Of the 1,916 special votes reported on the night a bare 769 made it into the final results. Of which Hone Harawira got 454 and Kelvin Davis got 204. This slightly increased Hone’s majority by 250 over election night, but there really isn’t anything in it with a by-election majority of 1117. It will make this a tight contest at election time because Labour will now view this electorate as being quite winnable.
If you’re like me and interested in campaign performances by the numbers, look back to the 2008 election where you will find that the electorate vote for Kelvin Davis was 5,711 – in other words despite the by-election he hung on or gained 86% of the vote in the general election. Whereas if you look at the combined Hone Harawira and Solomon Tipene vote against Hone’s vote of 12,019 for the Maori party in 2008 it was 59%.
Bearing in mind the turnout in the electorate of 60% of the 2008 turnout this is very good result for Kelvin Davis and Labour. He turned Labour voters out into some really miserable weather for a by-election and nearly made his 2008 figures. I suspect he will be spending quite a lot of time in the electorate helping to boost those figures for the general election.
At this point Te Tai Tokerau looks quite winnable for Labour. Of course Labour will not be able to put as many people on the ground as they did with this by-election. However the effect of canvassing and targeting operations is cumulative. The more information you collect the more efficiently you can use scarce resources. They will leverage off that.
The picture for the nascent Mana Party is a bit more problematic. They will need to really look at how they can boost their support in this electorate if they want to use Te Tai Tokerau to boost themselves into Parliament from a party vote that increasingly looks like it will be below the threshold. Part of that will be from the Hone doing the speaking and greeting and the biggest cost of that will probably be that it reduces his ability to do it across the country.
But I suspect that much of the effort for Mana will require the sheer drudgery of building an electorate organisation that can campaign against Labour. Because Labour doesn’t give sweetheart deals like National is trying to give to Act in Epsom.
The Maori Party in Te Tai Tokerau? That really depends on how much of a spoiler they want to be to Mana. It looks very unlikely that the can win against Hone this year. But you can understand why the peace feelers are being extended from Hone – they can probably tilt the Mana Party to oblivion if they fight hard and let Labor through instead.
It is going to be interesting watching what happens in Te Tai Tokerau at ground level over the next five months. But I’d have to say (as a long time electorate campaigner) that some of the spinning from the Mana supporters about their performance in the by-election has been greatly over blown. They may have effectively seen off the Maori Party in the electorate, but that leaves them facing a Labour party candidate who is did pretty well.