The ODT’s Dene Mackenzie has reached Tauranga as he takes the political pulse of the country.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters faces a voter backlash in Tauranga that could prove terminal unless his party squeaks across the 5% threshold and he can return to Parliament through the party vote.
There is a chance, albeit an outside one, that his law and order spokesman, Ron Mark, will win Rimutaka and take Mr Peters back into Parliament with him, but Mr Peters better not count on that.
At a meet-the-candidates night in Tauranga on Wednesday night, Mr Peters had to contend with hecklers calling out “baubles of office” as the stood-down foreign affairs minister tried to get his message across.
He was not above attacking National Party leader John Key either, attracting some hissing from people near where Taking the Pulse was sitting.
. . . Outside the election meeting, three retired farmers (you could just tell from a distance) were in earnest conversation.
“So, Winston did well tonight,” I volunteered.
The reaction could not have been stronger. Words that cannot be printed here were used to describe the MP for whom two had voted twice.
Richard (72) – he would not give his last name – believed he should give his vote to Act New Zealand this time, to get rid of Mr Peters once and for all.
When asked if he understood how to use the party vote strategically to change the government, he admitted he did not.
Neither did the other two. And that was part of the problem for other voters. They wanted National to win but were not going to vote National for the party vote, voting only for Mr Bridges.
Labour voters were on the money with their voting preferences. No splitting the vote for them.
. . . National-leaning voters believed that Tauranga voters were seen as supporting all the bad things that were happening in Parliament.
Labour voters disliked Mr Peters for dragging Prime Minister Helen Clark into the donations scandals and “forcing her to defend that b . . .”.
They hated the idea that Mr Peters could again be in Cabinet if Labour won the election.
At the RSA club, Mr Peters still had some loyal supporters.
The Gold Card had not proved too helpful for them, but the slogan “Seniors First” on Mr Peters’ election signs meant a lot to those voters.
Interesting that the policy he’s responsible for did little for them but they still trust what he says.
There’s little doubt that Peters will lose the seat. But he needs only 5% of voters to think like the people at the RSA to enable him and his party to crawl back to parliament and maybe into government.