The Te Tai Tokerau by-election has the potential to be a game-changer. If it comes off for Kelvin on Saturday the result may shake up a few other predictions for the general election – another example of the wisdom of Harold Wilson’s famous remark that a week is a long time in politics.
Not so long ago all sorts of people were predicting a clean sweep for the Maori Party in the Maori electorates. Then when Hone broke ranks it was Hone was a shoe-in; a brilliant strategy according to academic and outside-left media commentator Bryce Edwards. The change of expectations has also made another from the old Alliance, Matt McCarten, a bit snippy and seeing all sorts of dark plots in his Herald column.
What has made the difference? In my view Hone has committed two of the besetting sins of politics – falling victim to hubris, and believing his own bullshit. Kelvin’s style is different from Hone’s, quietly assertive, with Hone’s jibe that Kelvin’s just a teacher showing how far off the mark he is. Voters aren’t silly and they don’t mind a choice. This by-election has given them a choice between a leader with a proven success record and one who promises far more than he can ever deliver.
Now it’s down to who goes out on the day. After the battle of the hustings will come the battle of the explanations – they will be fascinating.