Super Saturday? Bring it on

Last updated 16:21 16/08/2010

I reckon we should have a mini general election later this year.

Just think, why wait for next year? And why should those Aussie have all the fun? With the decision by Winnie Laban to head for a nice safe post in academia, the way is open for Chris Carter and Jim Anderton to call by-elections in their own electorates, too.

We could have a Super Tuesday-style tri-series, with three by-elections all on the same day. That would save the taxpayer money, and spark a lot of interest in politics leading up to the general election. It'd also be a sort of dry run for Phil Goff, too, and would allow his colleagues a better chance to assess his chances of winning - or in the immortal words of Don Brash, to lose less badly - the general election.

There's other advantages to a Super Saturday. With Carter being an Auckland MP, Laban a Wellingtonian and Anderton from Christchurch, we've got the majority of the country covered, so there'd be interest from national media across the board.

Labour's traditionally done pretty well in by-elections. Something about the grass-roots support the party is always able to call upon. And the Tories are usually too busy/important/rich to bother with them. Witness Melissa Lee's trouncing in Mt Albert. Parties from the Left have always given the Nats an almighty scare in by-elections. Think Selwyn, or even Taranaki-King Country.

Of course, a Super Saturday would be a bit different, since all three seats are Labour's to lose. Chris Carter might think he's awfully popular in Te Atatu, but the reality is the seat's as red as the blood in Phil Goff's veins. Labour could stand a second-rate union activist (and probably will) and still win comfortably, on paper anyway.

Mana has no more chance of going blue than Winnie Laban has of being picked for the Hurricanes. It's solid, working-class Labour. And while Jim Anderton has owned Wigram for centuries (well it feels like it) in reality it's really Sydenham, and everyone knows Jim is a Labour MP these days anyway. He's running on a Labour ticket to all intents and purposes in the Christchurch mayoralty and he attends Labour caucus meetings, so let's call a spade a spade.

So does this mean National shouldn't bother showing up? On the contrary. For once, National's got a chance to fight by-elections in places it can't possibly win, which means if it does even passably well then it's a huge psychological blow for Labour right before the election. A death blow, really.

If John Key really believes his government is doing a decent job, he shouldn't be afraid to debate the issues ahead of next year's election. And it would also provide him with a great place to road-test some of the themes he's planning on running, such as welfare reform, law and order, the economy, tax cuts, and labour law changes.

If they tank, Key can put them back in the shot locker and focus on something slightly less scary.

And the primary-style nature of a Super Saturday would also give the public a chance to see both Labour's and National's teams in action ahead of the general election. For make no mistake, such a contest would go far beyond local issues. It would be an election campaign in miniature.

So what's stopping us? Well first of all Chris Carter has got to decide to chuck his toys and walk. I reckon he will. He's got nothing left, he doesn't owe Labour anything, and everyone would frankly prefer him gone from Parliament altogether.

Once that happens, there's enormous pressure on Anderton to agree to follow suit, should he win the Christchurch mayoralty. To date, Jim's been refusing to step aside from his other job as MP for Wigram, saying he'll do both jobs up until the next election. His main reason for this seems to be that he's saving the taxpayer the $500,000 it would cost to hold a by-election.

I have a suspicion the real reason is he wants to leave his options open in case he loses in October, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt, and say that if it were possible to hold three by-elections all at the same time then the additional cost for his Wigram one would be marginal. His main excuse would be gone.

And I think that's for the best. The people of Christchurch deserve more than a part-time mayor, and the people of Wigram deserve more than a part-time MP. They're fulltime jobs, Jim - you can't do both at the same time.

So bring on Super Saturday, I say. It's got to be more interesting than the rugby.

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Hon. Wahine o Papanui   #1   04:34 pm Aug 16 2010

I love your enthausiasm for the cut and thrust of a possible super byelection day Mr Espiner, but I think the Mana will be the only one that actually happens (and it might be closer than thought as Key is trying to get the famous AB, NZ's best ever #7 to stand though it is not in his area of Auckl). (The big M J). Possibly Hawkins' seat as well. The other two won't happen because greedy Jim wants to be both mayor and MP, while Chris Carter will hang on to the advantages of being in parliament up to the last minute and waste as much of our taxpayer money as he can).

A good read. I'd LIKE you to be right and for us to get a mini-election but I just can't see it going beyond Mana (and next most likely Manurewa if they elbow George into Auckland City).

