A recent TV3 poll and associated story yielded two interesting observations. Firstly, that Winston Peters has a better chance of winning the Northland by-election than Labour.
Secondly, that the National candidate, Mark Osborne, is quite likely a liar.
Despite TV3’s Patrick Gower thoroughly unprofessional interview with Winston Peters on The Nation, on 28 February, where he condescendingly referred to the NZ First leader’s candidacy in the Northland by-election as “a stunt” with “very little chance of winning here” – a TV3-Reid Research poll has put Peters firmly in the lead.
Peters’ lead is a commanding five percentage points over his nearest rival, National’s Mark Osborne;
The poll results are a stunning up-set for National and creates serious doubt whether the Key government can survive a full three-year term.
The poll also revealed that Northland voters are far from “relaxed” about the police investigation surrounding former Northland MP, Mike Sabin, which evidently began in August last year;
The TV3 poll is evidently backed up by a “secret poll” recently referenced by the National Business Review.
From a majority of 9,300 in the 2014 election, National is now set for a crushing, humiliating defeat. Worse still, it will take their numbers in the House from 60 to 59 with reliance on ACT, Peter Dunne, and the Maori Party to pass legislation and survive confidence votes.
Any further by-elections between now and 2017, and even support from ACT and Peter Dunne may not be sufficient to save this government. For the first time since the first MMP government was formed in 1996, New Zealand could see an early election, and the subsequent demise of John Key’s political career.
On 35%, Peters has a fairly good chance of taking Northland. But with 19% Undecideds – the outcome is by no means “done and dusted”.
This is still a First Past the Post election, and Osborne could still win the electorate with one single vote, even with a majority voting against him.
Labour Leader Andrew Little should re-visit his comments on Radio NZ’s Morning Report on 3 March, where he stated that the Labour candidate, Willow-Jean Prime “was in with a chance“.
Little also said that he did not know “where Peters stands in terms of peoples’ affections for him” in the electorate.
I suggest that the TV3 poll is a fairly clear indication.
Little added, “I’m just not convinced that the level of support is there for Winston that some people claim“.
Perhaps the poll may begin to convince Little that “the level of support is there for Winston“.
Guyon Espiner pointedly asked Little “are you open to being convinced if a poll were to come out“?
Little replied that it thought it was “unlikely“.
It is no longer unlikely, and indeed, it is likely that Labour’s Ms Prime will come a distant third in what has quickly become a two-horse race.
The question for Labour, now, is what is more important?
- Contesting a by-election on a point of principle even at the cost of potentially helping National retain the seat?
- Swallowing pride; adopting a truckload of pragmatism; giving Peters a free run; and perhaps hastening the demise of this increasingly self-serving government?
Former Labour president, Mike William said on 4 March, on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon programme, that he would have counselled against Labour contesting the by-election. Williams cited cost and Peters working alongside Labour to assist Kelvin Davis to win the Te Tai Tokerau electorate last year.
If Peters wins Northland, it would be a win/win for the Opposition;
- The government’s majority would fall by one,
- The government would become more vulnerable to future by-elections,
- Peters would have to vote with the Opposition on every important issue that mattered. Peters simply could not afford to vote with National and risk being seen as another coalition partner alongside Dune, ACT, and the Maori Party.
The question that Andrew Little should ask himself every day and night from now on is; do I really want to risk splitting the opposition vote in Northland and thereby help John Key preserve his government?
Because in the final analysis, that is what it boils down to.
In the TV3 video with Gower’s voice-over, note Osborne’s response (at 2:16) to an off-video question regarding the curious circumstances surrounding Mike Sabin’s sudden resignation from Parliament on 30 January;
“Ah, I’m not aware of the situation or the circumstances behind it.”
Then note Peters’ response (at 2:20) to Osborne’s comment;
“They all knew. And at the top. Including my opponent, who was a Treasurer of the organisation.”
If Peters is correct and Osborne was (is?) the Treasurer of the Northland Branch of the National Party – then it is inconceivable that he was unaware of Sabin’s situation and the police investigation.
Electorate committee executives are almost always the first to find out what is happening on their own patch. For Osborne to deny any knowledge of Sabin’s situation is simply not credible.
Osborne was either kept out of the loop by other electorate executives; never attended committee meetings; and never spoke to other committee members – or he is lying.
Which is more likely?
Not exactly an auspicious start to his nascent political career?
Perhaps he is following in his Dear Leader’s footsteps.
TV3 The Nation: Transcript – NZ First leader Winston Peters
TV3 News: Peters on track to win Northland seat
Wikipedia: 2014 General Election results
Radio NZ: Labour won’t rule out deal in Northland byelection (audio)
National Party: Northland electorate
National Party: Twitter
Bowalley Road: Sorry Winston – Why Labour Needs To Stand In Northland
Polity: Herald on Northland
Polity: Game on
Public Address: The Northland by-election; or The so-called Tizard Effect
The Daily Blog: Why National might lose Northland and why Labour can’t win
The Daily Blog: Poll shows Winston winning Northland
The Dim Post: Northland
The Standard: On Northland
The Standard: Northland Polls; Horrorshow for National
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