It's not the winning - it's how they are winning.

And winning badly at the Mana byelection on Saturday means Labour leader Phil Goff and the wider party can take little heart from the result apart from keeping the seat in Labour hands.

Not that you can tell from the outside.

Some in Labour who should know better are creatively suggesting that Labour actually did better in the byelection than the last general election, despite having its majority slashed from 6155 to 1080.

From three senior figures has come the suggestions that Kris Faafoi winning 47 per cent of the candidate vote on Saturday was a better result than the 43.9 per cent party vote that the party got in 2008, when Winnie Laban stood.

That is like comparing raisins and sheep droppings.

On the inside, the party will have a thorough review. There will be no point in looking at the candidate selection where Mr Goff's press secretary parachuted in to beat committed local activist Josie Pagani.

But its review is certain to look at the campaign and the issues it chose, GST, roading, and Mr Faafoi's local credentials.

With the possibility of a byelection in Manurewa looming if retiring MP George Hawkins does not like the candidate selected on December 12, the party's campaigning abilities could be tested again soon.

Mr Goff's job is not in jeopardy as a result of the walloping the party took. But he was certainly denied the morale boost the Mt Albert byelection gave to his leadership last year.

Some of his MPs may be less optimistic at their chances of regaining former Labour strongholds such as Auckland Central and Waitakere.

Even Mr Faafoi may be feeling a little nervous - next year he won't have the might of Labour's party organisation behind him to the same extent.

The byelection result for some other parties will be heartening.

National's Hekia Parata celebrated like a winner on Saturday and Prime Minister John Key said coming second had never felt so good.

Green candidate Jan Logie was a strong presence in the campaign and performed well enough to be in contention for a high spot on the Green Party list next election.

But the result of Independent candidate Matt McCarten is likely to delay any plans for a new left wing party to be formed this term around the Unite union for low-paid workers.

Despite receiving almost as much publicity as the two big parties, his 816 votes represented 3.6 per cent of the vote.

Former Green MP Sue Bradford will speak at the Unite union's annual meeting next weekend where the issue of a left wing party will be discussed.

And Mr McCarten himself last week expressed doubts on RadioLive that the mood was right at present.