- Given the absence of Winnie Laban on the ballot, the party vote from the last election is the best indication of the respective standings of Labour and National in Mana;
- And that the party vote margin favours Labour by only 2,500 votes or so;
- And that the National Party candidate is a Mana-based list MP who carries an element of incumbency;
- And that the PM is riding a wave of popularity, buoyed by a post-quake glow;
- And that the turnout in a by-election will be lower than a General Election by many thousands;
- And that low turnout is traditionally very bad news for Labour…
In effect he makes three arguments – that Mana without Laban is a marginal seat, that Hekia and the PM will attract votes, and that the turnout for theby-election will be low and bad for Labour.
Let’s take these one by one. Mana without Laban is not a marginal seat. This seat has never ever been held by National. It has been Labour since at least World War II.
Winnie is a nice competent MP who certainly did not lose Labour any votes. But she was not one of those “star” local MPs who attracts massive cross-party support like Nick Smith does, and Harry Duynhoven did. Her results are not much greater than Graeme Kelly achieved. In 1999 Kelly won the seat by 5,475 for example. In 2008 Laban only got 8.6% of National voters.
Yes Hekia is a strong candidate, and has profile as a List MP. However she is a List MP, and no List MP has won a by-election. People don’t like the thought that if they vote for the List MP, then it results in someone else (the next candidate on the party list) entering Parliament.
Yes the PM is popular. But this is a seat never lost by Labour, and there is no way they will evict Labour just because the PM handled the Christchurch earthquake well.
Finally turnout is normally lower, but this tends to work against the Government. Their supporters are not motivated to vote just so the Govt gets one more seat they don’t need. But Oppositions are highly motivated to retain a seat or bloody the Government.
Finally you should remember this – in scores and scores of by-elections held in the last 80 years, not once has a Government won a seat in a by-election off an Opposition. Not once.
The combination of it being a seat that Labur has never not held, and no Government in history having ever won any seat off an Opposition, I feel very safe in my conclusion that the seat is not marginal, or even much of a contest.