Written By: - Date published: 7:25 am, November 25th, 2013 - 44 comments
Categories: by-election, david cunliffe, greens, john key, labour, national - Tags: christchurch east, Matthew Doocey, Poto Williams
The campaign has been lower key than some other recent by election Campaigns. The Mount Albert by election in 2009 had intensive media coverage but with four other by elections occurring in the last four years their novelty has diminished.
There has been some attempt to write the election as being in the bag for Labour but nothing can be further from the truth. Bunji is right and the seat is up for grabs.
The result at the last election was less than pleasing. Although Lianne Dalziel won the electorate vote handsomely by 5,334 votes, she was competing against Aaron Gilmore. And the party vote was lost by Labour to National by 4,152 votes. The default position should be that this election is National’s for the winning.
Kiwis can be sophisticated political consumers. The MMP environment has taught them that they can get the MP of their choice and the party of their choice. And they want to guard their rights to preserve these choices. This is why in 2009 David Shearer won so handsomely against Melissa Lee. He ran a competent on the ground get out the vote campaign using some of the best Auckland activists that Labour has while Melissa Lee had a shocker of a campaign. The polling at the time should have seen National cruise home. The fact that Labour won so convincingly showed the strength of the on the ground effort, the quality of the candidate and the fact that Mount Albert residents wanted to exercise their own choice about who should be their MP.
And if you need any further proof of the sophistication of the New Zealand elector bear in mind that last election 30% of voters split their votes between candidates of one party while party voting for a different party.
The second feature that is making this by election so difficult is that Christchurch East has been the electorate hardest hit by the Christchurch earthquakes. This was brought home to me very strongly when I did some door knocking in the area recently. Of the streets that I door knocked about 10% of the sections either had houses that were boarded up or had been demolished. And perhaps a third of the doors that I knocked on had people who had moved since the last election and were not on the roll for that property.
The trip out was very sobering. We drove past the suburb of Bexley where parts were red zoned because of the inability to restore infrastructure and the sight of street after street of boarded up houses which otherwise looked habitable was chilling. The recently released draft electoral boundaries shows the extent of the dislocation that has occurred in Christchurch East. The electorate is now 13,700 under quota which means that a shade under one out of every four electors has left the electorate.
The response that I received while door knocking was pretty good but this was in a Labour part of the electorate. Pretty well everyone had heard of Poto Williams and most thought highly of Lianne Dalziel. There is very obviously a need to convert knowledge into support though and the job of Poto is to persuade locals that she is a competent and able representative.
I was impressed however by the local organisation. I had the sense that the local Labour team were a group of dedicated knowledgable activists and this was a feeling that I last felt during the Mount Albert by election. I am sure they will have a similar get out the vote election day effort but obviously they need as many volunteers as possible.
The Greens appear to be running an energetic campaign although Mojo Mathers was their candidate last time and you wonder why she is not the candidate now. David Moorhouse sounds competent if somewhat negative but I suspect that most electors will see this as being a Poto Williams v Matthew Doocey battle.
Doocey has his problems. He appears to be eyeing up the possibility of standing for the safe Waimakariri seat and does not live in the Christchurch East electorate. There is also an abrasiveness to him which is bound to turn ordinary people off.
The approach of the leaders is interesting. John Key is trying to downplay National’s chances and suggesting that it is in the bag for Labour. David Cunliffe is saying that turnout is critical. David is right, a low turnout could see National squeak through.
There is a sense of change in Christchurch. The recent local government election results saw a progressive mayor and council elected and there seems to be increasing despair at the Government’s handling of issues surrounding the earthquake. There was patience but this seems to be changing to despair as the rebuild takes longer and longer to happen. And I believe that Poto is the ideal candidate for the time, approachable, compassionate and caring as opposed to Doocey’s rather abrupt style.
But time will tell. And turnout will be vital.
Update: Comments will be moderated until 7 pm tomorrow because of election day restrictions.