How National can show they’ve learned from Northland

There’s many lessons National could learn from their Northland debacle.They’re at real risk of falling out of favour with the nationwide electorate unless they are seen to have learned, and are seen to rectify the exposed shortcomings.

These numbers in particular should be food for thought.

  • SABIN, Mike 18,269 (September 2014)
  • OSBORNE, Mark 11,347 (March 2015)

That’s about 7,000 fewer people voting for the National candidate, despite a massive campaign effort including blatant election bribing and scare tactics. And despite the fact that most people never expected Winston Peters to deliver on many some major promises he made.

Safe seats and safe vote levels aren’t safe. If pissed off enough many voters will punish politicians and parties in the only way they can, and that’s what has happened in Northland.


Slater. Osborne. National in Northland.
Key and National in 2017?

There’s two things they could do straight away that would indicate they have learned and they are prepared to act on a strong message sent by the voters of Northland.

1. Be up front and honest about when they knew about the police investigation of Mike Sabin

John Key’s and National ministers’ refusal to be open and honest about when they learned about Mike Sabin being under investigation has been arrogant and dishonest, and has proven very damaging to their Northland campaign. And to their nationwide credibility.

And it is likely to get worse when details go public. Information is widely known but if the media and other parties become unconstrained by legal suppression then Key and National will be hammered even harder. Unless they own up and front foot this, albeit belatedly.

John Key needs to lead on this and be open and honest about when he knew and when his office knew and when his Ministers knew.

Otherwise the impression of him lying to hide a dirty secret will linger on and keep damaging him and National.

2. Show that they will genuinely engage with Winston Peters and NZ First on Northland and regional issues

Winston Peters won a resounding victory in Northland. Voters there expect something for it, and if they don’t get what they want National should struggle to win back what should have been a relatively safe seat. Peters has indicated he will stand again in 2017.

Genuinely working with Peters on Northland issues will recover some support and credibility in the north. Peters may still hold the seat – if he reciprocates and genuinely works with the National government – but National have a party vote to protect.

And if National shuns Peters and NZ First it will look like petty punishment of them and of many voters.

Peters has a major mandate in Northland. NZ First have 11 MPs (and could get a twelfth, Peters hasn’t decided whether to drop out of his list position and bring in another MP yet).

Key and National have to show they are prepared to put wider Northland interests and democratic interests ahead of political pettiness (as do Peters and NZ First).

And if they don’t?

If National don’t show they’ve learned lessons from their hammering then they could get hammered on a wider scale in 2017.

They were helped in the 2011 and 2014 elections by the weakness of the alternative. But Winston Peters showed that if a Government does badly enough and is arrogant enough then voters will reject them and take their chances on an alternative.

If National don’t demonstrate they are prepared to act on and rectify lessons learnt in Northland then they could get thrashed in 2017.

And they should be addressing this straight away, demonstratively. Or voters will think they haven’t learned or that they think people will forget their failures and mistakes.

National can and should show they’ve learnt from their Northland debacle – if they want to stem a massive loss of confidence in them.

UPDATE: it looks like Key is planning on continuing to sweep Sabin under the National rug.

“The Mark Sabin situation is something we can’t adequately talk about” – Key on Northland loss

There are some aspects he could talk about if he chose to be honest and up front.

Northland winners – Peters, Dunne, Maori Party

Winston Peters is obviously a big winner in the Northland by-election. He is a long time very savvy political opportunist and this election couldn’t have been designed better for him.

His informants and instincts were spot on, and he hammered National, something he has been trying to do since he got back into Parliament in 2011.

And this hammering was done democratically, albeit with a lot of media assistance.

Whether Peters hold Northland in 2017 doesn’t matter. If he didn’t stand again he would go out on a high. If he stands and loses in 2017 then he loses little – he may or may not stay in Parliament via NZ First’s party vote but it’s getting time he thought about retirement anyway.

So this is win win win for Winston.

