From the rhetoric at Labour candidate Michael Wood’s street corner meetings you might think that Phil Goff was still actually standing for Mt Roskill.
Wood invokes Goff’s name frequently as he stops off at corner after corner in the state house heartland of the electorate which will go to the polls this weekend.
He goes as far as to say that everything he learned about politics he learned from Goff.
Even the van that accompanies him on his trek is the same one that Goff used when he was the MP.
And he says that people want a continuation of the kind of strong representation that Goff gave the electorate over the 35 years he was in Parliament (except for 1990 – 93 when National held the seat).
As to policy issues, he says housing is number one.
“Virtually every person wants to talk about housing, whether its ownership or rental or social housing issues,” he told POLITIK.
“Transport problems are just unavoidable in Mt Roskill and then, and this issue has really up, is crime and law and order.”
Mt Roskill is a state house suburb; 37% of the houses in the electorate are rented, most off Housing New Zealand.
A quick drive-past down Housing New Zealand streets, reveals houses which show few signs of any recent maintenance. Most are occupied by immigrants. 40% of the electorate are classified as Asian; either Chinese or Indian. 60% of the electorate’s school children are non-European and non-Maori.
Yet perhaps paradoxically, unemployment is low at 4.3% and most of the electorate have white collar jobs, albeit many as sales or administrative assistants.
But the picture is one of the immigrants who have arrived with limited resources but who have begun the upward climb in New Zealand society.
“Many people in this community who have come here have by nature an aspirational focus,” says Wood.
“They’ve made a quite brave decision to start up somewhere else, and it’s usually about the next generation and setting them up.”
Wood’s campaign team for the street corner meetings is largely Indian but then they are joined by a Pacific Island contingent complete with their own loud hailer and boom box which at times threatens to drown out Wood’s loudspeaker.
Labour’s biggest mistake is to stand a proven loser in the seat and then hoping the momentum that Phil Goff had translates to Wood. The voters can see this is all about Wood getting that job he’s been promised, and not about Mt Roskill.
Whichever side gets the most people out of their comfy chairs on the day will decide the next MP for Mt Roskill, but the stats are all in favour of Labour. Their voter mobilisation is fairly good as they bus in the union stooges to drive everyone to polls.
Additionally, a by-election has never been taken by a sitting government in an opposition seat.
But then again – voters have been known to act quite differently recently.
If Mt Roskill goes blue, Wood’s career (such as it is) is over, and Andrew Little is well on the way to beating Bill English’s record.
– Richard Harman, Politik