Dom Post on Mana

Today’s Dom Post editorial:

It used to be said of safe National electorates that the party could pin blue ribbons on donkeys and still win them. is the Labour equivalent of such a seat – a predominantly working-class electorate that Labour has held since its first incarnation as Porirua in 1963.

And in fact the predecessor seats to Porirua have also been Labour held since at least the 1930s.

However, a combination of circumstances has given Labour leader Phil Goff and his handpicked candidate, Kris Faafoi, cause for a restless sleep tonight.

They include the strong local profile of National candidate Hekia Parata, the independent candidacy of unionist Matt McCarten, the increasing prosperity of the northern half of the electorate and Mr Faafoi’s lack of campaign experience.

The restless sleep won’t be over whether Kris will be elected to Parliament. Few are not expecting that. It will be over whether there is a significant swing to the Government’s candidate – a very rare thing in a by-election.

He and his supporters have erected so many billboards on Mungavin Avenue, the main road in Cannons Creek, that locals have taken to calling it Faafoi Avenue but, despite the attempts of the Christchurch-raised candidate to suggest he grew up in the electorate, he is not as well known as Ms Parata, who has continued to build links in the area, despite losing to Labour’s Winnie Laban at the last election.

Hekia has done what good List MPs should do – to get out there and be active in the local community.

For those reasons, and because Labour has not managed to turn the spotlight on National, the by-election is reversing the usual trend. Instead of serving as a referendum on the performance of the Government, it has become a referendum on the performance of the Labour Opposition.

I disagree to some extent on that. I do not think it is a referendum on National or Labour. I think it is more a referendum on the candidates. If National cuts the majority significantly it will be because of Hekia. Likewise if Labour has its majority take a tumble, it will mainly be because of resentment over the selection of an inexperienced non local. By this I don’t mean that Kris has done anything wrong – he has run a good campaign and if elected will be a diligent MP. But the nathie of his selection, with his successor being offered his job as Goff’s press secretary before he was selected etc is what has gone down badly with some locals.

A majority of 3000 plus would represent a solid victory for Labour, which will have MPs, activists and union supporters ferrying voters to the polls tomorrow. Fewer than 2000 would represent a triumph for National and trigger a fresh round of speculation about Mr Goff’s leadership.

I think it is too simplistic to look at the result for the entire electorate. My view is there are too “halves” of the electorate.

One half is what I call tribal Labour. And it is tribal. They may like John Key. They may think Hekia is great, but they vote Labour – always have and always will. There may be some vote loss to Matt McCarten, but in these areas I would not expect Hekia to necessarily get any movement at all compared to 2008.

Also in these “tribal Labour” areas you will have scores and scores of salaried union employees getting out the vote. They have been campaigning fulltime for Labour for weeks – and of course their salaries do not count as part of the $40,000 cap. With that extra GOTV, Faafoi might even get more vote share than Laban did in that area.

In the other half, there could be a different story. In the other half, there could well be a swing to Hekia and away from Labour. Don’t think this is just the Whitby areas. Areas like Pukerua Bay and Raumati South are what I call “trendy lefty” and voted for Laban quite strongly last time – however they are not “tribal Labour” and they may vote Hekia on the basis of her work since the last election.

So do not assume there will be a uniform swing. What I will be looking at on the night is what happens in Porirua, what happens in the northern suburbs, and what happens in the Kapiti areas. They might all do the same thing, but I suspect not.

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