Ironically one of the biggest beneficiaries of this Winston win is Peter Dunne, someone Peters tried to destroy last term.

Dunne now holds a critical vote for National and can be far more influential for the rest of this term – more influential than he has up until now and arguably more influential than Peters in Parliament.

The Maori Party also now hold a balance of power vote so their importance increases for the National led Government.

It could also be a win now and a potential future bigger win for Shane Jones, who may take over from Peters in Northland. That would make it hard for National to win the previously safe electorate back for some time.

The mood was jubilant at the NZ First campaign night headquarters, the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell. Among those celebrating were former Labour MPs Dover Samuels and Shane Jones.

– Northern Advocate: Winston’s ‘Force for the North’ steamrolls National

Winston’s whopper win

Winston Peters has been given a huge victory by voters in Northland by-election.

  • PETERS, Winston (NZ First), 15,359
  • OSBORNE, Mark (National) 11,347
  • PRIME, Willow-Jean (Labour) 1,315

Votes for others totalled 403:

  • CARR, Joe (Independent) 107
  • HERBERT, Maki (Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis) 85
  • GRIEVE, Robin (ACT) 66
  • PORTER, Rueben Taipari (Mana) 55
  • PAINTING, Rob (Climate) 38
  • ROGAN, Bruce ((Independent) 22
  • BONNER, Adrian Paul (Independent) 17
  • HOLLAND, Adam (Independent) 14
  • Informal votes 43

Votes counted 28,468 – it was a big turnout for a by-election.

This is an election night majority of 4,012 which is a huge turnaround from National’s Mike Sabin’s 9,300 lead last year (52.74%of the candidate vote).


  • PETERS, Winston (NZ First), 53.95%
  • OSBORNE, Mark (National) 39.86%
  • PRIME, Willow-Jean (Labour) 4.62%

Interestingly that matches what polls had predicted for Peters midweek (53% and 54%) but shows an increase for Osborne (from 34% and 36%) and a decrease for Prime (10% and 9%).

Party vote in the 2014 general election:

  • National 17,412 (48.97%)
  • Labour 5,913 (16.63%)
  • NZ First 4,546 (12.79%)
  • Green 3,855 (10.84%)
  • Conservative 2,243 (6.31%)
  • Internet-Mana 601 (1.69%)
  • Focus 216 (0.61%)
  • ACT 162 (0.46%)

So even the small party vote reduced significantly. This time it turned out to be a two horse race between a nimble old nagger and a draughthorse.

NZ First didn’t stand a candidate in Northland last year so the candidate vote isn’t a useful comparison.

Suppression to continue until trial, whenever

The blanket name and details suppression involving a ‘prominent New Zealander’ will to continue until the person stands trial, whenever that will be (a trial date hasn’t been set yet).

3 News – Name suppression continues for prominent New Zealander

A prominent New Zealander accused of a raft of sex crimes has won their battle to keep their identity a secret.

At their last court appearance in February, Judge Roy Wade rejected their bid for continued name suppression but gave them one more month of protection so they had the chance to appeal.

The person’s lawyer was in the High Court at Auckland this afternoon, appealing an earlier decision to lift their client’s name suppression.

After a six-hour hearing, Justice Raynor Asher agreed, ruling the accused could keep their name under wraps until their trial.

The person has pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of indecent assault against two complainants, and has elected to face the charges before a jury.

This is presumably the case there has been a lot of speculation about.

Winston Peters has proposed to deal with this sort of thing in his Northland by-election campaign – see Winston Peters pledges to remove paedophiles’ name suppression:

“There have been so many cases of sexual violence in New Zealand where the offender hides behind a cloak of secrecy imposed on the basis that secrecy protects the victim.”

He said his bill would remove that “legal cone of silence” in cases where the victim wanted the crime exposed.

He said NZ First would also propose a sex offender register, so parents would know if there was a child sex offender in their neighbourhood.

It’s unlikely National would agree to do anything like this with Peters.

