The only two with a chance out of the 11 candidates are Winston Peters of NZ First, who has lately decided to throw his hat in, and the Nat candidate Mark Osborne. Labour’s Willow-Jean Prime has virtually no chance.
John Key has done a rapid reversal on his earlier prediction that Peters had “zero” chance of wresting the true-blue seat off National. A recent poll showed Peters (35%) leading, Mark Osborne (30%). Key said today that National had “a big job to do” in Northland. Key will campaign in Northland tomorrow, and said he would make at least three visits to the electorate. “That’s a bit more than I normally would in a by-election,” he said.
National have badly underestimated ill feeling towards the party in Northland. Key’s overall complacency towards Conservatives across the country is one reason. Another is the perception (right or wrong) that the Nats have taken Northland pretty much for granted.
Yet another possible reason is the perception the electorate might have that they were duped into voting for the Nat candidate at the last election. They might feel they were purposefully not told by the Nats of serious allegations against Mike Sabin. Allegations that they feel came to light just too soon after the election for it to be a coincidence.
On top of that again are suspicions Mark Osborne in his then role of electorate treasurer, played a part in that perceived deceit. None of this would encourage them to vote for National again.
A loss in the by-election would leave National with only 59 seats in the 121 seat parliament and therefore at the mercy of The Maori Party and or ex-Labour Party Peter Dunne, now a one man band as United Future.
There are two points about the by-election I think are interesting.
- Labour made a major mistake running a candidate at all once Peters declared. Labour’s withdrawal would have made a win by Peters much more likely. With Willow-Jean in the race and slitting the anti-National vote, it improves Nationals chances. However the real issue for Labour now is that if Winston takes all of the vote from Labour, it won’t look that good for Andrew Little’s leadership.
- National strategists too have been shown up. In the last election Nats should have been far friendlier to the Conservative Party. With a few more votes, the Conservatives could have brought National a much stronger coalition. Now they pay the price of John Key’s arrogance and his innate Progressive aversion to the Conservative Party.
“It’s like Winston’s greatest hits tour. It’s like sort of John Rowles or Tom Jones going round one more time,” said Mr Joyce derisively when Peters announced his candidacy. A lot of people in Northland like John Rowles and Tom Jones Steven. They’re not at all like your average Wellington beltway hipster.