Norman got 20.2% of the electorate vote. More Green voters voted for Norman than King. Now King would be safe in the seat, but a new candidate at the 2014 election (maybe Andrew Little or Darren Hughes) might not fare so well.
But the real excitement is what if Annette King stands for, and wins, Mayor of Wellington, causing a by-election in 2013. By-elections often favour smaller parties. The Alliance almost won Tamaki in 1992 and Selwyn in 1994. ACT came second in Taranaki – King Country in 1997. If there is a 2013 by-election, I think Russel Norman would have a good chance of victory, unless Labour puts up a real star.
Now on the numbers Hutt South is not a Green stronghold. They got 12% on the party vote. But I have spies (well friends) in Hutt South and all I hear about is how new Green MP Holly Walker is everywhere. She is acting as a de facto electorate MP, and lots of people are saying how good she is.
Even the current electorate MP Trevor Mallard won’t say a bad word about her. In fact he seems very proud of her. Now Trevor will stand again, but Hutt South locals could just decide they want a fresh, energetic representative who is likely to become a party (co) leader in due course, and a senior Minister. Plus factor in the Nats whom loathe Mallard, and would tactically vote. Plus there’s a fair few in Labour not so happy with Mallard also, as a reminder of what people voted out in 2008. Now there may not be a lot of them in Hutt South, but I would not under-estimate Walker’s potential appeal.
Auckland Central is the fourth highest party vote for Greens – at 22.8%. Denise Roche is a well known and quite popular representative (especially on Waiheke). She only got 2,900 or so votes but that is because Green supporters were urged to vote for Jacinda Ardern to try and beat Nikki Kaye. 63% of Green voters voted Ardern and only 21% Roche. However that would change if the Greens were trying to win the seat – especially as Roche is home-grown, and not an import. Labour received only 800 more party votes than Labour.
However I have to say I regard it as unlikely that Roche would win the seat off Kaye in 2014. Kaye saw off the very high profile (and now Labour #4) Jacinda Ardern, and boundary changes next year are likely to favour Kaye. National has grown its party vote in Auckland Central in each of the last three elections, partly as a result of boundary changes.
However if the Greens went for a medium-term strategic approach, they would be sensible to target Auckland Central in 2014. While I do not think they would win in 2014, I think it is quite possible Roche could come second, and when Kaye retires be in prime position to take the seat.
This has the third highest party vote fr the Greens at 23.4%. Turei got around 20% of the electorate vote. However Labour had around 3,000 more party votes than the Greens which makes it a harder seat to take. David Clark seems to be reasonably well regarded. Also National’s party vote is not so high in this seat, so even if some of them tactically voted, it is hard to see Clark losing.
So overall while none of them are certs, there are a number of strong possibilities for the Greens. If I were them, I wouldn’t just choose one seat to target, but go for three or four where they could be contenders, to maximise their chances of winning at least one of them. It is not at all impossible that they could even win more than one electorate seat.