Another ominous Northland poll for National

A day after a 3 News poll had Winston Peters nearly 20% ahead of National candidate Mark Osborne One News has published a poll with a similar result.

In a telephone poll of 501 eligible Northland voters:

  • Winston Peters (NZ First) 53%
  • Mark Osborne (National) 36%
  • Willow-Jean Prime (Labour) 9%
  • Don’t know/refused 7%

That’s a huge lead that will be difficult for National’s get-out-the-vote campaign to overcome.

The maximum sampling error for the poll is about plus or minus 4.4 percetage points at a 95% confidence level.

‘National Party voters’ support :

  • Peters 15%
  • Osborne 80%
  • Prime 3%

– that’s on a subset of the respondents, presumably about half, so the sampling error (often called margin of error) will be higher

…nearly 70% of Labour voters polled in the region now saying they will vote for Mr Peters.

That’s two thirds who say they will switch their vote to Peters.

Northland Poll: Peters 54%, Osborne 34%

3 News have just announced a new poll for the Northland by-election (although some of the numbers don’t add up).

  • Winston Peters (NZ First) 54%
  • Mark Osborne (National) 34%
  • Willow-Jean Prime (Labour) 10%
  • Other 2%

That’s a significant lead. But some of the numbers are a bit weird.

Can you trust Winston Peters?

  • Yes 43%
  • No 48%
  • Don’t know 9%

So 11% more say they will vote for Peters than trust him. It’s possible that voters on the left don’t trust him but put more priority on scoring a hit on National.

But more curious is the number who say which party they have switched from to support Peters:

  • 75% of Labour voters
  • 25% of National voters

In last year’s election:

  • National got 49% – 25% of that is about 12%.
  • Labour got about 17% – 75% of that is 13%.
  • NZ First got 13%.

That adds up to 38%, well short of 54%. Greens got about 11% and Conservatives got 6% which if all voted for Winston gets up to his poll support.

And if you take 25% off National’s 49% you get about 37%, a bit above 34%. This suggests that the poll isn’t particularly accurate.

500 Northland voters were polled.

The margin of error on a poll that size:

  • 40%-60% ±4.5
  • 25% or 75% ±3.9
  • 10% or 90% ±2.7

That allows for quite a bit of variation.

Regardless, Peters is well out in front. National will have much more organisation and help to get their supporters out the vote than NZ First who haven’t stood a candidate in Northland for about a decade, but it still looks ominous for National.

There has already been a much higher than normal number of people who have early voted.

Other poll results:

Are the bridge upgrades a bribe?

  • Yes 74 – percent
  • No 22 – percent
  • Don’t know – 4 percent

Do you agree with the bridge upgrades?

  • Yes – 58 percent
  • No – 39 percent
  • Don’t know – 3 percent

Read more:

Peters huffs pot then blows cold

Winston Peters is being reported as huffing hot on pot reform them blowing cold a short time later while campaigning in Northland.

Claire Trevett in Winston Peters backtracks on marijuana referendum:

NZ First leader Winston Peters promised to hold a referendum on legalising marijuana while campaigning for the Northland byelection, but rapidly backtracked on it straight afterwards.

Mr Peters was holding a street meeting in Kaikohe when a man asked whether he would legalise marijuana.

Mr Peters replied: “you want to legalise marijuana? I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you a referendum and if the answer is yes, the answer is yes. I’ll give you a vote on the referendum and if the answer is no, it’s no. Yes if you’ve got the majority, no if you haven’t. That fair enough? Wonderful.”

Peters was shown on 3 News saying that.


Asked about it later he denied he was supporting any such proposal or putting up a referendum himself, saying his comments were simply the shorthand required on a campaign trail. “I didn’t say ‘I’m going to give you the referendum. I said our policy is a referendum and if you want one, you’ve got to go and get one.”

He didn’t say either, but was closer to the first – ” I’ll give you a vote on the referendum “.

That’s a Clayton’s election promise – he’s not offering anything, especially after his backtrack.

