Brent Edwards: the beginning of the end for the Government

Apparently time is up for the Prime Minister, John Key, too.

It seems one by-election is enough to override the general election result of just six months earlier when National won a third term with a greater proportion of the vote than it got in the two previous elections.

Certainly the loss is a blow to National. This is a seat it has held for decades and its previous MP Mike Sabin, who resigned in January, had a 9,300 vote majority.

On any count this was a by-election National should not have lost. But Northland voters told the Government they were not happy with its performance and elected New Zealand First leader Winston Peters as their MP.

It is the by-election National lost because it did everything wrong. ? Everything.

It is clear his message that the electorate had been neglected by National resonated among voters. In a by-election they could vote against National’s candidate Mark Osborne, knowing it would not undermine the stability of the Government.

National’s woes in the seat were also exacerbated by the circumstances of the by-election.

Mr Sabin’s sudden resignation and the reasons for it did the party no favours.
Prime Minister John Key talking to reporters in Japan in Wednesday

In Mr Osborne National picked a political novice and someone who was relatively unknown in the electorate.

He was up against Mr Peters, a seasoned political campaigner, and someone who was well known in the electorate not just because of his national profile but also because of his long and deep family and iwi connections to the land.

National compounded its problems by panicking, scaremongering and attacking Mr Peters for not living in the electorate.

Its approach – fashioned by campaign manager and senior minister Steven Joyce – failed spectacularly.

It was, as Mr Joyce freely conceded, his first defeat. It was also for Mr Key the first time he has experienced political failure.

One thing never explored through the many polls that Pinko Farrar does, is that the support for National is partially a mirage. ?It harbours people in fear of the alternative. ?That’s not support. ?It means that as soon as the left stop acting like lunatics and look calm and collected, the fairy tale for National is over.

There will not be another perfect storm of Dotcom, Harewira, Harre, Minto, Norman and Dirty Politics next time.