Michael Wood talks up Labour’s Northcote result

Michael Wood won the Mt Roskill by-election in 2016 after Phil Goff resigned so he could take over as mayor of Auckland.

He has tweeted his thoughts on the Northcote by-election (@michaelwoodnz):

What can we say the morning after the Northcote by-election? The first is to congratulate new MP . He seems like a nice guy, ran a clean campaign, and should be proud of his result.

The second is to acknowledge @shananhalbert for a superb campaign. I had the pleasure of being his Campaign Chair and saw 1st hand the huge effort he put in and the qualities of the man. Built up an incredible team. Will be a great MP one day.

Then to the numbers. Labour’s vote increased by 10% from 34% to 44%. This is a significant result in a seat Labour has not held in 13 years.

This represents a swing to Labour of 4%. Swings *to the government* hardly ever happen in by-elections.

What he doesn’t say is that Bidois got 50.98% of the votes (on election night numbers), just 1.29% less than MP for 12 years and Minister in Cabinet for 7 years Jonathan Coleman in last year’s general election.

While National was in government they faced 6 general electorate by-elections:

  • In Roskill 2016 a 24.5% swing to the oppstn
  • In Albert 2017 no govt candidate
  • In Chch East 12 a 25 % swing to oppstn
  • In Mana 2010 a .5% swing to govt
  • In Botany 11 a 5% swing to oppstn
  • In Albert 09 a 19.5% swing to oppstn

And while I have not checked the numbers I am pretty sure that all by-elections in the 1990s and 1980s saw swings to the opposition.

So, the swing of 4% to the government candidate in the Northcote by-election is unprecedented in recent electoral history.

Politicians are good at picking statistics that suit their narrative.

The ‘swing’ to Labour was mostly due to a slump in the Green candidate support (6.73% to 2.9%), and no NZ First candidate who got 3.73% in 2017 (they stood as an independent getting 0.47%).

The ‘swing’ from Government parties to National was negligible.

Finally, here is what John Key said when National reduced the Mana Labour majority from around 6000 to around 1400 (very similar to Northcote) in that by-election:

“John Key said “I never thought coming second in politics would feel so good….Sometimes losing is winning and this is one of them where we have had a tremendous result here. In all probability, the swing should have gone against National because that’s what happens when you are the Government campaigning in a very safe Labour seat and he has been thrashed. When this campaign began, Phil Goff said this by-election would be referendum on the Government’s policies. Well he was right!”

Jacinda Ardern seems to have a good feeling about coming second in Northcote.

Newshub: ‘Very good outcome’ in Northcote despite the loss – Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she’s proud of the party’s efforts in the Northcote by-election, despite coming up slightly short of victory.

“There was a lot of eyes on this, and you did us proud, Shanan,” she told the runner-up. “You were an excellent candidate, you spoke about the things that mattered.”

She said it was a “very good outcome” for a sitting Government’s candidate to improve on his vote so much.

“We’re really proud of that. We certainly expected it to be close, and of course you go into every election race hoping for a win. We couldn’t have had better in Shanan and the team that ran the campaign here.”

She said it alarm bells would be ringing for National, despite their win.

“When you compare other by-elections when you’ve been in Government, this is a very good outcome for us.”

She doesn’t mention the collapse in the Green candidate Rebekah Jaung’s vote, despite her seeking votes for herself, and there was no attempt by Greens to promote tactical voting for the Labour candidate.

Labour without the Greens would be a problem for Ardern, especially with National’s support overall support (like their support in Northcote) remaining above Labour’s.


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  1. PDB

     /  11th June 2018

    The Greens are facing a big decision regarding the ‘waka jumping’ bill – sell out there and they may struggle even further with even some hard-core greenies questioning their support.

    NZL First are already toast next election – far too many broken promises to be reminded of in the lead up to the next election & too many things they should be dead against implemented by the govt.

    • Blazer

       /  11th June 2018

      getting ahead of yourself…again.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  11th June 2018

        True. hard core greenies questioning does not compute.

      • PDB

         /  11th June 2018

        My strike rate is pretty good Blazer – unlike yourself I picked some way out that Winston was going to go with Labour post election.

  2. david in aus

     /  11th June 2018

    It’s positive for both National and Labour, but concerning for the Left-wing of NZ politics.
    Jonathan Coleman was supposed to be a popular MP and as such had support from those that did not vote National. Either that supposition wasn’t correct or there was increased support for a generic National candidate (with respects to Bidois).

    Labour has increased votes and it suggests that amongst Left-wing voters it has great support. However, MMP has a 5% threshold and this and other polls are ominous signs for this government.

    To win government at the next election, National and Labour need to take votes from each other. It’s too early to predict the next election but I think National would be favoured to win at the next election. I would have expected the incumbent government to be further ahead in the polls and National to be in the 30 percents for Labour to be favoured.

    It is easier to gain support in opposition than for the government to maintain and extend. Bad news and scandals are part-n-parcel of government and there are two more years for their support to ebb.

    • duperez

       /  11th June 2018

      To win government at the next election, National and Labour need to take votes from each other? To win government at the next election, National only has to get the same proportion of the non-voters of the weekend just gone as they got from those who did vote.

      Labour needs to get a bigger share (by about 1400) from the 28,500 who did not vote in the weekend. You’re right about bad news and scandals. Those and positive news and being moved personally in some way will be decisive. There are two more years for everyone for support to ebb or grow.


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