He did not personally support it and had never smoked cannabis himself.

He was setting out NZ First’s longstanding policy that citizens’ initiated referendums should be enforceable.

That’s not how it came across at all. Peters is promoted as being very experienced at campaigning. He was initially misleading and then made things up to try and cover up his mistake.

NZ First appear to have no policy on cannabis. There is no reference to it in their policies, and their only policy mentioning drugs is under Law and Order:

  • Reintroduce the chargeable offence of being intoxicated and disorderly in public, to include intoxication from the use of drugs whether legal or illicit.

Mark Osborne seems to have a similar position to National, unsurprisingly.

For the record I don’t support legalisation of marijuana and won’t be putting up a bill for it; or promising it and then unpromising it 5 minutes later.

National appear to want to leave the current legislation as it is – which means leave the same mess in place. But they don’t refer to cannabis in their Law and Order policy.

Winston Peters’ Northland ‘promises’

While National’s Northland candidate Mark Osborne is making by-election port barrel promises that can be delivered – using taxpayer money – Winston Peters makes promises that he is very unlikely to be able to deliver on.

The NZ First website doesn’t appear to detail any of the promises being made.

There’s no detail about Northland promises, the website only refers to their 2014 policy manifesto. In that there’s only one reference to Northland, under MĀORI AFFAIRS :

New Zealand First will [lists a number of items including]:

  • Maintain areas as Zones of High Housing Need (e.g. Northland, East Coast, Eastern Bay of Plenty). Such zones will have low deposit and low interest provisions made available to them. Encourage Maori to build houses on collectively owned land.

I haven’t seen him campaigning on that. He’s not targeting the Māori vote in Northland, who will largely be on a different roll, Te Tai Tokerau.

What about keeping Winston honest? He made a number of claims on Q & A yesterday:

Why should Northland voters put their trust in me? Well, I’ve got a track record for making things happen.

He’s been in Parliament  for most of the last forty years. He’s made things happen at times past, like on the 1990’s and in coalition with Labour in 2005-2008 but the was rewarded by him and NZ First being dumped out of Parliament.

His track record for ‘making things happen’ in Northland is, ah, I don’t know. While he first stood in 1975 for Northern Maori he has never represented Northland (he was MP first for Hunua and later Tauranga before losing in 2005 by a wide margin).

NZ First haven’t stood a candidate in Northland for the last few elections.

My message is very simple to the National party voters – if you want an export-plus province, which you are, in the top of this country’s export wealth creators list to get a fair go, then you need someone who understands how the second-tier economy has happened and how you need a fairer go for farming, for fishing, and all those industries that used to provide full employment up there.

Understanding is one thing (and debatable), delivering is a different matter. Even if Peters did have some power in Opposition (he would have little) farming and fishing couldn’t be given special attention just in Northland,.

In short, the farming community knows that if the dollar was far better set – now, I don’t want to get complicated here – but if it was set to be sympathetic to exporters, then the north would be going so much better. And farming, for example, as the classic example of National party support, would not see one in four or five being seriously concerned about the bank that they are owing so much debt to now.

Not getting complicated means not explaining how he would set the dollar ‘far better’. He’s unlikely to be able to set the dollar at all. And if he could set the dollar it would be complicated, having a wider impact than on farming. Imports would be more expensive, including petrol.

Now, the fact is that up north, every industry that should be up is down, and everyone that should be down is up. In fact, it’s upside down there, and I’m committed to turning it the right way up.

No details on what that means and how he would turn things ‘the right way up’.

We’ll ensure they have a job with first-world wages, and we’ll make sure the employers get the tax concessions to keep them profitable.

What could he ensure? Targeted wage support, tax concessions and guaranteed profitability for Northland?  While in Opposition?

I’m going to ensure that the wealth that Northland has – and it is serious – whether it be tourism, whether it be in forestry, whether it be in farming, whether it be in all sorts of horticulture and agriculture – which should be possible – is going to be freed up, but they are going to get the benefits of it.

