Well this is interesting, isn’t it. A few weeks back, I penned a piece setting out why I believed Ron Mark would be the best hope for those wishing to take on National’s Alaistar Scott in the Wairarapa.
The reaction to this article was surprisingly positive. People seemed to see sense in the arguments put forward; and even if they were ordinarily supporters of other parties, many folk appeared to straight-up agree that the only way to ouster National’s Alaistar Scott from the seat would be uniting behind Ron.
And then something interesting happened.
I got a lead on a major party poll that had just been done in the Wairarapa, and which basically confirmed what I’d been saying. It ranked the contenders for the seat both in terms of their support out there in the electorate (i.e. how many folk were likely to vote for them) – but also in terms of their ‘likeability’, relatability, recognizability and such.
The results showed Ron Mark clearly beating National’s Alaistar Scott – the incumbent – for likeability and recognizability. Which is entirely unsurprising, given one usually has to actually be out there in the electorate doing things for voters to get an idea of who you are – as Ron has been for awhile now. And, perhaps more to the point, the fact that Scott just plainly isn’t. In fact, he’s widely derided in beltway circles for preferring to spend his time inspecting the greens of the Lower Hutt Golf Course rather than attending to issues on his own patch of the Wairarapa. A handicap, so to speak, in both areas.
Perhaps a little more unexpected, however, were the figures for the more direct question about whom those surveyed were intending to vote for. In these, Scott was still ahead of Ron Mark – but only by a rather bare, skin-of-the-teeth margin. Which, given the traditionally strongly Blue nature of the seat, Scott’s advantage of incumbency, and National’s absolute earnestness to roll out the decidedly non-kosher long-term wooden wine-receptacle politics in the Regions this year, is quite remarkable.
After all – prior to this year’s Election, we have to go back to 2005 to find another instance of anybody being even vaguely close to beating the Nat candidate in the Wairarapa. And that was not long after the absolute nadir of National’s support nation-wide in 2002 (also the last time a non-National MP actually held the seat – fellow former Mayor of Carterton, Georgina Byer).
And while I’d certainly predicted Ron Mark would be in a position to take the seat by 2020, his acceleration to almost pole-position three years ahead of my own favourable predictions is a most welcome turn of events.
The 2017 electoral season, in other words, keeps throwing up surprises!
Now at this point, it’s probably worth putting forward a word on the provenance of this poll. In the best of journalistic tradition, I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to say which of the major parties commissioned it – nor how its results wound up in my hands. To do so would be to likely give away my sources.
However, one reason why there’s been a bit of a delay in me publishing this piece is because I carried out appropriate ‘due-diligence’ on what I was given – and had its results independently confirmed via a number of other avenues. I therefore have no doubt that this is genuine. And by way of corroboration, would also point towards other outlets such as Newsroom making mention of private polls of the Wairarapa Electorate which they’re aware of that may even have Ron Mark AHEAD of Alaistar Scott outright.
So suffice to say, at least one Major Party has every reason to be very, very scared right now down there in the Wairarapa.
And as for the other one … well, it is a sad reality that as nice a person as I’m sure he is, Labour’s Kieran McAnulty is simply not making a meaningful dent on National’s Alaistar Scott. In both of the areas of this poll – likeability/recognizability and electoral support – McAnulty was trailing a rather distant third behind both Ron Mark and Alaistar Scott.
It therefore seems quite clear to me that folk who wish to see the backside of Alaistar Scott in the Wairarapa – and here, I mean as it walks off into the middle distance, rather than being firmly fixed in a sedentary position when it comes to local issues – really do have only one option to vote for this Election. And that’s Ron Mark.
Because regardless of where you are on the political spectrum or whom you ordinarily support with your party vote, with the numbers stacking up the way they are now a vote for Ron Mark is a vote against National’s Alaistar Scott – while a vote for Labour’s Kieran McAnulty rather than Ron, is effectively a vote for National.
It might seem like a bit of an odd thing, insisting that a vote for the Labour candidate is in fact implicit support for the National incumbent, given our MMP electoral system. But MMP only means that you have a party vote which counts at the nation-wide level, in addition to your electorate vote.
It doesn’t somehow magically transmogrify the actual electorate contests themselves into a ‘proportional’ representation system. They remain, as they always have, an FPP competition.
That means that there’s one winner on the night – and often, they only get there as a result of ‘vote-splitting’ between the parties who are nominally opposed to that candidate. Consider Ohariu[/Belmont] for the last three elections. If the Greens hadn’t stood a candidate there, or if their supporters had decided to vote for the Labour candidate, then Peter Dunne would have been toast.
But up until this year, they didn’t – so Dunne managed to desperately cling on, despite consistently receiving less of the vote there than Labour and the Greens put together. A similar pattern has transpired for the last three elections in Auckland Central – wherein the Labour candidate would have easily trounced National’s Nikki Kaye were it not for a surprising number of Greens voters deciding to back Denise Roche in a pointless display of partisan loyalty rather than voting for Jacinda Ardern [or, in 2008, Judith Tizard].
Don’t let that situation play out in the Wairarapa!
Now, I criticize Greens supporters in these electorates choosing to vote for people like Gareth Hughes or Denise Roche as “pointless displays of partisan loyalty” not due to any intrinsic animosity towards the Green Party. Quite the contrary. It’s just that in both cases, Greens voters *kept* voting for them with their candidate votes DESPITE the fact that i) they were never going to win the seat, ii) their votes could have easily stopped the local Nat; and iii) more to the point, in several of these elections these candidates were virtually assured entry into Parliament *anyway* due to relatively high list placings.
There was thus literally nothing to be gained by these Greens voters other than the decidedly cosmetic “benefit” of their preferred party having a non-zero candidate vote in these electorates when you go and look up the results on wikipedia some years later. And is that REALLY the sort of thing that’s worth sacrificing a chance at blocking or turfing out an objectionable local MP over?
In any case, according to the ‘effective list’ rankings done by Kiwiblog [i.e. who gets brought in as a List MP for each party, once their [likely] electorate seat wins are taken into consideration – as these are removed from the number of list MPs a party gets to ensure proportionality in Parliament], on present polling Kieran McAnulty would be easily assured of a List Seat anyway, regardless of how well he does in the Wairarapa. In fact, off the back of the Colmar-Brunton results from mid-way through last month, McAnulty would be the sixteenth List MP that Labour would get – with another six List MPs after him as a ‘buffer’. Since then, Labour’s support has gone UP by a further six percent according to the same poll, making McAnulty a virtually assured prospect for Parliament regardless of whether Wairarapians vote for him or not.
So therefore – if, for some reason, you’re part of the minority of Wairarapa voters who really like Kieran McAnulty and want to see him as an MP … then the most plausible way to make that happen is by giving Labour your Party Vote. NOT by voting for him with your candidate vote.
And if you’re somebody who wants National’s incumbent inflatable-arm man gone, then there really is only one choice. Vote Ron. Choosing to support any other candidate is pretty much tantamount to consciously voting for the status quo of ongoing National neglect of the seat by Alaistar Scott.
Because – as history shows us – a split vote only helps the Nat incumbent. And because, for a whole host of reasons explored in my previous piece, it is virtually impossible in this election for the Labour candidate to actually draw enough support to seriously take on Alaistar Scott.
Meanwhile, Ron’s already out there working hard and closing the gap. Give him the tools he needs to help finish the job!