Early thoughts on the Botany by-election

Written By: - Date published: 10:30 am, December 16th, 2010 - 27 comments
Categories: by-election - Tags: , , , ,

The front-runner for National is Jamie-Lee Ross, who is just 25 years old. He’s currently a Supercity councillor and co-leader of CitRats. One of the main players in the (ongoing) smear campaign against Len Brown and a good mate of Whaleoil, there’s no doubting Ross has animal cunning. But he’s pretty light on record and when he wins he will force a by-election for the Howick council seat after just a couple of months in office. Those factors will count against him but Ross would have to pull a Melissa Lee to come close to losing Wong’s 10,800 majority.

National will want to spin any win as an endorsement of John Key but, going by the Mana script, unless Ross manages to keep nearly all the majority intact, it will be judged a failure for Key.

Will Winston stand? I think he might. It’s worth remembering that his first seat was Hunua, which he won in 1978. Now, three electorates called Hunua have existed three times with very different boundaries. The modern Hunua electorate borders Botany to the south but the 1978 Hunua was extended further north, and only included the Hunua ranges to the south, whereas the modern Hunua goes right across to the west coast. Most of the voters in the 1978 Hunua that Peters won lived in what is now Botany. Sure, it was 33 years ago, and it was a tight race against Labour’s Malcolm Douglas (Roger’s brother), with Peters losing in 1981 to Colin Moyle. Nonetheless, there would be a certain sense of grandeur, so typical of Winston, to returning to the political scene by fighting in the area that first elected him to Parliament.

He wouldn’t win, of course. This is an electorate that is one third Asian and, even if NZF’s overtly racist days are long behind it, I can’t see many of them voting for Peters. But the race would give him a tremendous platform ahead of the general election. Especially if Labour effectively cedes the field, making him the main contender.

I think it is likely that Labour will do that. Koro Tawa lost to Wong by 10,800 votes last time. He hasn’t been confirmed as the candidate for the general election but no-one else seems to have put their hand up. Two campaigns in a year might be too much for a busy academic like Tawa, so maybe someone else will contest the by-election. Whether Tawa or someone else stands for Labour, they’re not going to win.

As with the by-election when Tariana Turia resigned her seat in Te Tai Hauauru, Labour could choose not to run a candidate at all and declare the whole exercise an expensive farce since it will precede the general election by, at most, 8 months. More likely they’ll use it as an early launching pad for the election – rather than centre around the candidate as in Mana they could put them in a subsidary role and have Phil Goff rolling out policy and vision while challenging Key to defend his record. There’s no point keeping their powder dry to the last moment in their situation.

Rather than going all out to win, Labour will use this opportunity fine-tune its Auckland campaign machine, not that it has been short on practice with Mt Albert and the Supercity campaign. The party won’t want to expend a huge amount of money on a sure loser. (btw, I suspect one reason Key has opted for a by-election rather than timing Wong’s resignation and the general election so that they are within 6 months of each other and a by-election is unnecessary is to try to drain Labour’s funds).

Another interesting player is ACT’s Kenneth Wang. ACT has made strong plays for the Asian vote in the past and Wang won nearly 5,000 votes in 2008,  close third to Tawa. If he is the only candidate who is both Asian and a former MP, he may well improve dramatically on that performance.

While a win for Ross is assured, there’s still an opportunity for this to be an exciting race if Labour seizes the opportunity to kick off its campaign early and if Peters and/or Wang eat into National’s majority.

An interesting note: if the four I’ve talked about end up being the main candidates, or even if Winston doesn’t come to the party, then we’ll have the remarkable situation of a general electorate seat being contested by 2 or 3 Maori and a Chinese-New Zealander without a Pakeha in the running. All part of the changing face of New Zealand.

27 comments on “Early thoughts on the Botany by-election”

  1. The sleeper will be Stephen Ching’s New Citizen Party. They may use Botany to see what sort of reach they can get.

    • Irascible 1.1

      Has Ching formed his NCParty? His involvement in the Labour Party should be terminated – and good riddance.

      • Bunji 1.1.1

        Yup, it’s been registered. It even has a wikipedia page. So far it’s main news is being connected to the crafar farms bid

        • Irascible 1.1.1.1

          I recall Ching saying that his Party was designed to assist the Crafar Farms bid.
          Ching is always quoted by the Herald as being a Labour Party member when they want to embarass Labour. He was still a member earlier this year I gather has the NZ Council expelled him from the Party or has his membership lapsed?
          Whatever scenario it will be good for Labour to be rid of the encumbrance of the Chings.

  2. Jim Nald 2

    It is tempting to consider the following as one option …

    … that Labour declare the Botany by-election, being a few months off the general elections, effectively a waste of the electorate’s time and a waste of the party’s & taxpayers’ resources, and that Labour will fully contest that seat as would be appropriate at the general election

    … that since it is the role of an opposition holding the current government to account, Labour will carefully target and campaign the Botany by-election in a strategic and smart way

  3. Alwyn 3

    “nearly all the majority intact”
    Hmm. On the Mana result that would mean anything less that 2500 or so to National would be bad for the Nats.
    Is that about the number you have in mind?

    • Bunji 3.1

      As the current party vote majority (which when you have non-incumbents is the more reliable measure of party support) is 11,400, I think whatever proportion of that relating to relative turn-out would be fair. So maybe about 8,000. Labour fell just slightly short of their similar target in Mana due to Matt McCarten cannibalising a bit of the vote. If the New Citizen’s Party run and do okay I might allow a few hundred less as National’s target…

      Just to be fair.

