Phil Quin on Labour’s West Auckland problem

Phil Quin writes:

In most cases, Labour’s vote outside the main urban centres returned to, even surpassing, 2008 tallies.  In its birthplace of West Coast Tasman, for instance, the party went from 23 percent under Cunliffe to 37 percent yesterday.  In the Wairarapa, Labour’s vote also surged by double digits, only about half of which can be attributed to the decline of the Green vote.   …

Labour lost in Auckland, performing worst of all in seats with a high number of migrants.  

Contrast New Lynn with Nelson, for example, to get the idea. Labour’s party vote actually declined by 500 votes between 2014 and 2017 in the West Auckland seat. This is despite the Greens tally dropping by 1700 — a factor, in New Lynn and across the city, that masked the severity of Labour’s problems. 

In the nearby seat of Te Atatu, Labour’s party vote inched ahead but only by claiming roughly half the discarded Green pile.

The local MP, Phil Twyford, Labour’s campaign chair and architect of the Chinese surnames stunt, even managed to shave a few hundred off from his majority — a rare but dubious achievement for an opposition frontbencher up against a minister in a third-term government.  

Opposition MPs should not be having majorities go down when up against a Government seeking a 4th term.

In the absence of exit polling, we need to make some educated guesses about what explains the chasm between Labour’s relatively strong showing in places like Nelson, and the meagre gains in Auckland. 

National’s strength among recent immigrants has emerged as a key advantage that, bedded down, could spell long term trouble for Labour. More than one in three New Lynn residents identifies as Asian, and about the same proportion of Te Atatu’s voters were born outside New Zealand.

If yesterday is any guide, National is building a beachhead around these vibrant and growing ethnic communities no less formidable than those Labour historically achieved with Pasifika and South Asian migrants.  

Of course, National’s courting of Asian New Zealanders was aided in no small part by Labour’s unwise decision to make enemies of them.  

If there was any doubt that Twyford’s surname gambit caused long-term damage to Labour’s brand among New Zealand’s fastest growing ethnic minority, surely last night’s results remove it. In seat after seat, the correlation between a high Asian population and a strong National Party showing is undeniable.

Thanks Phil, we owe you.

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