The NZ Herald reports:
The Labour Party is sounding out Mt Albert voters on the byelection – including asking whether they want a “celebrity” MP and testing feelings on Judith Tizard re-entering Parliament.
Labour commissioned UMR Research group to hold several two-hour, focus group meetings of Mt Albert voters in the lead-up to the byelection, following the resignation of former Prime Minister Helen Clark.
Now focus groups are part and parcel of politics. However this is the first time I can recall a party commissioning one (or several) for a by-election. Polls are relatively common, but focus groups less so.
And when you consider that Mt Albert is Labour’s safest seat, that gives some indication as to the degree of nervousness within Labour’s ranks. You see focus groups are not cheap. I do not know UMR’s fees, but for four or five focus groups, the cost I suspect is a five figure sum.
So why would you spend so much money on such a safe seat? Because you are worried you may lose it to a Vote Twyford, Get Tizard campaign. There is no doubt that Twyford is the preferred candidate – but they are nervous over the power of such a campaign. They failed to get Tizard to relinquish her list place, so they are testing the waters.
Interestingly the Electoral Finance Act is no longer in force. So there is no $1,000 limit on an individual or organisation running its own education campaign in the by-election. A group could use direct mail to send a personalised letter to every voter (costs around $20,000) explaining how a vote for that nice Mr Twyford will result in that nice Miss Tizard becoming an MP again. And it could quote from various newspaper articles about the desirability of this. Maybe it could also remind people of s92A, what people say about it, and how Judith says it is a good law that should not be changed. Will Mt Albert residents want their Internet access at risk, if they vote for that nice Mr Twyford? Well, okay – that is probably stretching things too far – but you can see how much fun a third party campaign could have.
Anyway back to the article:
One participant said they were asked about Ms Tizard as part of a wider question about “celebrity” or well-known people standing for politics. Examples included Michael Jones, television presenter Paul Henry, comedian Mike King, actor Oscar Kightley and NZX boss Mark Weldon.
The focus group indicated concern about the possibility of a “Vote Twyford, get Tizard” campaign impacting on Labour’s chances.
That is an interesting sentence. Presumably the Herald has been in contact with one or more of the persons who took part in the focus groups. And they “indicated concern”.
Ms Tizard lost the Auckland Central seat to Nikki Kaye but would re-enter Parliament to fill list MP Phil Twyford’s list spot if he was the party’s Mt Albert candidate and won. The participant said the group members were asked what they knew about Mr Twyford – who lives in Kingsland and is favoured by Helen Clark.
There is another risk to having Tizard come back in to replace Twyford. No less than losing MMP. You see the Government has pledged to have a referendum on MMP. Now personally I don’t think people will vote for change (partly thanks to John Key). but if I was running an anti-MMP campaign, then I would use the Mt Albert by-election as a reason to dump MMP – the fact defeated electorate candidates can come back on the list.
Labour’s intensive polling of Mt Albert voters indicates the party is nervous about holding on to the electorate, which has always been viewed as a safe Labour seat, and where Helen Clark was MP for 27 years.
Just 2000 votes separated National and Labour in the party vote last election – and National’s popularity has soared since then.
Yes but the correct comparison is CR to CL on the party vote and that is 55% CL to 40% CR.
Labour Party president Andrew Little confirmed that the party had commissioned the focus groups and was polling in the electorate. He said it was common to test for important local issues.
Polling is more traditional. In Labour’s case it is going to be combining the polling and focus group results. The difficult scenario for them is if the poll shows that say Twyford can win the seat by 5% or so, but the focus groups show up to 10% of voters could change their votes if exposed to a Vote Twyford, get Tizard campaign. The question for Labour then is – do they risk it? Or in the words of Dirty Harry – do you feel lucky today punk?
If the polling shows Labour/Twyford way way ahead, then they can select him without worrying about a Twyford/Tizard campaign. But if things are closer, the head office may plump for another candidate such as Meg Bates.
Does anyone know the date of the selection meeting for Mt Albert for Labour? I understand media are allowed to attend and report on them, so I might pop along for the fun!