Fat Tony on Northland

Mike Williams aka Fat Tony has a column in the Hawkes Bay Today about Steve Joyce’s Northland debacle.

MAKE no mistake, the outcome of the Northland byelection last Saturday is a political boilover of seismic proportions.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters won one of the National Party’s safest seats with an election night majority of more than 4000 votes, erasing a National Party majority of over 9000 votes in the general election just a few months before. Winston Peters’ final majority is likely to increase when the nearly 1000 newly-enrolled special votes get included in the total.

This 13,000 vote turnaround is unprecedented in our political history, but it is the internal dynamics of Peters’ triumph that should give Prime Minister John Key and National Party campaign manager Stephen Joyce pause for very serious reflection.

Apart from a governing party losing a safe seat, two statistics set this contest apart from any previous byelection. About half of the voters chose to cast their ballot before election day and the level of participation was huge.

The early voting phenomenon is unprecedented, and it exceeds a trend in recent polls.

The turnout level is a genuine abnormality. It has been a rule of thumb for years that byelection turnout levels are half of the previous general poll. The Christchurch East byelection saw 13,000 electors vote compared with the 28,000 who had voted in the previous general election.

This is the established pattern.

Northland broke that mould. With 28,000 voting in the byelection, this wasn’t much short of the 34,000 that voted in the general election five months before.

And Steve Joyce and John Key think it is of no consequence that a) the turnout was up and b) they lost a seat National has held for 70 years.

These two statistics suggest anger, and we should explore what National did wrong, what the other parties did right and what this might mean for electoral politics in New Zealand.

National was overconfident to the point of arrogance.

Although National knew about the likelihood of a byelection before anyone else and Key decided on the date, they were the last big party to nominate a candidate. National then took a week to get its billboards up and they chose to plaster their candidate’s image over recycled former MP Mike Sabin hoardings.

When the rains came some local punters were faced with images of Sabin, just the man National wanted everyone to forget.

It was amateur hour stuff. People were and are angry…but Key and Joyce think it doesn’t matter…they think their polling won’t be affected…and so no one in National is even looking at the debacle.

The malign influence of Australian political consultants Crosby Textor was also evident and almost certainly counter-productive.

This outfit specialises in the political equivalent of sledging and their newly-minted New Zealand affiliate, Hannifin de Joux, having opened its account with a duck in Northland, will be ruing its timing.

Jo de Joux didn’t even go to Northland…the party hired her, paid her a not inconsequential amount and she stayed in Auckland ran the campaign for Steve Joyce by remote…hectoring and abusing volunteers from the comfort of her home.

I was surprised that some old hands like Matthew Hooton and Michelle Boag were not involved in National’s campaign. This might have avoided destructive clangers like Joyce getting caught prompting his candidate from behind a camera when the hapless Mark Osborne appeared on Q+A on TV1.

Boag or Hooton would have known that if you need to do this, (and sometimes you do) then get a discreet earpiece and don’t advertise it.

Fat Tony places too much stock in Michelle Boag, he well knows she was the president that delivered up the lowest ever result for National of 20.93% and that promoting her is very, very cynical. We all know he wants her back to screw up another campaign, but it won’t work because the National party have a long memory.

It seems the only people who aren’t looking at the implications of the loss in Northland by Steve Joyce and his dream team of campaigners is the dream team.

No lessons are being learned.


– HB Today


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  • Souvlaki

    Yep….denial is a well recognised ego defense ( albeit an unsophisticated one)…but why National continue in this ” nothing has changed ” charade is beyond my comprehension…and on paper at least I am a supporter! Wake up you pack of morons!!

  • williamabong

    Fat Tony forgot to add chucking his own candidate uder the bus in the hope it would help to unseat Nationa.
    He was also helped by a government that has developed a reputation as professional fence sitters, and being long on promise and short on delivery.
    Treaty and RMA reforms would go a long way towards proving the nats were serious about governing rather than warming the benches till it’s the next lots turn.

