To say this has been an interesting by-election is putting it very lightly. It’s a by-election so intense the Prime Minister would rather stroll the streets of Russell in a last bid for votes than talk trade deals in Asia. It’s been a by-election which has seen the cash rolled out big time.
Bridge upgrades and a new highway. Very rarely do we see policy announcements in a by-election. That’s because National is scared of Winston Peters, the Northland native planning to return home to the region his family have lived in for generations. 3 News political editor Patrick Gower sums it up best, if National loses it will quite simply be the biggest embarrassment for him since he took the National leadership.
And that is true. This is a seat National should never have even coming close to losing. In 2012 I named Northland the seat National will never, and could never lose. I may well have to eat humble pie to the grinning Cheshire cat that is Winston Peters.
Indeed the seat is up there with National’s safest. But it isn’t a pet electorate, like Epsom, and it does feel let down. No roading upgrade in 10 years, a soaring unemployment rate, trebling poverty, failing businesses and a dwindling population. Northland has had a guts full of this Auckland-obsessed government.
In a Kaikohe event this week, Mark Osborne and Chris Bishop were met by a group of angry farmers, who called the couple “absolute crock”. Winston Peters arrived moments later, shook the hands of almost all who had gathered, and received an endorsement from Focus New Zealand candidate Joe Carr who admitted he had been cast under the spell of Winston Peter’s undeniable charm. “We used to vote National” was the most common line given to Peters by those who he spoke to, according to Maori Television footage.
But today Prime Minister John Key pulled a porkie. He claimed that if Peters were to win the by-election the New Zealand-South Korea trade agreement he had signed today would be at risk. This is of course untrue, as National would easily have the numbers without an extra MP thanks to their confidence and supply partners.
It was a porkie picked up by ACT’s candidate Rob Grieve who tweeted on the issue, claiming “stable government” was “at risk” if Peters won, and thus so was the trade deal. I decided to correct him.
He called me a “Plonker”.
Robin Grieve is lucky he’s not a major party candidate, and if he were such a jibe would be taken by the media and devoured. It’s obvious now ACT do not want to take votes in this by-election.
Meanwhile Independent candidate Adam Holland has made the by-election more entertaining, taking his campaign to the streets of Whangarei (which are of course outside of the Northland electorate’s boundaries) and promising to, if he wins, not accept a parliamentary salary. Here’s his campaign poster: