The week, the year, the electoral term …
Opinions about the Northland by-election are like cliches, they’re getting trotted out all over the place. So why not add my 2c?
I’m on the record saying I don’t think Labour can win the seat, but can definitely use the by-election as a platform to get Labour’s message out to a wider audience. But that was before Winston was a definite contestant, and now the big question seems to be whether a three-horse race is going to ruin everyone’s fun.
Is Willow-Jean Prime going to “cost” Winston the by-election? No, in the same way Green voters didn’t “cost” Labour the chance to retire Peter Dunne and the same way Labour-candidate voters didn’t “cost” the left as a whole the chance to retire ACT. Voters are smart. Sometimes they may not vote in the way a
totally rational actor I would personally, but we have to trust that they’re ticking whatever box they tick for reasons which are good enough for them.
The voters of Northland will vote as they see fit, and we might not like the result. If we don’t accept that then we may have to rethink how committed we are to some basic democratic principles.
I’m not a Northland person. I have distant-relatives-by-marriage up there and a BFF who spent her childhood there and at uni I dated a guy whose parents are farmers in some small town I can never remember the name of. I’m an Aucklander transplanted to Wellington. I have about as much sense of the ~mood~ of the electorate as Winston has an ability to stop himself grinning when he’s being cheeky to Tova O’Brien.
What I do know is that ~everyone knows~ by-elections have lower turnout, and this favours the incumbent. And in the MMP era the only time an electorate has changed parties in a by-election is when the incumbent MP re-wins their seat. So a Winston victory is a long shot, whatever the 3News polls say. And it would be a great poke in the eye to National to lose a safe seat, another black mark on the start of their third term.
But I’m not going to hold my breath.
And it’s still a great platform for Labour to get their messages out there.
With Mike Sabin’s precipitous resignation, a by-election is on the cards in Northland, and soon:
It’s exciting times for politics nerds like myself, but the fact is that Labour isn’t going to be taking Northland off National, no matter what comes out of the rumours swirling around Sabin. He was returned with a 9,300 majority and Labour got just 16% of the party vote there last year.
But this is still a great opportunity for the left. Andrew Little has made it very clear that his focus for the year ahead is jobs, jobs, jobs – and Northland is a region that’s been really hard hit by unemployment and the increasing gap between rich and poor.
With a team spearheaded (potentially) by the fantastic Willow Jean Prime, supported by local Māori MP Kelvin Davis, and a lot of lefties eager to move past the horrible 2014 result and capitalise on the Nats’ moment of weakness, this byelection is a platform we can use to put jobs, inequality and the National government’s total lack of serious action on the map.
Labour isn’t going to win this battle – but by fighting it well we start to turn the war around.