Panic Stations for Northland by-election

Oh deary me…

Prime Minister John Key is to cut short his state visit to Japan to campaign in the Northland by-election.

On Monday afternoon Key announced that next week he will travel to South Korea to witness the signing of New Zealand’s free trade agreement, and then on to Japan for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

But he admitted that the trip was shorter than initially planned to allow him to have a final push in Northland ahead of the March 28 vote.

Although Sabin won the electorate by 9000 votes in September’s election, polls have shown National’s candidate Mark Osborne and NZ First leader Winston Peters are neck and neck.

National has reacted by sending wave after wave of MPs and ministers to the electorate.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry visited the electorate on Saturday, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce visited on Monday (in place of Deputy Prime Minister Bill English) and Energy Minister Simon Bridges is due to travel to Northland on Wednesday.

Along with the ministerial visits, a number of backbench MPs have also travelled to Northland, appearing to provide assistance for Osborne on the road. A Beehive staffer from Local Government Minister Paula Bennett’s office is on leave providing assistance full time.    

Key said last month that Peters had virtually no chance of winning the by-election, but on Monday he said that a combination of low turnout, and the difficulties incumbent governments faced meant it would inevitably be close.

“Even in our safest seats, by-elections are very fickle, difficult matters, there’s no getting away from that.”

Confirming that he would cut short his trip to Japan for the end of the campaign, Key said he would be criticised whatever he did.

True.

But the fact Key previously booked to go longer shows National didn’t think they’d need his pixie fairy dust up north and they’d be able to bring Osborne across the line without it.

But the polls keep showing Winston has an even chance.  Northland indeed want to send National a message:  “Enough”.

Add this to the fairly inept electioneering that Joyce and de Joux have put into the electorate, and things are on an knife edge.

The fact Key wasn’t even going to bother turning up in the first place won’t be lost on the disaffected.

 

– Hamish Rutherford, Stuff


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