It will be an historic shock if the Northland or Whangārei electorates - which are on a knife-edge after Saturday's general election - are won by Labour, a political commentator says.
Massey University political commentator, Associate Professor Grant Duncan, said with both seats traditionally safe National Party seats it was still amazing that they had a huge shift to the left on Saturday, just like the rest of the country.
In Whangārei incumbent National party MP Dr Shane Reti won on the night over Labour's Emily Henderson with 15,639, votes, compared to the first-time candidate's 15,475. It's a 164 vote lead, but Reti said that was far too close to claim victory. Reti won the seat in the 2017 election by 10,967 votes over Labour's Tony Savage.
And in Northland, incumbent National MP Matt King was similarly unwilling to claim victory, despite winning the vote on the night.
King won 15,337 votes, 729 ahead of Willow-Jean Prime's 14,608. He had a 1389 majority in the 2017 general election over NZ First leader Winston Peters.
But in the party vote in Northland Labour won 16,931 votes compared to National's 11,317 and in Whangārei Labour got 17,899 party votes, compared to National's 10,422.
It's the first time that Labour has won the party vote in both electorates at the same election.
Duncan said it would be a shock of historic proportions if Labour won one of the seats, let alone both, with Labour's only previous win in any electorate in the region 1972 in Whangārei.
''And Labour won big time in the party vote up there. It was, as they say in the US a good shellacking. I was watching it unfold on the night and couldn't believe what I was seeing.
"Emily was ahead of Shane for most of the night and the race between Matt and Willow-Jean kept going back and forth. It was dramatic to watch,'' he said.
Duncan said while several thousand traditional right-leaning rural voters from the west of the Whangārei electorate were moved into the Northland electorate due to a boundary change, it was clear that those voters didn't back National as if they did the electorate would not be so close.
He said Henderson ran a very good campaign and was widely visible in the electorate in the weeks leading up to the election, while Reti was hamstrung somewhat by being National's health spokesman who had to spend a lot of the campaign trail with the party leader.
"That may have meant that he could not be seen in the electorate as much during the campaign, and that may have been noticed by voters,'' Duncan said.
''And while Matt King is seen around the electorate a lot, Willow-Jean Prime has a high profile and the swing to Labour across the country carried her
along on the wave.''
He said special votes usually favoured the left - Labour and the Greens have both gained extra seats in recent elections after special votes were counted - so King, and Reti particularly, given the small margin, would both be very worried.
Duncan said National's reaction to the Government's Covid-19 response also did not serve the party well, which was seen in electorates across the country.
''Judith Collins tried to take on a very popular Prime Minister who many in the world has said had handled the pandemic fairly well. But Judith Collins made a huge error which was to go off message and attack the Government's response. She should have stuck to the message of promoting the economic recovery,'' he said.
''She couldn't get any traction by attacking Jacinda Ardern's response, because the Government nailed it, (compared to most of the rest of the world) and that didn't have credibility with people. So Judith went off message to attack the Government when she should have stuck to what National does best, talk about the economic recovery.
''Also the scare-mongering about the Greens and the wealth tax. That backfired by pushing traditional National supporters to vote for Labour just to keep the Greens out. There's evidence that that is what many traditional National voters did.''
He said Collins' attack on obesity - effectively calling it a weakness - did not go down well with voters.
He said if Reti lost Whangārei it could work out better for the electorate as he would still get into Parliament due to his high place in National's list.
"So Whangārei would then have two MPs in Parliament working for them.''
Duncan said with the huge shift to Labour in Northland and Whangārei it was
fair enough to say that both electorates could be considered marginal - which could only be good for voters.
A marginal seat would get more attention from both major parties as they would have a good chance of winning the seat, whereas safe seats generally did not get as much attention.
Whangārei was first created for the 1972 election when Murray Smith won it for Labour.
It's been held by National ever since 1975 when John Elliot held it for two terms. John Banks then held it for six terms between 1981 and 1999, when Phil Heatley then won and held it for five terms until the 2014 election, when Reti won it.
The Northland electorate was established for the 1996 election. It was held by National Party MP John Carter from 1996 to 2011, and then National's Mike Sabin until his resignation on January 30, 2015. The by-election in March 2015 was won by NZ First party leader Winston Peters. Peters was defeated by National's Matt King in the 2017 general election.
■ Associate Professor Grant Duncan teaches public policy and political theory at Massey's Albany campus and is a regular media commentator on New Zealand politics.
He is a social scientist and author of many academic publications on social policy, public policy and public management in New Zealand.