Vance is right for once

Andrew Vance has climbed down off her high horse and written a sensible column for once.

What did the people of Northland do to deserve this? Barely has the country recovered from the mania of September’s general election, but the hoardings are back up and the place is crawling with politicians.

The beleaguered electorate – which will choose a replacement for National’s Mike Sabin on March 28 – has been promised 10 new bridges, Winston Peters and as many selfies with the PM as they like.

Most folk were more interested in the results from the Ninety Mile Beach snapper fishing contest. And who can blame them? This election is less about the people than the politicians.

Northland is much neglected. The Government has done little to upgrade substandard roads, or lift below-average incomes and educational achievement.

Peters makes much of his local roots. But he has done little for the constituency in almost four decades in Parliament. NZ First couldn’t find a candidate to stand in the previous three elections.

Winston is a political charlatan, but one who has more cheek than a fat man’s bum…he can safely pretend he loves the North because he knows the media will let him off the hook like they always do.

Pundits often overstate the importance of by-elections. This time they are correct – the stakes are high for Peters and National.

This contest gives Peters another chance to give John Key a bloody nose. The old-timer is yet to better Key, who has previously denied him a place in Parliament and the kingmaker role in 2014. Winning an electorate seat will shore up NZ First’s position heading into 2017, even if Peters retires. After all his swagger, losing brings public humiliation. ??

History suggests National will be bruised. The 1998 by-election in Taranaki-King Country saw Jim Bolger’s 10,000-plus majority slashed to under 1000. In 1994, David Carter won back Selwyn by only 400 votes when Ruth Richardson quit. Both are still solidly blue.

National’s internal polling currently has Peters ahead of Mark Osborne – remarkable given Sabin’s majority was 9000.

I’m told the polling is dreadful and Steve Joyce is pulling out what remaining hair he has, while his brains trusts thinks that yelling louder at the volunteers will motivate them. There is one young fellow from Auckland who might actually get taken behind the changing rooms are the Rugby club and given a short, sharp lesson in Northland etiquette.

National will try to seduce with an economic and infrastructure push, while arguing Peters offers nothing in Opposition benches except an Invercargill-based list MP.

But success will lie mainly in scaring National supporters out.

Losing the seat – blue since 1969 – hands power to support parties and threatens the Government’s programme.

So ministers are giving up their weekend to man the phonebanks. Party machinery cranked into top gear – targeting around 14,000 wealthy, white supporters in Paihia, Kerikeri and other eastern settlements.

I’m reliably told that those ministers are getting an a earful over a great many topics…and the pandering to eco-terrorists over the kauri in Titirangi is just the latest. The membership and National voters are restless and they are telling the party in agricultural words that they never get to hear in the?hallowed cloisters of parliament where every utterance is prefaced with “Yes Minister”. Some are even hanging up the phone.

Winston Peters may have a lot to lose, but not as much as Steve Joyce, his brains trust or John Key.


– Fairfax