The Dim-Post

March 29, 2015

And more on Northland

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 11:48 am

There were a whole lot of counter-balancing things going on in Northland. On one hand it was a super-safe National seat. On the other hand, that whole Sabin thing. But then again, the National Party political machine: Key, Joyce, Crosby/Textor, Curia, shitloads of money – they threw everything at this. But their actual candidate was a total novice going up against Winston Peters. And there was strategic voting. And the media bias against National was overwhelming. And voters could ‘send a message’ without changing the government.

I feel like all of these things should have factored against each other to produce a narrow win for National. Maybe a really narrow contested-on-the-specials win for Peters. And I was wrong. It was a landslide. Two factors counted for a lot more than they should have. They were, I think:

  • The National machine under-performed. Not only did they get the tone of their messaging horribly wrong – the bridge bribe, the fleets of crown limos – but the actual on-the-ground organisation was, apparently, a total shambles until the final week of the campaign. People told me that while the campaign was underway and I simply didn’t believe them. How can you pour that much money and that much expertise into something and deliver such a catastrophe?
  • Like I said in a previous post, the huge number of Labour supporters who turned out to cast strategic votes for another party in a by-election was (a) decisive and (b) surprising.

What does it all mean? The symbolism is obvious. All the actual result tells us is that in extraordinary circumstances a strong populist conservative candidate can win a seat off National so long as Labour doesn’t contest it.


  1. This may be shallow, but I can’t help thinking that having a candidate who looked like something out of Deliverance didn’t help the Nats. There might be a substantial six-finger community in Northland Honky, but possibly not enough to get them over the line. Especially given the previous candidate’s alleged behaviour.

    Comment by richdrich — March 29, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

  2. “How can you pour that much money and that much expertise into something and deliver such a catastrophe?”

    EQC, CERA, RoNS with BCR < 0.5, Auckland Super City, Education Reforms, Oil Exploration etc.

    These folks have form …

    Comment by Naturesong — March 29, 2015 @ 1:24 pm

  3. Look at the booths. Osborne won the rural hinterland which is rusted-on blue, Wellsford which is basically Auckland’s northern doorstep and is till doing nicely out of its proximity to the big smoke (whereas during the early 90s recession it was a ghost town). Paihia is also thriving. But all the service centers went overwhelming to Winston. Those places are hurting and have never really recovered from givernment service cuts in the 1980s. mangawhai has not forgiven National bailing out Kaipara District Council when it would have otherwise fallen in the retirement zone blue belt.

    Comment by jonocarpenter — March 29, 2015 @ 1:25 pm

  4. Whats to bet that. NZ First, probably with Shane Jones for next election in sweetheart deal to keep The Greens and Labour at bay, just may have inched closer – as Hide suggested inThe Herald?

    Northland has Winston, Labour has Winston, The Greens have Winston. Key has Winston. Every body who really wanted Winston now has Winston (and some who didn’t).

    You would have to have a heart of stone to read this without smiling, unless you were Willow-Jean Prime of course. Peters, to survive, is in a better position to negotiate with the government, and Key/Joyce will be wondering how to make lemonade out of lemons. What will they negotiate between them? After all, National has nothing to lose by appearing generous to Northland.

    Andrew Little was the architect of this ‘message to the government’ it will be interesting to see if the message was understood.

    Comment by Lee Clark — March 29, 2015 @ 1:27 pm

  5. “Super-Safe National seat” ?

    I wouldn’t quite go THAT far, Danyl…..A Solid, Stable Nat/Right Bloc seat ? Yes…… Super-Safe ? No.

    See my detailed comment here…

    Comment by swordfish — March 29, 2015 @ 2:24 pm

  6. “…And the media bias against National was overwhelming…”

    You’ve got to be joking.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 29, 2015 @ 2:29 pm

  7. ” a candidate who looked like something out of Deliverance”

    Once you get out of the main towns, everyone in Northland, Maori and Pakeha, looks like something out of Deliverance.

    From a party point of view It was the revenge of the dwarves, a symbolic humiliation of National to assuage the horror of election night 2014 for Winston when he was harassed and chased into an elevator at the NZ Party venue by TV3’s Tova O’Brien when it became clear he would not be a factor in the formation of the next Government. And it gives United Future the marginal vote it needs to extract something nice down the track. For Labour there was teeny weeny gain in seeing National lose and maybe some consideration down the track if Winston holds the marginal vote at the next election. But it was also a demonstration of weakness and deference to NZ First, something all their activists will hate. They also humiliated their own candidate but that is part of the price of this kind of deal as National candidates in Ohariu and Wellington Central have discovered, although Paul Goldsmith and Katrina Shanks managed the consolation prize of the list. I guess Willow Jean will be looking at that option next time round. For National practically speaking not much change other than Peter Dunne having extra leverage and a reduction in their safety margin for the balance of the term and the prospect of the Maori Party as the next option for a coalition partner if another MP bites the dust. Symbolically, it is of course a loss but if National respond with humility its significance will be limited. Will they be capable of that after Winston has won his first ever battle with Key?

