This is a guest post from Labour MP and Epsom Candidate David Parker:
What’s going on in Epsom?
The latest NBR poll for the Epsom electorate highlights problems for both National and Act.
My vote is up from 4.3% in the prior Herald poll to 17% in this latest one. Who wouldn’t be pleased with that 400% increase or the fact that at 17 % I am closing in on John Banks on 24%?
But the reality is that National’s Paul Goldsmith at 37% is well ahead, despite effectively saying “vote for Banks”. It is obvious that the Epsom voters are reluctant to be told how to vote, as shown by John Banks only mustering a quarter of the votes in the bluest electorate in the land.
I am not surprised. From my campaigning in Epsom, it is absolutely clear the Act Party is seen as an embarrassment by the vast majority.
If there is a surprise for me in Epsom, it is that so few people knew that John Banks tripled Auckland City Council’s debt during his last three years as Mayor. This recent history is very damaging for Key as well as Banks, given their repeated assertions that they are fiscally responsible and Labour is profligate.
The reality that Banks was “borrow and spend” will get through. I am telling everyone! Every letter box in Epsom will get this message.
Each step John Key takes to do a deal with Act’s borrow-and-hope-Banks and the-ends-justify-the-means-Brash undermines the image he has crafted for himself. He knows this erodes his political capital, but obviously thinks he needs Act.
The economic creds of John Key have been tarnished by his misrepresentations about the Standard and Poors downgrade statements.
Further, this has caused a renewed willingness to accept that Labour under Michael Cullen ran substantial surpluses and reduced government debt, which Key and Brash opposed. There is a widening acceptance that Labour was fiscally responsible at a time when the USA, the UK and most of Europe were not.
So the fact that Key is willing to do a deal in Epsom with Banks allows Labour to highlight these truths, which then causes voters to consider that, notwithstanding all of National’s spin, it is National’s deficit.
The Epsom platform enables us to remind voters of these facts, and contrast our plan to grow the export economy (substantial changes to tax, savings and monetary policy without selling our power companies) with National’s lack of an adequate plan.
All this at a time when so many are concerned that the world is changing fast, yet National and Act are stuck in a Chicago School of Economics time warp on the side of the bankers who were part of the problem and who are symbolic of the 1% who the 99% are protesting about.
Just as John Key’s image as a non-politician is undermined by what is happening in Epsom, so are National’s attacks on Labour.
The reality is that Banks’ very public record is there to haunt Key and Banks. The man who claims Muldoon as his hero has the worst economic record of any Mayor, ever, in the entire history of New Zealand.
While the last Labour government ran budget surpluses and reduced government debt, this is what John Banks did to Auckland:
Auckland City Council debt more than trebled in his last 3 years as Mayor!
2007 2008 2009 31/10/2010
$135m $322m $499m $738 million !!!!!!!!
This was all pre amalgamation, and resulted in three credit downgrades for the council from Standard and Poors (from AA+ to AA-).
The Act spin that debt increased because the old Auckland City was borrowing for the new City is untrue. (That extra $416m of borrowing in the 2010 year took Auckland City Council debt to $1,155m at the time of amalgamation, but is excluded from the above figures.)
So John Banks certainly does not stand for fiscal responsibility.
The problems for National and Act go further.
I can attest from my campaigning in Epsom that voters still remember voting in the perk buster Rodney Hide, only for him to be busted for his use of perks.
They still remember the hypocrisy of the Act party opposing name suppression and favouring tougher sentences, and then finding out that David Garrett had name suppression and a discharge without conviction for stealing a baby’s identity and passport fraud. Some are also aware Act knew this when they took a large donation from the misnamed Sensible Sentencing Trust and made Garrett Act’s law and order spokesperson.
It should be no surprise to anyone that no-one is sure what Act stands for. Liberals or conservatives? Populist or principled? Take your pick.
The Epsom voters also regularly say to me that they can’t understand why Act has been taken over by Don Brash and John Banks, both of whom are past their use by date. That this is a widespread view was confirmed in the latest NBR poll where only 14% of those polled thought the change to Acts leadership had improved things while over 40% said it had made things worse and 30% said that there was no change to what was an already dire situation.
More people than you might expect also remember that Banks left National when last in Parliament with a reputation more sullied than Rodney Hide’s. Banks was kicked out of Cabinet by National. He then refused to sit on any select committee and while drawing a full salary as an MP took a paid job as a talkback host for Radio Pacific.
For all of these reasons the people of Epsom are very reluctant to hold their noses and vote for Banks.
I thought that Jon Johansson’s comment on Q&A last weekend was interesting. He made the point that Act is now polling at lower levels than at the last election. Voting for Banks in Epsom may in itself be a wasted vote (those unintended puns can’t be avoided given Brash’s proclamations). The problem for Act is that even if Banks did win Epsom, he is likely to bring in only himself and perhaps Brash to Parliament. Any extra votes gathered between now and the election would come off National. Not only will National want them for themselves, but Act still won’t make 5% and voters won’t want to risk wasting their party vote either.
With Act polling low, an Epsom win is unlikely to bring a substantial voting wedge to prop up National. Add to that this latest NBR poll showing Act is much less likely to get Epsom this time compared with last (and thus their party votes would be lost), and Act should be nervous.
The motivation for Epsom voters to throw their votes to Banks is undermined for so many reasons.
All in all, the Epsom election is proving useful to Labour and is allowing us to highlight issues National would much prefer had less profile.
The result will be more party votes and more electorate votes for Labour – inside and outside of Epsom. Thank you John, John and Don.
David Parker – Labour Candidate for Epsom -22 October 2011
I am happy to run guest posts from other (significant) Epsom candidates, of course.
UPDATE: In his guest post Mr Parker states that at the last election ACT took a large donation from the Sensible Sentencing Trust. This appears to be a false statement. All donations over $10,000 are required to be disclosed to the Electoral Commission, and none was. The ACT Party Treasuer and Secretary both say no donation of any amount was ever received, and the Sensible Sentencing Trust has said it never made any donation. In the absence of any proof from Mr Parker, I conclude the statement is wrong.
UPDATE2: David Parker has asked me to add the following on:
Garth McVicar has today (25 October) said that the Sensible Sentencing Trust has not made donations of money to any political party, including Act. It appears from his statement that the only gift the Trust itself made to Act was David Garrett. What donations, if any, came from members of the so-called Sensible Sentencing Trust to Mr Garrett or Act I do not know.