Rodney Hide: Mt Roskill byelection crucial for Labour

A Labour loss would be enormous. Photo / Getty Images
A Labour loss would be enormous. Photo / Getty Images

The Mt Roskill byelection could wreck Labour.

Oh but Mt Roskill's Labour's seat - look at Phil Goff's majority. Governments don't take seats off oppositions in byelections - look at history.

But National won Mt Roskill's party vote last election by more than 2000 votes. That's a win by 6 per cent. Mt Roskill had more National voters than Labour ones. That's a bad start for Labour.

Also, low turnout plagues byelections. It can be as little as half that of the general election. That low turnout can dramatically skew the result. I suspect National voters are more likely to vote in Mt Roskill than Labour ones.

And yes the Greens with their new love-in with Labour aren't standing a candidate, but that makes Labour look weak and desperate.

Plus I don't think it helps. The Green candidate for Mt Roskill took only 5 per cent last election.

And a great many of those Green voters won't vote in the byelection having been deprived of their candidate.

There's also a problem for Labour with the electorate. Almost half of Mt Roskill was born overseas. Less than half are European. That doesn't bode well for Labour who clumsily blamed high house prices on voters with foreign-sounding names. That was heard loud and clear in Mt Roskill.

And then there's Auckland. National has 20 Auckland MPs. Labour 9. More importantly, National's heavy hitters are from Auckland. That used to be true of Labour but not any more. Labour's political heavyweights are Wellington-based.

Labour has lost its political reach and pull in Auckland and National has filled that political vacuum.

Prime Minister John Key downplayed National's chances pointing out that no government has ever taken a seat from the opposition in a byelection but that National would "give it a good go".

Indeed. National start ahead in the party vote and get to play underdog.

If Labour wins the the byelection no one will notice. There will not be a ripple. If they lose, there will be a political tsunami.

That should incentivise National. Plus they would get back that crucial parliamentary vote they lost in Northland leaving them weakened in government.

- Herald on Sunday

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Rodney Hide

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