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.