Congratulations to Labour for a very clever strategy in the Northland by-election – lulling and gulling John Key into thinking they were going to run a conventional proxy-partyvote campaign, where National would have the upper hand. Key, the rockstar politician, also thought Andrew Little would be on the training wheels. He got that badly wrong; Little’s handling was superb.
The exact timing of events doesn’t really matter – being a by-election it was always winnable for the Opposition, and once there was a two-horse race it was all over, given all the local issues. Winston Peters coming home was the icing on the cake; he’s a much misunderstood and underestimated politician in my view, a principled high achiever who grew up with mud between his toes and has never forgotten it. His story is a good one, and is a long way from over.
I’m delighted to read that Andrew Little is going to talk to Winston Peters – effective MMP politics is all about being able to talk to each other: agreeing, disagreeing and agreeing to disagree. Once again John Key has hit the wrong note by being dismissive of Winston.
Another point to note is that the polls beat the pundits hands down. There probably aren’t all that many landlines in Northland compared to the rest of the country. And if the messaging is badly wrong – as it was here – all that the army on the ground or on the phones does is to drive votes in the opposite direction.
And I suspect lprent has got it right when he puts increased early voting down to different voting habits rather than party activity – people like the convenience. Not too much can be read into the raw numbers, but early voting will change the way parties campaign. For example, I think Labour in the last three campaigns has placed too much emphasis on the campaign period proper, when the result had effectively been decided a year out from the election.