    Comment by Tinakori — March 29, 2015 @ 3:16 pm

  8. I fail to see any benefit for Labour or Little, after all the bleating about Epsom they look like hypocrites and can’t beat that drum ever again. Labour are losers and not even in the game and I fail to see why they weren’t putting out their message and giving Little a platform and showing they are players, quite staggering really.

    Comment by David — March 29, 2015 @ 8:43 pm

  9. @ richdrich: “…. having a candidate who looked like something out of Deliverance….”

    Nup, Hoss Cartwright.

    Comment by D'Esterre — March 29, 2015 @ 8:48 pm

  10. @ David: “…..after all the bleating about Epsom they look like hypocrites and can’t beat that drum ever again.”

    You’ve completely missed the point. By-elections are FPP, not MMP. No deal necessary, no deal done. Epsom this certainly wasn’t.

    Comment by D'Esterre — March 29, 2015 @ 9:04 pm

  11. Nor Ohariu, nohow.

    Comment by D'Esterre — March 29, 2015 @ 9:15 pm

  12. And by extension all electorate battles are FPP be they by elections or general, MMP is the party vote so no I haven’t missunderstood.
    Labour stood aside and encouraged their supporters to do what they pilloried National for doing…and for what ? to look irrelevant, surrender the moral high ground, to gift a conservative electorate to NZ First who may take that electorate and do a deal with National at the next election because he is never going to do a deal with the Greens. I can’t see the point in what Little has done.

    Comment by David — March 29, 2015 @ 9:30 pm

  13. “But it was also a demonstration of weakness and deference to NZ First, something all their activists will hate. ”

    Just like the Nat activists in Epsom hate it, right? People are smarter than that.

    Comment by Sacha — March 29, 2015 @ 10:16 pm

  14. @ David: “Labour stood aside and encouraged their supporters to do what they pilloried National for doing…and for what ? to look irrelevant, surrender the moral high ground,… ”

    Labour stood a candidate; standing aside would have entailed not standing a candidate. Once the lie of the electoral land became clear, Little advised Labour supporters to vote strategically. But no deal was done: no party votes were at stake. In this respect, Northland differs from both Epsom and Ohariu; especially Epsom.

    Here’s a thing: those of us who’ve been around long enough know that Northland has been known to kick over the electoral traces in the (fairly distant) past. Vernon Cracknell held it for Social Credit from 1966-69, when it was the Hobson electorate. But there’d probably be a thin skin of ice forming over hell before Labour could take it, no matter how unhappy the voters are with the current government. There’s not much electoral satisfaction to be had in standing on the moral high ground if one is the loser. Moreover, I’d bet considerable sums that, had Labour gone all out for the vote, thereby splitting it and allowing Hoss Cartwright to sneak in, the commentariat would’ve pilloried Little for the stupidity of that strategy. Said commentariat doesn’t seem to set much store by the moral high ground: too cold and lonely up there, maybe?

    On the other hand, there was the chance to give the current government an electoral bloody nose: humiliating Key and Joyce? Priceless! And to make its life a bit more difficult in respect of passing certain contentious pieces of legislation. Who knows which way Winston will now jump in that regard: again, those of us who’ve been around a while have seen it all with him. But don’t forget that he was part of the Clark administration 2005 – 2008: it by no means follows that he’ll do any sort of deal with National, either over the current legislative programme, or at the next election.

    Comment by D'Esterre — March 29, 2015 @ 10:33 pm

  15. “Just like the Nat activists in Epsom hate it, right? People are smarter than that.”

    Not in the case of a rattlesnake like Winston they aren’t. They might see the need but will loath the person they have to deter too. National are happy for there to be a party to their right. Labour are not happy for NZ First to exist.

    Comment by Tinakori — March 29, 2015 @ 11:00 pm

  16. Ah good David has got here with the talking points. I’m sure he has a genuine hatred of all poor ethical behaviour and is appalled that corruption is up in NZ. As he was appalled by the terrible abuse of process and ethical very dubious behaviour around the Sky City deal

    It is ludicrous to compare a voting bloc voting tactically to the creation of a puppet party for electoral advantage. David I’m sure is also frothing at the mouth that the communications of undersecretary Rimmsy are not subject to the OIA for some enormously ethically dubious reason.

