A long serving MP told me that the incumbent in a safe seat was always at a disadvantage at pre-election meet-the-candidates-meetings.
The other would-be MPs could say almost anything ,secure in the knowledge they’d never get to parliament to be held to account. The incumbent had a much harder task of making no promises s/he couldn’t realistically deliver.
With MMP the MP might expect to have at least one other candidate on the same side of the political spectrum to balance the opposition but at North Otago Greypower’s meeting on Saturday it was five to one against the sitting MP.
However, National’s Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean was more than a match for the other five candidates representing the Alliance, Green, Labour and Democrats for Social Credit parties and an independent.
She presented the facts and figures on National’s term. This included the explanation that superannuation had gone up 18.9% since National came to power and the sobering reminder that around half of New Zealand households were net tax recipients and 71% of net tax was paid by the relatively small number of people earning more than $150,000.
She also explained the importance of continuing to rebalance the economy to move from high spending, taxing and borrowing to savings and export-led growth.
Unlike the other candidates Jacqui is actively campaigning for both the party and constituent votes and she gave examples which showed her knowledge of Waitaki, its people and their concerns; and the breadth and depth of her work across her 34,888 square kilometre electorate.
As for the other candidates?
Like Jacqui, the Green’s Sue Coutts was articulate and exuded warmth and conviction. She was clear about her party’s policies, though unlike Jacqui, was much stronger on aspirational goals than practicalities.
Labour’s Barry Monks began by saying he didn’t realise he was expected to make a five mintue speech. This showed he’d failed candidates 101: if invited to a meeting, ascertain date, time, venue and purpose and what’s required.
The independent, David Ford, told us he was an entrepreneur. Any positive impression this might have created was spoiled when he went on to say he’d returned to New Zealand after 38 years overseas with only $10,000 which suggests he wasn’t a particularly successful one.
The Alliance candidate, Norman MacRitchie, who received 93 votes in the last election, wanted to repeal the States Services Act. The Democrat for Social Credit candidate, Hessel Van Wieren, who gained 140 votes in the last election, tried to convince us the Reserve Bank could solve all our problems by creating more money.
When the speakers finished the man two along from me accused the bloke between us of having made up his mind before he got there. I suspect that was true of most of the audience, but at least they’d made the effort to get to the meeting and listen to other points of view, even if it only confirmed preconceived ideas.