Can we expect an explanation of what that means? Or details of how it could be done? Unlikely.

The Northland voters may give him a go but if he doesn’t keep his many promises he’s likely to be thrown out in the 2017 general election. And NZ First could be dumped with him.

From their website home page:

“New Zealand First is not afraid to confront Parliament head on and we refuse
to accept defeat in any cause we believe in.”

A win in Northland may be short term victory, but if they don’t deliver they may have accept whatever defeats the voters give them.

Mike Sabin a prominent elephant in the Northland room

The Northland by-election is due to Mike Sabin’s mystery resignation.

Press Release: New Zealand National Party

Northland MP, Mike Sabin, today announced he has resigned from Parliament, effective immediately.

Mr Sabin said he had decided to resign due to personal issues that were best dealt with outside Parliament.

That’s all the public have been told. Except that it remains a prominent topic in the campaign, albeit spoken about in code public, but just about every New Zealander seems to think there is some sort of dirty secret. The rumours must be common knowledge in Northland.

SabinElephantThere seems to be general acknowledgement that a concurrent story is related.

National candidate Mark Osborne has struggled with awkward questions about the ex-MP he wants to replace.

Plunket: Oh there were rumours. And you had heard the rumours?

Osborne: Oh yes.

Plunket: Yes. Did you ask Mr Sabin or did anyone ask Mr Sabin to clarify those rumours when he was re-selected as the candidate?

Osborne: Well I can’t speak for anybody else, but ah I asked if he was ok.

Plunket: Well what do you mean, did you ask if there was anything that might damage his candidacy or the National party?

Osborne: No no I didn’t, no I just…

National, Sabin, Osborne, train wreck

Winston Peters uses Sabin as a key part of his campaign strategy:

Winston Peters: Nats covering up Sabin issue

The New Zealand First leader used his personal “paradise” to launch a political attack at the town hall, accusing National of covering up why MP Mike Sabin left Parliament.

“They are still trying to shut it down as we speak,” he says.

Mr Peters says the National Party knew before the election of a police investigation into Mr Sabin.

“That’s why $1 million is being spent on this by-election, to cover up that mess.”

National are spending big and keep rolling out their big guns to try and rescue a by-election disaster. Trying to sweep the Sabin elephant under a rug is part of their strategy, but is there any Northland voter who hasn’t heard the rumours?

He also accused his opponent Mark Osborne, who was the local party treasurer and a friend of Mr Sabin’s, of knowing about Mr Sabin’s issues.

But Mr Osborne denies the allegation.

“The reality of it is I knew nothing until the end of last year, and they are only rumours, and that is what they are still,” he says. “I still know nothing about the details.”

Osborne is playing right into Winston’s hand with his denials. I doubt anyone believes he didn’t know something. And it’s preposterous to still be claiming he doesn’t know about the details.

A candidate in his situation would surely make it their business to know what the details are, unless it is deliberate ignorance – but even that isn’t credible.

Sabin remains an elephant in the Northland room and if Osborne chooses to pretend it isn’t there he courts trouble and risks getting stomped on. And National will have to wear own the resulting mess.

Northland candidate meeting

What appears to be an unedited question time in a candidate meeting in the Northland by-election has been posted on Youtube.

Candidates for the Northland by-election gathered in Kerikeri at the Turner Centre on Friday, March 13th, 2015 and answered questions posed by members of the public on a wide variety of issues.

It was posted by SayNoToThe TPPA but appears to be unedited so gives a bit of an idea of how eight of the eleven candidates perform at a public meeting.

Candidates speaking:

  • Winston Peters (New Zealand First)
  • Joe Carr (Focus New Zealand)
  • Rueben Taipari Porter (MANA Movement)
  • Robin Grieve (ACT New Zealand)
  • Mark Osborne (National Party)
  • Willow-Jean Prime (Labour Party)
  • Rob Painting (Climate Party)
  • Bruce Rogan (Independent)

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