After ripping the Hutt South seat from Labour’s grasp for the first time since the electorate was established more than 20 years ago, National’s Chris Bishop put the monumental swing down to a change of mood among Wainuiomata voters.
“A wise old head told me if you ever want to win Hutt South, you have to win Wainuiomata,” Bishop declared following his election-night victory.
Only, Bishop didn’t.
Voting booth figures show Labour’s Ginny Andersen comfortably outshone Bishop in the seven Wainuiomata locations on election day, winning six to Bishop’s one.
In total, Andersen collected 3445 votes, compared with Bishop’s 2141.
Yes Andersen won more votes in Wainuiomata, but Bishop closed the gap considerably compared to 2014.
In 2014 Bishop got 26% of Wainui votes and Mallard 61%.
In 2017 Bishop got 36% of Wainui votes and Andersen 57%.
So the gap went from 35% to 21%. Bishop picked up an extra 10% of the vote in Wainuiomata because he had an office there and campaigned there. It isn’t about winning the booths (that is nice) but about getting extra votes.
How did he do it?
Through good old-fashioned campaigning, the man known by some locals as the “Mr Everywhere Man” entrenched himself in the community, never missing an opportunity to raise, or maintain, his profile.
Bishop is also the subject of a fan-led Facebook meme page, where he is referred to by Hutt Valley teenagers who created it as “The Bish”.
The Bish is The Man!
The general feeling is that Bishop’s intensive campaigning won him the seat, and the man himself was in no doubt his relentless presence in the electorate played a large role.
“People appreciate that I’m very active and physical in the community and I put the effort in, that I work hard. And I want to keep doing that.”
It is more than just hard work thought. It is also being effective Bish made things happen. He set up awards. He lobbied the Council. He did more as a List MP than most Electorate MPs do.
Mallard vacated his electorate seat in July last year to chase his dream of being Speaker of the House, opening the way for Andersen.
He did not vacate his seat to become Speaker. There is no connection between the two. He vacated the seat because he thought he would lose to Bishop, and the result shows he would have.
But ultimately, it was Bishop’s extensive campaigning, which began in 2014, that got him across the line.
Andersen was confirmed as the Labour candidate in October last year, and began campaigning fulltime in April.
With Bishop having already laid a significant amount of groundwork, Andersen had some distance to make up.
“The answer is he’s been campaigning for four years,” Andersen said when asked what the difference was.
“It was always going to be a big job. We knew that and we gave it everything.
“I’m proud we did as well as we did with the time that we had.”
He wasn’t campaigning for four years. He was being a highly effective MP. There is a difference. Also he lived in the electorate.
Ken Laban, Greater Wellington regional councillor for Lower Hutt, agreed there was no great secret behind the Hutt South swing; it simply came down to Bishop “out-campaigning” Andersen.
“Chris was born and raised in Hutt South, lives in Petone, he’s been the list MP for the last three years,” Laban said.
“He’s had three years of community visits, getting in front of community issues, physically attending events, and, to be fair, he’s been absolutely outstanding in that role.
“On top of that, he had the prime minister out at Wainuiomata High School, out at the Hutt South electorate on a fortnightly to monthly basis for the last couple of years.
“He thoroughly deserves that win, because he’s worked so hard.”
Andersen, in contrast, was from outside the electorate and had only eight months to campaign, he said.
The lesson her is to work hard. Campaigning in this sense doesn’t mean writing angry press releases every day. It means getting out there and doing stuff.
Bishop’s achievements could not be understated, given he was up against a “lifetime of Labour dominance”, Laban said.
“I think his win is arguably the greatest achievement of any of the MPs that got elected.
“I can’t think of any that have overcome the adversity that he had to overcome.”
To win what was a solid Labour seat when your party has been in office for nine years is exceptional. The majorities in Hutt South over time have been:
- 1996: 2,456
- 1999: 8,885
- 2002: 7,771
- 2005: 5,740
- 2008: 4,086
- 2011: 4,825
- 2014: 709
So from 1999 to 2011 Mallard held it with majorities from 4,000 to almost 9,000. And in 2014 Bishop knocked it down to 700 and then won it in 2017. A great achievement.
Andersen, who has entered Parliament ranked 28 on the Labour party list, has vowed to be back again in 2020.
“I’ll be doing exactly what Chris did to Trevor – campaigning for the next three years.
“I’ve got the electorate office and I get resourced and I get paid. And I get to be able to compete on an even footing.”
The interesting thing is that in his three years as a List MP, Bishop never attacked Mallard. Bishop promoted himself as a good MP, but never attacked the incumbent (this was not reciprocated).