Chris Finlayson’s election diary for the Spectator

A hilarious account of the election by Attorney-General Chris Finlayson in the Spectator. I recommend you read the whole thing, but some extracts.

Every three years in New Zealand, incumbent politicians must hit the campaign trail. Since 2008, I have chased votes in the Rongotai electorate. My Labour opponent, Annette King, has held the seat since 1996. She is a fine parliamentarian, a thoroughly nice person, and also a distant cousin on my mother’s side. ‘Chris says if he wins Rongotai, he’ll ask for a recount,’ she delights in telling voters.

Annette tells the story, because it is true! Tim Groser is also petrified that one day he will accidentally win New Lynn off David Cunliffe!

They both get it is the party vote that counts.

The Newtown debate is usually the rowdiest of the campaign. In 2011, I was shoved by an Anglican vicar as I made my way out. This year, there are ten candidates lined up across the stage facing the audience squeezed into a wooden church hall. The crowd has a very particular strand of rule-bound, suburban radicalism: every mention of ‘revolution’ is cheered, but the audience will not allow proceedings to begin while party signs are blocking the fire exits. Along with Annette, the candidates include Russel Norman, a Tasmanian who relocated to New Zealand to work for the Green Party and now, holding the office of Male Co-leader, campaigns against foreign ownership. He finds himself fighting candidates from the populist Conservative and New Zealand First parties for the xenophobe vote. The Newtown audience thinks I am insufferably right wing but also thinks the same about the Greens and Labour.

Sounds like Aro Valley.

Puzzlingly, Mr Dotcom does not address the meeting, leaving us to wonder what in the end the moment of truth was. The abrupt termination of proceedings recalls Horace’s line parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.

Chris loves his classics.

The New Zealand union movement’s spiritual home is in the mining towns of the South Island, but most of its well-paid administrators choose to live in Island Bay. This pleasant seaside suburb is the scene of my final candidate’s debate. One heckler is particularly raucous. As I leave the meeting, I remind him that courtesy is contagious. He follows me down the street yelling that I work for the CIA.


By 10pm, National appears to have won an outright majority. For the first time in my three campaigns we have taken the most party votes in Rongotai booths, although Annette retains the electorate by a comfortable margin. I tell my volunteers that, on this trend, I should be able to unseat her by 2038.

Annette may still be there then! 🙂

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