A strong candidate and well-ordered campaign weren’t enough to make history on Saturday.
A sitting government has never won a by-election in a seat held by the Opposition and Mt Roskill voters weren’t going to change that.
That National won the party vote in the general election two years ago was irrelevant. It’s a red seat and voting reflected that.
Labour’s Michael Wood, helped by the absence of Green and New Zealand First candidates, won the with 11,170 votes, well ahead of National’s Parmjeet Parmar who got 4,652. The counting of special votes isn’t going to make much difference.
The result brought a good end to a bad week for Labour with two polls giving them at best 28% support and at worst 23%.
But they shouldn’t get too excited.
Maurice McTigue won Timaru for National in the 1985 by-election but Labour increased its support in the 1987 election. More recently, the Labour candidate won Christchurch East in 2013 but National won the party vote in that seat a year later.
Roshan Nauhria, leader of the newly formed NZ People’s Party, got 709 votes on Saturday.
He too should learn from history which shows how difficult it is for a new party to win seats unless it has the advantage of a sitting MP who has changed allegiance.