    • Sailor Sam

      Yes that was a smart move by Labour, or Angry Andy anyway.
      Winston is now leader of the opposition and if NZFirst go with the same message in 2017, it could well surpass Labour as the 2nd biggest party in Parliment.
      Little Labour and Toxic Green are the big losers, not National.

      • MaryLou

        Agreed, although it does show that support for National is not unqualified, and that some of their support base in the last election was from people who might not ordinarily have voted for them, but were scared to death of Schmidt and the Greens getting a foot in the door. I don’t think it would have mattered to much if National had run a truly smooth campaign – Northland wanted to send a message, and that they did!

    • taurangaruru

      The opportunity for serious reform is gone, National’s support within parliament is on a knife edge & they will not risking losing any more supporters. Sit back we have another 2 years of do nothing upset nobody wet nursing from National before they get turfed out & we have to endure the rabid left.

  • caochladh

    I guess Fat Tony is over the moon that Mr Angry saved the Party all that money by throwing the election and for showing the initiative to keep blagging the Party faithful for more campaign funds when he had already decided to pull the plug.

  • Robert

    Young people overwhelmingly vote NZ First and the Greens. A heady mix of Nationalism and Socialism.

  • National did not think Northlanders would be sucked in by the “Farce for the north”

  • I picked up this comment in the Herald’s Rodney Hide critique today. It seems to me to go at least some way to explaining why Peters won:

    The media keep claiming Peters won big in Northland. They are flat wrong. Is it too much work to do the sums?

    In 2014 there were 35,000 votes cast in Northland. In the by election there were 28,500 or 81.5% of the 2014 result.

    Labour got 8,969 votes in 2014. In the by election they got 1,315. 8,969 – 1,315 X 81.5% = 6,238. That’s a reasonable calculation of the Labour votes that got given to Peters.

    The Red/Greens got 3,639 votes in 2014. No candidate in the by election. Their votes apparently also went to Peters. 3,639 X 81.4% = 2,962. Total of Labour and Red/Greens transferred vote 6,236 + 2,962 = 9,198.

    If we deduct the 9,198 from Peters’ 15,359 we have 6,161. That is 5,186 less than National got. Peters on his own didn’t get many votes on his own. In fact he was trounced by the National guy except that National deserted their own. Where did Peters’ 5,186 votes comes from? NZ First won 4,546 in 2014 so despite all the publicity he got, despite by election swings, despite Labour and the Greens backing him he barely pulled 600 new votes. That equates to a poor showing.”

  • Doc45

    Fat Tony is flat wrong. It is not the biggest turnaround in a by election by a long chalk. In the Taranaki King Country by election there was a much bigger swing against National. In fact if Labour, the Greens or NZ First had chosen to pull their votes behind the “outsider” National would have lost a blue ribbon seat.
    Commentators are enjoying trying to make the Nats squirm but it would be a little more credible if they used facts not supposition. Peters won and won well but only because two major parties pulled their votes and clearly most of their votes went to Peters.
    Clearly it is a hollow victory and if the Nats wake up and put a strong candidate up in 2017 Peters will be back out of the limelight.

    • williamabong

      Two years should be long enough to show the voters they elected a corpse, Winston couldn’t give a toss about Northland he just wanted the opportunity to grandstand and play the big man again.
      The downside will be the taxpayer forking out for all the bribes, so who is the idiot, Joyce or Peters, deat heat I reckon.

  • parorchestia

    The party that lost most was Labour. They had an excellent and hard working candidate who must now be feeling p…ed off at the party leadership. And Little has shown that Labour’s principles mean nothing; the only thing that matters is defeating the Nats. This is so stupid it is hardly credible. What a doofuss.
    National can easily come to terms with the grasping and avaricious Winnie the Baubler, so the harm done to National is temporary. The harm done to Labour may be terminal.

  • Andrew Gibson

    The obvious lesson from the good folk in Northland is that somehow, the Nats need to work with NZ First.

    By consigning Labour to an irrelevance, Little has delivered a body blow to his own party while simultaneously giving the Nats a much needed opportunity for rebranding. It almost suggests a subtle master plan from the PM and Joyce.