One other thought. What if the whole government resigned, the Maori king be appointed governor general, and a new parliament of 116 maori seats and 4 for others be established. That would be poetic and long overdue justice.

But that ain't gonna happen either, is it Mr Espiner? Can't blame a girl for trying though can you :)

Kimbo   #2   04:35 pm Aug 16 2010

I was pretty appalled by Winnie Laban's reasoning for resigning: "Another opportunity came up". So much for viewing your representation of an electorate as a vocation, rather than a job.

If you talk like that, Colin, why shouldn't Key go all the way, and call a snap election? His poll numbers are high, Labour seems in disarray and their finances probably stink, and more time is probably Goff's ally.

Call a snap election, and pitch it that the government has the policy (tax cuts on October 1) in place to address the lingering recession. The beauty of that strategy is it throws Labour into disarray over whether they will stick with the 15% GST. If yes, why not tax cuts? If no, how are you going to fund the shortfall?

Darth Michael   #3   04:41 pm Aug 16 2010

In Don Brash's defence, he lost the election because he had to campaign against the Left AND the ridiculous bias of a politically correct media that exaggerated a negative spin on EVERYTHING he said and did. Especially John Campbell, who seemed to make it his personal mission in life to bring Don Brash down.

As for interesting, rumour has it that even Shortland Street is more interesting than the bloody rugby. The only positive feeling I have towards the upcoming RWC is the pleasure I'll have in calling those over-paid All Black tossers a bunch of "chokers" AGAIN.

Mr Been   #4   04:42 pm Aug 16 2010

National is will win any next election so what's the point.

ACTing for New Zealand   #5   05:00 pm Aug 16 2010

Kimbo #2 If a snap full election were held you'd find National and Act with most of the seats in parliament, the latest news being that poverty has significantly reduced in New Zealand and people are getting ready to enjoy the wonderful tax cuts Rodney Hide and Roger Douglas motivated the prime minister to give to hard working New Zealanders. There would be hardly any others in the HR, just a few Labour with no Greens or Rac (oops) Maori Party people.

Why put the country through the expense of by-elections anyway. After 1/2 way thru a term a member should just be replaced by somebody from the list of the same party. Government money should be directed at business and essential infrastructure. Some of the electorates in this case are full of our least hard working New Zealanders - just give them a Labour replacement for now since that particular miserable excuse for a political party happens to hold the seats now.

In order to make further progress before the next election move Bill English out for Sir Roger Douglas @ Finance and give English @ Education. Abolish welfare and pensions with a fair insurance, scrap the ETS Act, and after we win the world cup next year we can have a whole new General Election without this mythical Super Saturday interfering in our lives in the interim.

Roscoe   #6   05:03 pm Aug 16 2010

Kimbo #2 ... & the electorate wouldn't be given time to forget about the cuts. But it's not usually JK's way to be bold. He must reckon anyway that Labour will be in as much disarray 1 year later. (Maybe.) And when HC went to the country early in 2002, with a looming absolute majority, the absolute majority evaporated under the campaign spotlight. Not that National got the benefit, & nor would Labour. Instead, we'd have a rerun of that year, with the little parties getting their day in the sun again.

PeterS   #7   05:08 pm Aug 16 2010

Considering the amount of dead wood that these by-elections represent, and given the massive ego's involved (at least with Anderton and Carter), we could maybe follow them with a 'bonfire of the vanities.'

So what happened to all the fuss about Labour's surge in the polls last week? Surely some by-elections would be the thing they would most want?

Personally I suspect that the surge will turn out to be more of a 'dead cat bounce.'

eddie   #8   05:13 pm Aug 16 2010

Ahhh Colin..unsure where this piece has come from?, not really political 'now' is it?...what you think should happen is just YOUR political musings and really not worth posting about, kinda like if you blogged about what you think Carter will do with his 2 months off...specutalive only.

Check check   #9   06:00 pm Aug 16 2010

Why would the additional cost of extra by-elections be marginal?

You have to hire the election staff to collect the votes in each electorate.

I doubt there would be much in the way of costs that would not have to be depulicated by having additional by-elections.

Amy   #10   06:01 pm Aug 16 2010

I'd like more money for rising living costs and I'd like our SAS out of harms way and out of helping Afghan disidents get tortured, but most of all I'd like the drinking age raised and for drivers on our roads to be alchohol free (or 0.05mg if that isn't possible). The party that will commit to implementing Palmer report will get my vote in the byelection. I know heaps of other like-minds on this.

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