Manawatū election results show Labour did quite well, NZ First improved
OPINION: Reporter Jono Galuszka picks the winners, losers and other award recipients from the 2017 election campaign in Manawatū.
There were no surprises in the electorates, with all the incumbents returning. But Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway was the only one to extend his majority. In fact, his 5319-vote majority – more than double his 2014 one of 2212 – is the second-largest ever recorded by a Palmerston North MP. He also managed to get a huge increase in Labour's party vote in the city, going from 30.88 per cent in 2014 to 40.4 per cent on Saturday night. With special votes usually swinging left, he could see his and his party's share of the votes increase in the city. No other sitting MP in the nearby area can claim a result that good.
The rise of the Green Party in Palmerston North during the past two years has been fascinating. Brent Barrett ran a strong grassroots campaign to go from nowhere to taking the second-most votes in the Palmerston North City Council election in 2016. The party took that momentum into the general election, getting an impressive candidate in Palmerston North in the form of Thomas Nash and mobilising a large number of volunteers. The Greens only attracted 5.7 per cent of the party vote in Palmerston North. But the local campaign was largely hampered by issues at a national level, such as Metiria Turei's benefit fraud scandal, the rise of Labour under Jacinda Ardern and Gareth Morgan's Opportunities Party getting votes. Nash also gets kudos for making his way to the National, NZ First and Labour election night parties in Palmerston North.
Most improved politician
Everyone expected Lees-Galloway to be a competent debater in his fourth campaign, while Nash's experience lobbying for disarmament on the international stage shined through. The other candidates cover the entire range of quality, from impressive to impotent. But NZ First's Palmerston North candidate Darroch Ball was the big improver from 2014. He was very green then, and only had six weeks to campaign. A full term in Parliament with some hefty portfolios for a small Opposition party has made him comfortable speaking about a range of issues, while a full campaign gave him the chance to push other politicians on multiple issues. Spending time under the wing of Winston Peters, both in caucus and on the road as part of NZ First's campaign, has also paid dividends, putting Ball in a strong position for a likely Government role this term.
This could have gone to National's Palmerston North candidate Adrienne Pierce, who was parachuted into the electorate from Hastings in April to take on a three-term local. But Labour's Rangitīkei candidate Heather Warren had to grapple with taking on a sitting MP in an electorate where almost any National candidate could comfortably win, all while having a baby two months early. She still managed to get a good result for her party, cutting Ian McKelvie's majority by 1400 votes and raising the party vote share by 10 percentage points.
National supporters would say Labour should get this for its line about health spending being cut (the party still spent more in each Budget), while Labour fans will want National to get this for its double-whammy of misinformation about an $11.7 billion hole in Labour's fiscal plan and income tax increases that did not exist. Local Labour supporters probably think Pierce should get it for not calling Lees-Galloway to concede, but her excuse was she didn't realise people did this in electorate races and she did not have his cellphone number.
Labour's Ōtaki candidate Rob McCann had some oddball moments during his campaign, including hauling a cutout of party leader Jacinda Ardern around and ranting about the "fake news media" at one debate. But he wins this award for taking to Twitter to call incumbent Nathan Guy out for failing to turn up to a candidates meeting in the electorate, positing a video where he brandished a set of gumboots as Guy's replacement.
The Ron Burgundy award for doing it on the night
Adrian Rurawhe has always said he loses the polls but wins on the night. The Labour candidate proved the polls wrong when he won Te Tai Hauāuru in 2014, and did it again on Saturday. The polls and the commentators had Māori Party candidate and former New Zealand rugby league representative Howie Tamati winning the seat. Despite early polls having Rurawhe ahead, pundits said Tamati would come from behind thanks to his strength in New Plymouth. But Rurawhe stayed in front from start to finish, proving the only result that matters is the one on election night.
Best social media campaign
Tamati must have been sporting sore thumbs by Saturday. He was popping up on my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds throughout the campaign with well-produced videos profiling himself, his volunteers and other Māori Party members. His official hashtag, #thisishowiedoit, was easily the best from any politician. A consolation prize goes to Rangitīkei NZ First candidate Rob Stevenson, who actually gave himself an extremely sore thumb during the campaign when a knife slipped while he was butchering a cattle beast.