11/06/2018
Dieuwe de Boer
Opinion
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National Easily Wins the Northcote By-Election

Before the by-election, I posited a few possible outcomes and what those would mean, but it turns out that nothing particularly shocking happened.

If Labour or the Greens lose support it could show dissatisfaction with the coalition government's policies. If Bidois has a close call, or even more shockingly loses the seat, it could spell very bad news for National leader Simon Bridges. If ACT can gain any ground at all, it could spell some kind of comeback to a multi-member party in a few years time. If Kym Koloni can bring in above 5% of the vote then that could make way for a new populist and anti-establishment party in the 2020 election.

In the end, Labour increase their vote, but National didn't lose any support.

The result felt like another confirmation of what we often see: politics is mostly party. National swaps out a candidate, but as we can see, Coleman, with all his name recognition and track record built up over the years, was not much more popular than Bidois, a fresh face to politics and the electorate.

Labour should be happy that all the policies they've enacted recently don't seem to have had any eroding affect on their support at all, at least not in affluent areas such as Northcote.

I'm not sure if the Greens should be too worried about their vote collapsing, because it's likely many voters jumped ship thinking this would be a close one that Labour could flip, but recent polls do show Labour cannibalising both Green and NZ First support.

ACT should be worried that pouring so many resources and Stephen Berry, their #5 list candidate, got them the same result as in 2017, when they were running a "no name" candidate without much support. I'll probably call this phenomenon "peak ACT", since it appears clear that the modern left-libertarian incarnation seems consistently unable to lift their vote with their current set of policy, branding, and faces. Tim wrote after the election that opposition is David Seymour's big opportunity. A year later, this does not appear to have translated to any gains.

Kym Koloni should likewise consider this a big loss. It seems clear that the former NZ First support went to Labour, which means she doesn't have the name recognition or brand by herself. She'll have to analyse whether previous voters abandoned her because they were either (a) only voting for the NZ First brand, (b) switching to Labour to hope for a National loss, or (c) knew who she was, but don't like her any more. As I wrote just over a week ago:

If her support in the area collapses, then it also likely shows that people tend to vote for party over person and her previous support was simply due to the NZ First brand rather that any affinity with her personally.

Name recognition and any attached charisma, rather than policy, appear to be the driving factors behind success in New Zealand politics. The sustained popularity of John Key and the rise of Jacinda Ardern confirmed that.

When it comes to the Legalise Cannabis and Democrat for Social Credit parties, I wonder why they keep trying. With a marijuana referendum on the cards, the former might be obsolete within a year and the later party has made no gains since forming in 1987. Social Credit started with nearly 6% of the vote at that time, which has dwindled right down to a whopping 0.00% (rounded) in 2017.

Liam Walsh and Not A Party would have been happy enough with the result. Turnout was down a huge 47% and he captured only 5 votes.

Below are the preliminary results, which might change ever so slightly after special votes are counted in a few weeks.

Candidate 2017 (electorate / party vote) 2018 (electorate vote only)

Dan Bidois (National)

52% (19,072)
[Jonathan Coleman]

51% (10,147)

Shanan Halbert (Labour)

35% (12,862)

44% (8,785)

Rebekah Jaung (Green)

6.7% (2,457)

3% (579)

Stephen Berry (ACT)

0.8% (296) 0.8% (157)

Kym Koloni (Independent)

3.7% (1,362)
[for NZ First]

0.5% (95)

Jeff Lye (Legalise Cannabis)

N/A

0.3% (76)

Tricia Cheel (Democrats),

0.3% (92)

0.2% (30)

Liam Walsh (Not A Party)

N/A

0.0% (5)