    Comment by sheesh — March 29, 2015 @ 11:54 pm

  17. The obvious solution to ‘teapot deals’? Change the electorate voting system from FPP to preferential voting or STV.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — March 30, 2015 @ 3:00 am

  18. “…It was the revenge of the dwarves…” If you ever need an example of the sort of sanctimonious arrogance that infects John Key’s fanboys this has to be it.

    “…something all their activists will hate…”

    Touching concerned trolling, but really, you know nothing about what Labour activists think.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 30, 2015 @ 7:22 am

  19. Ah, Sanctuary, failing to engage on the substance since 2006 and counting

    Comment by Tinakori — March 30, 2015 @ 10:33 am

  20. Folks might find this article on Peters’ victory interesting:


    Comment by Phil F — March 30, 2015 @ 12:04 pm

  21. It’s a pain for national and a little embarrassing . But if I were a green or labour supporter I would be counting my chickens yet.
    Never again will national get shit about Epsom or Peter Dunn so at least that something .
    They (national) made silly errors and if they don’t learn from them that will be another story.
    In fact why aren’t the greens demanding that grant Roberson stand aside in Wellington that’s the new story

    Comment by Graham — March 30, 2015 @ 1:23 pm

  22. >Never again will national get shit about Epsom or Peter Dunn so at least that something .

    They’ll still get shit. There will just be a weak comeback. Not that getting shit about Peter Dunne or Epsom has ever mattered. These are shits that National voters have been prepared to eat for ages, and they’ve never needed them more than they do now.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — March 30, 2015 @ 1:59 pm

  23. @Sanc, it’s “concern trolling”, not “concerned trolling”.

    Comment by Matt — March 30, 2015 @ 2:18 pm

  24. I’m as hostile to Labour as I am to National, but it’s clearly *not* the same as Epsom and Ohariu-Belmont.

    Without National giving the nod to Dunne and Seymour, neither ACT nor United Future would be in parliament at all. Peters is already an MP because NZF got over 208,000 votes (8.7%). NZF wasn’t dependent on being propped up by Labour in Northland in order to be in parliament at all.

    The Epsom and Ohariu-Belmont deals mean parties which have just over 5,000 party votes and 0.22%(Dunne’s outfit) and just under 16,700 party votes and 0.69% (ACT) get parliamentary representation, while a party which got well over 95,000 and 3.97% (the Conservatives) got nothing.

    Moreover, Epsom is naturally a National seat. They gave up their seat in order to keep ACT in parliament.

    So quite different to Labour directing their voters towards Peters in a seat which they never had a hope in Hades of winning, in a situation where Peters/NZF were already in parliament and not dependant on Labour, so no rorting of the electoral system, and also no rewards on offer.


    Comment by Phil — March 30, 2015 @ 2:47 pm

  25. I get the feeling that National are now thoroughly niggled, with various factions becoming more interested in getting behind their chosen leadership candidate than getting behind the current PM. And the more they get niggled and behave negatively, the more Key will feel that it might be time to move on (I’m sure there are plenty of high powered jobs the US military/industrial complex would be happy to bestow on him). And with any hint of that, the factions will work harder at their niggling.

    A positive feedback cycle, I feel.

    Comment by richdrich — March 30, 2015 @ 3:58 pm

  26. Without National giving the nod to Dunne and Seymour, neither ACT nor United Future would be in parliament at all.

    It’s hard to say whether that’s the case with Ohariu. Dunne is a 30 year MP who does a very good job of being there at the opening of an envelope and knowing everyone’s names. He’d probably win a hard-fought threeway between competent Labour and National candidates.

    Not so with the leafy slopes of Mt Eden.

    Comment by George — March 30, 2015 @ 6:19 pm

  27. Sheesh you need to drink a little less you are making less and less sense the later it gets. There are some helpful groups available.
    Winston could secure NZ firsts future with an electorate seat that is quite conservative, he could safely hold the seat forever by propping up national and giving his 8% to them as long as they do ongoing dirty deals with him and throwing him something to boast about.
    Little may have totally stuffed up but everyone is running around trying to nail Joyce on the direction of Slater and have missed the big picture. Garner has started to see it late this afternoon, Winnie has snookered Labour more than National…well done whaleoil and Hooten.

    Comment by David — March 30, 2015 @ 6:24 pm

  28. This is a win for Hone Harawira. Wasn’t it his idea for Winston to stand in Northland?

    Comment by Vita Thomas — March 30, 2015 @ 8:52 pm

  29. The result can also be a sign that many voters are now comfortable with vote-splitting in an MMP environment. An FPP by-election is like a local race you can place with and not be untrue to your real party loyalties. Greens typically vote for Labour in local seats….only because most of them would sooner puke blood than vote for a Nat…..and that’s understandable.

    Comment by Steve Withers — March 31, 2015 @ 10:19 am

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