      • swordfish 3.1.1

        It’s a real pity Botany isn’t the reverse of Mana. If Wong’s 2008 Candidate-Vote majority had been significantly higher than National’s Party-Vote majority (in the same way that Winnie Laban was vastly more popular than Labour in Mana), then we’d have a very interesting situation.

        To be consistent, leading MSM journalists (and influential Right-Wing Bloggers like Farrar) would be forced to treat Wong’s personal majority as a “National” one in the same way they erroneously did with Laban/Labour in Mana. And if Wong’s personal (Candidate-Vote) majority had been, say, 3000 votes higher than National’s Party-Vote in Botany (as with Laban and Labour in Mana), then I’m pretty sure you’d see the same sort of partial collapse. (given that in a ONE-vote By-Election people will generally opt for the candidate representing their 2008 Party-Vote preference – their core political allegiance). You’d have all these former Wong-supporting Labour, Green and perhaps Minor-party voters (along with the less pragmatic section of Act supporters – those unwilling to vote strategically for the Nats), opting for their own candidate. And to be consistent, the MSM would be forced to make the same dire conclusions about National’s election chances.

        But, unfortunately, whereas Laban was 3000 votes (9 percentage points) MORE popular than Labour in Mana (2008), Wong was, in fact, 2000 votes (5 percentage points) LESS popular than National in Botany.

        So, if people generally vote along Party lines, we should expect the National candidate’s vote to increase (at least in % terms). However, Eddie’s right in that Act’s Wang may well prove a real drawcard, particularly if he’s the only Asian candidate. All is not lost.

  4. This seat could be open to any local B-grade celebrity also wannabe politician who wished to stand. National’s brand has been discredited by Pansy, and while Jami is ambitious and talented, however is ultimately a cheap party hack.

    They’d be better off choosing Paul Henry.

  5. it’s a mistake to think asians wouldn’t vote for mr peters. you would think that they would be very against him, but a surprising number aren’t. there are those who buy into the anti-maori, treaty-gravy-train message. there are those well-settled asian nz’ers who look down on lately- arrived migrants & think that immigration should be tightened so these newcomers can no longer get in.

    a lot of the asian demographic is high-income, conservative in nature – our immigration policies are designed so that it is more likely that conservatives rather than progressives are going to settle in this country (something that mr peters never bothers to bring up in his overblown rhetoric on immigration). the messages mr peters gives out often appeal to their conservative outlook – especially the law and order stuff. wasn’t it botany that saw that big march basically for harsher sentences?

    so yeah, don’t make the mistake of making blanket assumptions about any ethnic group. not even about asians in relation to nz first.

  6. Nick C 6

    “when he wins he will force a by-election for the Howick council seat after just a couple of months in office”

    He might not resign. If Jim Anderton could be a party leader and the mayor of a whole city up until an earthquake hit then why cant he be a Backbench MP and council member (without many other appointments)?

    “Labour could choose not to run a candidate at all and declare the whole exercise an expensive farce”.

    Perhaps, but I think it would dent their credibility as a major party if they didnt run. Labour have forced two by elections in safe seats this term which National have fought, they might look like they’re scared if all of a sudden a safe National seat pops up and they dont want to come to the party. Also they can hardly label the by election a farce when they were the ones calling for Pansy to resign, and the by election is simply a consequence of that.

    • He has been quoted as promising to resign from the Auckland Council. Not just if he wins the seat, but if he wins the nomination.

    • The Voice of Reason 6.2

      From stuff, yesterday:

      Ross said if successful in winning selection and the Botany by-election he will step down as a member of the Auckland council.

      “It would not be possible to do justice to both jobs, especially with the expanded role for new Auckland councillors.”

  7. randal 7

    I think Labour will waltz in.
    national is in disarray.

  8. Luke 8

    It will be great to see Jami-Lee Ross off the council. His focus on muck-raking is not what Auckland needs. He will be much less harmless in parliament and fade into the background. He seems to be the only councillor who doesnt want to pull together and get things done for the good of auckland.

    • Irascible 8.1

      Why put such a muck-raker into parliament when the demand is to raise the standard of behaviour above that sanctioned by John Key??
      Botany would lose a corrupt MP and gain a vicious muck-raking whelp.

  9. Lindsey 9

    What about Aaron Bhatnagar? I have heard his name mentioned for the Nats in Epsom, but he might have a look at Botany.

  10. Just to let you know folks – I’ve thrown my scarf into the ring.
    I’ll be standing in the Botany by-election as an Independent candidate on an anti-corruption/pro (GENUINE) transparency platform.
    Opposition to privatisation / contracting out of public services will also be part of my platform.
    For more information – check out: http://waterpressure.wordpress.com

    Penny Bright
    Media Spokesperson
    Water Pressure Group
    Judicially recognised ‘Public Watchdog’ on Metrowater, water and Auckland regional governance matters.
    “Anti-corruption campaigner”.
    Attendee: Australian Public Sector Anti-Corruption Conference 2009
    Attendee: Transparency International 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) 2010
    Auckland Mayoral candidate 2010
    [email deleted]

  11. SPC 11

    Just find someone called White or Wright on the Labour Party membership list in region.

  12. Drakula 12

    It would be interesting to have a system that disallowed party candidates and allowed only independants.

    They present their policies and any promises broken politicians be fined, and then jailed the 2nd time.

    I wish Penney a Bright future

  13. Shazzadude 13

    Could Raymond Huo cut the majority in Botany perhaps?

    I think Winston will look at Botany (unless Te Atatu comes up), it would be a great platform for him towards the 5%. It could maybe be a good way of dispelling any notion that he’s anti-Asian.

  14. irascible 14

    A new list of possible candidates in the Pakuranga Times
    http://www.times.co.nz/cms/news/2010/12/names_in_ring_to_be_next_mp.php

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