Right, well it’s taken something like half a decade … but we’ve finally reached a situation wherein pretty much everyone left-of-center who isn’t a die-hard Labourite (but then, I repeat myself) is lining up behind Winston Peters as the logical and natural champion of the common man against National.
I shall attempt to restrain my jubilation at reading ecstatically supportive pieces from so many people (including some pundits who not two elections ago saw fit to gleefully write us off) – and instead say merely this:
Welcome to #TeamWinston 😀 Hope you’ll stick around after the 28th to help us finish the job.
But it isn’t just the mercurial temperaments of the Parliamentary Press Gallery that have swung massively in Winston’s favour. While we here in New Zealand First customarily don’t place too much credence in the predictive power of polling (and why would we – polls have a nasty habit of woefully UNDERESTIMATING our support) … it’s difficult not to feel your spirits buoyed when a Reid Research poll comes out placing Winston at the head of the race on 35%.
Up until Wednesday, this was a safe National seat. With the sole exception of Social Credit taking out its predecessor of Hobson in 1963, National has maintained an unbroken monopoly on Northland and its antecedents since 1943. When Key declared earlier this year that Mike Sabin’s 2014 majority was “over 9,000“, the application of the Dragon Ball Z reference to convey how imposing and formidable National’s hold on the seat then seemed was bang on the money. (Although for what it’s worth, if we’re playing DBZMMP, Winston makes for a *far* more convincing Vegeta. Dragon Ball Key, by contrast, would be uttering “This isn’t even my final form!”)
But with National’s Mark Osbourne languishing behind Winston in the polls, it seems certain that National can no longer take the support of Northlanders for granted. We look forward to Key being made to eat his words about there being “zero chance” of the seat changing hands.
More interestingly, however, it’s not just National that Winston’s been showing up. The same “game-changer” Reid Research poll which had Winston on 35% also showed him damn near *doubling* the support of Labour candidate Willow-Jean Prime, who’s well back on 19%.
Some might say there’s nothing too surprising about one of the most inveterate and skillful campaigners in the country absolutely curb-stomping a local body politician whose sole experience in the big-leagues appears to be a single run as an electorate candidate less than six months ago. But considering the same candidate running for the same seat at the last General Election managed to capture nearly 26% of the vote when up against a sitting National MP vastly more well-known than Osbourne, the fact that Labour’s vote is in retreat despite an enormously tarnished local National brand suggests there’s something bigger going on.
I might be a little premature in saying this, but when Winston beats Labour up in Northland, it may very well signal the irreversible tipping point in Labour’s ever-accelerating transition from “Big Two” status to being a minor party. And, at the same time, a cementing of NZF’s return to eminence as the leading third party.
No wonder so many in Labour spent most of last week running scared all over social media trying to pour cold water on our imminent success. Word to the wise, guys – you can’t really call somebody FROM the electorate in question and who regularly spends as much time as possible in the area a “carpetbagger”. If you’re finding “Messiah” too much of a mouthful, perhaps “Mana Whenua” might be a more appropriate way of expressing his relationship to Northland. Also, as applies Andrew Little calling into question how long Winston would be around as the local MP … given the average length of tenure enjoyed by the last few Labour leaders, I’m not *quite* sure Little’s in the appropriate position to be calling into question the durability of anyone else in a political position.
Fortunately – and much to the annoyance, I’m sure, of Labour’s perforate-one’s-septum-to-spite-one’s-face brigade – on Sunday morning Little came to his senses and offered a tacit endorsement of Winston’s candidacy in Northland. I guess when it comes to politics a lot really CAN change in 3 days.
By urging voters to be “intelligent” and “realistic” in their choice – then consciously echoing Winston’s campaign call to “send a message to the government” – Little has finally conceded that a victory against National up in Northland is far and away more important than any petty pride Labour might have been able to salvage by putting in an also-ran showing in this by-election. It also allows them to recast a poor result for their candidate as the inevitable consequence of “taking one for the team” by backing Winston, rather than further evidence of their ongoing slide to third party status.
Now while National’s spin-doctors will no doubt try to use this to shepherd Northland voters away from Winston by claiming that this means a vote for Winston is therefore suddenly a vote for Labour … it isn’t.
A vote for Winston is a vote for New Zealand First. It’s a vote to put the people ahead of politicians who take them for granted. And it’s a vote to send a message to the Government that it’s time they stopped arrogantly assuming that Labour’s dysfunction means National has an automatic “right to rule”.
Regardless of whom you normally support, or where you situate yourself on the political spectrum, there are solid reasons to back Winston up in Northland.
If you’re an opponent of the present government, then the justification for supporting Winston is clear. He’s done more in the last six days than Labour has in the previous six years to abjectly terrify National and remind them we live in a democracy where power actually can change hands.
If you’re a Green, then the scare-factor National is dangling in front of the electorate of a Winston victory delivering a stronger RMA ought to present a prima facie reason to beat the rush for #BlackGreen2017 and support New Zealand First right here, right now.
And if you’re a Nat (in which case, colour me genuinely surprised and appreciative of your patronage of this blog) … think of it this way. National takes Northland for granted because they know that no matter how little they do for you, there’s never previously been an alternative that you’d consider voting for. This means they’ve let your region languish and lead to them being so incredibly arrogant that they stood a man they KNEW before the Election to be facing serious criminal charges, and still expected you to vote for him. They then had the nerve to assume that you’d just do as they told you and vote in one of his associates as a replacement.
But no longer. When Winston entered the race last week, they started to get nervous. When 3News reported Winston ahead of their candidate on Thursday, they went into full-on panic mode. The most obvious sign of this has been their decision to deploy their greatest weapon – John Key – far more frequently into the electorate than they would have otherwise. So right off the bat, there’s conclusive proof that the threat of you voting for Winston gets your region more attention from the government and Prime Minister.
More amusingly, NZ First Deputy Leader Tracey Martin responded to National’s campaign tactic of announcing infrastructure improvements in seats they’re desperate to win … by pointing out that if it took only one week of Winston to scare the Nats into proffering ten new bridges for the region, then the efforts they’d have to put in to winning the seat back off him in 2017 would be seriously positive for Northland.
In other words, no matter what your political persuasion – or, for that matter, your prior opinion of Winston – if you’re not a blinkered backer of the current government … you’ve got something to cheer about when Winston liberates Northland later this month.
On March 28th … Winston Is Coming.