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The RDU Election Broadcast – the wrap up

Written by on 24 September 2017

At the time of writing, the preliminary results are in, and Winston Peters is making up his mind about whether he should go with National or Labour and the Greens to form a government. Broadly, the result is both better and worse for each side than they might have hoped. National has brought in a remarkable 46% of the party vote, but in doing so, has all but eliminated all other right and centre-right parties. With the Maori Party being wiped out across the Maori seats, Peter Dunne stepping down a month ago, Colin Craig’s Conservative Party tied up in legal battles (they got just under 4% of the vote in 2014), and ACT once again failing to bring in enough party vote to justify their continued existence, Bill English’s options are limited to Winston.

If you had offered Andrew Little 36% back in July, he would have jumped at the chance. For Labour to have picked up 13% on their lowest poll numbers in just two months is an extraordinary effort. That said, when a couple of polls put the Ardern Labour Party on numbers starting with a 4, many would have thought that taking power was a given. Coalition negotiations will continue, but Labour and the Greens may have to wait until 2020 to get the Treasury benches. The Greens will be both disappointed and relieved – 5.9% is their worst result since 2005, but they were at points looking like missing out entirely. Both Labour and the Greens will hope to pick up a seat each on the special votes.

Locally, the only electorate to change hands was Christchurch Central, which Duncan Webb picked up from Nicky Wagner. In this series leading up to the election, I gave my predictions for each of the electorates, and all of them were correct. I don’t say this to boast, but to stress the importance of some local knowledge. A number of pundits – especially some from the North Island – picked that Ilam and Waimakariri were going to be in play. I argued that they never were, stressing that the underlying electoral dynamics meant they were going to need something colossal to happen to change. It also shows the lack of impact that even a major newspaper can have – the Press ran an extraordinary number of stories about Raf Manji’s campaign in Ilam, most of them highly positive. In the last week, they ran two stories that I believe were misleading, in which they quoted a “poll” that said Manji was “within 3,000 votes” and “within striking distance” of Brownlee. The results on the night would show that this was never true, but the bigger question is whether any outlet should be saying that they have a “poll” and running information as such, but without releasing any information about the poll, its methodologies, sample size, company who conducted it etc. Without publishing any of this information, we don’t know whether any such poll existed, and the information that the paper ran was no better than gossip.

The biggest result for Labour in the city is arguably the change in the party vote. In 2014, Labour tanked in the party vote, with the number cast for Labour being *lower* than their abysmal return for the whole country. If a left-wing party can’t win in the second largest urban area in the country, then they have no chance. Saturday night wasn’t quite a victory in that department, but a step in the right direction. Labour won the party vote convincingly in Christchurch East, and is slightly above in Central. When special votes come in, it could end up also taking Wigram, and when you combine Labour and the Greens party vote, the left will have convincingly taken the party vote across 4 of the 5 Christchurch metro seats.

Labour got a hiding in Christchurch in both 2011 and 2014, and while they may end up spending another term in opposition, they will be in a much better position to build towards 2020 in Christchurch. They’ve brought in a talented new local MP in Webb, and have shown they still have appeal to urban voters. They are going to need to be on to it, as there will be a boundary review in 2019, after the 2018 census, and I suspect this will lead to the electorate boundaries shifting significantly again.

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