I'm not making a moral point, so much as a political one: that National won't help its by-election cause by going after Shearer as a carpetbagger.
Craig: I agree with you about what was and what wasn't fairgame with respect to Key.
But I am of the view that National very successfully cultivated during last year's election the impression that it was clean/positive/concerned about "the issues that matter", while Labour came to be seen as grubby/obsessed with character-based ephemera/not concentrating on the things the electorate really cares about.
Why would National pursue a strategy that could see this dynamic turned on its head?
Shearer and Lee were interviewed on Q&A this morning... Lee's main line of attack was that Shearer had spent a good number of years out of the country, and therefore couldn't possibly be an effective representative of the people of Mt Albert.
I wonder whether National's going to keep this up. It strikes me as a spectacularly stupid strategy, for two reasons:
-Shearer has been doing something - putting his life on the line in the world's trouble spots in an effort to make the world safer - that the vast majority of New Zealanders would admire. Lee's dismissive and contemptuous tone with regards this experience made her seem ungracious and unlikeable.
-Lee's Government is led by a man who in 2002 asked the people of Helensville to elect him as their MP, despite having spent most of the preceeding decade overseas. When elected PM in 2008, Key still hadn't been back in NZ as long as he had spent overseas in the 90s/early 00s. This makes Lee's line of attack obviously hypocritical.
Putting these two points together, does National really want to invite a comparison between Key's overseas work and Shearer's? There's nothing wrong with enriching oneself working in the financial sector - but do you really want to ask the public to compare that with peacebuilding in Iraq, especially at a time when the financial sector is, well, not exactly the flavour of the month?
Because this will be the effect of this incessant attack on Shearer's CV (which began with Key jumping on Shearer's academic discussion of private military companies, something which also felt to me to be beneath the Prime Minister). And whatever happened to National's much vaunted positive campaigning?
I guess I was also alluding to my sense that Labour are better positioned to win than the Greens and therefore, if there was a risk that a National candidate might squeeze through and advance policies that were in neither's interests then... well, pity there's no party vote hey!
Voters will have a chance to avoid such a scenario. This by-election will, I imagine, be heavily polled - at the very least, I would expect both the Herald and TVNZ to release public polls. If National is running Labour very close (or, indeed, ahead of Labour), Green voters will have a chance to switch candidates (as will Act voters).
Oh, and going further back, the Selwyn by-election (held after Ruth Richardson's resignation) achieved an incredible 78% turnout - as voters turned out in droves to almost deliver a generally secure National seat to the Alliance (whose John Wright came within 418 votes of upsetting David Carter - Marian Hobbs, with over 2000 votes, was the left-wing spoiler on this occasion)...
I guess Te Tai Hauauru just doesn't count then...
Oops, my bad... I meant to write "the last *competitive* by-election in New Zealand".
For the record: turnout was 80% in Mt Albert last year. A one-quarter reduction would mean something like a 60% turnout in the by-election. (It was 62% in Taranaki King-Country.) I'd be surprised if it were that high, though: by-election turnouts tend to be driven by discontent with incumbent governments.
Anyone have stats on turnout strength for byelections compared to general election?
The last by-election in NZ was Taranaki-King Country in 1998 (after a vacancy created by another resigning former Prime Minister). 20,225 people voted in that by-election, compared with 27,387 people voting a year later in the 1999 general election. So, turnout was around a quarter lower for the by-election as compared the general election.
If a similar drop-off occurs in Mt Albert, we can expect something like 26,000 people to cast ballots in the by-election.
Yeah, Wellington Central would be a better shot, demographically... but the incumbent Labour MP has only just been elected.
I don't have any horse in the race ... my only point is that it makes sense for Labour to want the Greens to have an electorate seat, on the grounds that:
a) it's hard to imagine Labour governing again in the next decade without Green support;
b) there will probably come an election in the next 10 to 20 years when the Greens just miss out on 5%, and an electorate seat would act as a good insurance policy against Green obliteration.
The Greens did win an electorate seat (Coromandel in 1999). The only pattern I was sensing was that the Greens seem to do well in the inner city electorates of our four largest cities.
Well, a Green victory would only seem plausible if some public polling showed National well ahead (not so outlandish) and the Greens neck-and-neck with Labour for second (pretty damn outlandish). This could convince anti-government voters to rally around the Greens. An enormous longshot, though...