Despite Labour polling below 30%, party strategists believe it can win Hamilton West, and general election next year

Although recent opinion polls have shown Labour’s support dropping below 30%, suggesting it is now the underdog going into election year, party strategists still nourish  the belief the Ardern government may  emerge from the general election  able  with allied parties to hold on to office.

They are convinced  the National  Party has  not won back the degree of support that would indicate it is  a shoo-in at next year’s poll.  This, they believe, will become clear after  votes are counted in the Hamilton West by-election on December 10.

They have taken heart, too, from the result of the elections across in Victoria at the weekend, where the premier Daniel Andrews swept aside the challenge of the Coalition, though with a reduced majority. Andrews, like Ardern here, had been ruthless with his lockdowns during the Covid pandemic, but although that incurred  some hostility, a majority thought he did a good job.

Back in Hamilton West Georgie Dansey, the Labour Party candidate, herself doesn’t believe the by-election will be a referendum on the government’s performance as much as a contest won or lost on local issues.

“Every electorate is different,” she says.Dansey is the chief executive of the Independent Schools Education Association and a small business owner. She  has  impressed in early campaigning and in defending a majority gained by Labour in 2020 of 6000, has a solid cushion.

The government, with plenty of cash  in its back pocket, has made sure some of it is earmarked to be spent in Hamilton West.

National candidate Tama Potaka has a  daunting task to shrink Labour’s majority to vanishing point, even if  he taps into a rich vein of dissatisfaction with the government.  The difficulty he faces is that National has not articulated clearly enough  the kind of solutions it would apply to resolve the range of economic problems that have enveloped the  country.

Of the other candidates, Dr Gaurav Sharma already has a high profile in the electorate, as the MP  who secured  the 6000-vote  majority for Labour in 2020, but then fell foul of the party for his criticisms of Ardern, and the party’s administration.  He seems to  think the voters who gave him such a resounding majority will support him again. Almost certainly he will discover politics  doesn’t work the way he thinks it  should.  

The ACT party has nominated a sitting MP Dr James McDowall to contest the by-election, and though he  attracted only 5.4% of the vote in a neighbouring electorate in 2020  the experience he has gained as a list MP  in the  House has  given the party’s leadership confidence in his candidacy. The former owner of an immigration firm in Hamilton, Dr McDowall has been ACT’s immigration and defence spokesman this term. He’s contributed to the party’s regular policy documents, including calling for more occupations to be placed on a fast track to residency and for defence spending to be increased to 2% of GDP.

McDowall’s performance in Hamilton West may give  some indication whether ACT can lift its support to the point in 2023 where it  could demand  as many  as  four ministerial places in a right-of-centre government.

The TOP party also has a candidate Naomi Pocock running  in Hamilton West.  Under a new leader Raf Manji, TOP has invigorated its policy position. Manji stood in 2017 in the Christchurch electorate of Ilam, coming second to National’s Gerry Brownlee,beating  the Labour candidate.

Notable absentees in Hamilton West are the Green Party and NZ First which may make  strategic  sense, but gives no clue on how  either will perform next year.

The by-election campaign  would have been enlivened  by a NZ First candidacy, particularly if it had drawn Winston Peters out of  his Northland lair.

 Despite lying low for over two years, there was little doubt  Peters would be  sniffing the political breeze again and deciding he could once more become the ringmaster he was in  2005 and 2017.

He shares  with Donald Trump the belief he has been the wronged victor, and voters will barely be able to wait to restore him to high office. The difference as he prepares for 2023 is that he is ruling out working with Labour again.  

Whether that is a message that may resonate with Hamilton West voters will not be known until December 10.

One thought on “Despite Labour polling below 30%, party strategists believe it can win Hamilton West, and general election next year

  1. I wonder how many of the Indian community in Jacinda’s electorate will vote for her. Remember how quick she was to succour the muslims in Christchurch? Not so quick off the mark for the Hindis….they won’t forget.

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