By-election a ho-hum affair

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Last updated 07:31 29/11/2013
poto

Labour's candidate in Christchurch East , Poto Williams, centre, with her daughter, Tearai, and partner, Ken.

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OPINION: John Key has been campaigning there, along with a handful of his most senior ministers.

Labour leader David Cunliffe has put in a day a week in the electorate, aware that the outcome will be seen as a judgment on his leadership.

But the good people of Christchurch East may be feeling a bit "voted-out" ahead of tomorrow's by-election coming as it does on top of the recent local body elections and the asset sales referendum. In 12 months they have to do it all over again.

It is all pointing to a low turnout - even by the normal standards of recent by-elections that have struggled to top 50 per cent. Mana's 54.7 per cent in 2010 is the exception.

Wednesday night's forum on the earthquake recovery should have been the highlight of the campaign - the final public meeting to size up the candidates on the most important issue to the electorate. Estimates of the turnout range from 20 to 50 people at most. It was as eloquent a statement of apathy as you can get.

On balance, National's Matthew Doocey did himself no favours by staying away to attend an event with his godchildren.

But none of the candidates has exactly fired up the electorate.

Poto Williams was reportedly more assured with the media and she had the advantage of an endorsement from popular Lianne Dalziel, whose resignation sparked the by-election, and the campaign smarts of Left warhorse Jim Anderton.

While Labour announced its plan for a state-owned insurance company and its endorsement of the revival of New Brighton - something National also backs in principle - neither threw much policy fuel onto the fire.

Both main parties have been furiously talking down their chances.

Labour has been pointing to National's 4100-win in the party vote in 2011, although late in the piece Cunliffe stuck his neck out by saying 50 per cent of the votes cast would be "nice".

Key argued National had never held the seat and a government has never picked up an extra seat in a by-election.

He took lowering of expectations to the extreme, saying a good result would be one that cut Dalziel's 5334 majority - inevitable with the likely low turnout.

The short answer is that with the post-earthquake exodus from the seat, the shifting national polls since 2011, an uncertain mood over the recovery and Dalziel's personal following, neither knows where this will end.

Both are hedging their bets to ensure even a ho-hum outcome can be spun into a good result.

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- The Press

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