Turning blue – or at least purple

December 1, 2011

One of National’s active supporters in Dunedin reckons the city isn’t so much red as purple.

The cover of the give-away paper DScene and story on the election result – National winning the party vote in Dunedin South and nearly doing it in Dunedin North – backs her up:

One of the benefits of MMP has been the presence of a National MP in the city.

Former MP Katherine Rich helped raise the party’s profile and present its softer side. She was succeeded in Dunedin North by Michael Woodhouse who has made an impressive start to his parliamentary career and worked hard for the people of city.

Conway Powell started turning the tide towards National in Dunedin South in 2005, built on that in 2008 and this year’s candidate Joanne Hayes carried on to win the party vote.

Boundary changes which included more rural areas and lifestyle blocks in the electorate, and demographic changes have helped cement the base. But it takes dedicated candidates and supporters to build on that and turn it into more votes.

There were special circumstances this time. It wasn’t just the National vote which went up, the Green vote did too and Labour’s went down.

But the result is an encouraging indication that the city could be changing from red to purple, though not blue – yet.


Hey Babe!

October 15, 2008

Labour supporters were running round the Women’s Expo in Dunedin at the weekend with badges saying: “Helen’s a babe”.

They might have been confused by the younger woman who’s on Labour’s billboards.

Or, as National’s Dunedin South candidate Conway Powell said, it’s an acronym for Bloody Awful at Building the Economy.


Standing room only at the Robbie

August 14, 2008

The Robbie Burns may not have quite the reputation as The Cook or the Gardens, but it too has for many years hosted its fair share of Otago students.

Yesterday it was host to a different clientele as the venue for the joint launch of the election campaigns for National’s Dunedin North and South candidates, Michael Woodhouse and Conway Powell.

There was standing room only and a wide range of ages with a good number of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s as well as older people including Percy Wellington, who has been a member for 67 years; and former Speaker Sir Robin Gray.

The speeches were short – an introduction by Katherine Rich, followed by John Key then the two candidates. The messages were similar – New Zealand and Dunedin need National and the party has the right people for the huge task facing the in-coming government, whatever its stripes.

One of the strengths of MMP is that it enables parties to have an MP is an area where they might not win an electorate. Katherine Rich has been a strong advocate for Dunedin and its people and an asset for National in the city and around the country.

John told the ODT that Dunedin would need a high calibre replacement for Katherine and that both candidates were high calibre. I agree.


The Knowledge Wave explained

August 13, 2008

Remember the Knowledge Wave?

Conway Powell, National’s Dunedin South  candidate said at his campaign launch today he’s worked out what it means: waving goodbye to our knowledgable graduates as they leave New Zealand for better opportunities overseas.


Benson-Pope might go independent

May 29, 2008

Just what Labour needs – the ODT reports that Dunedin South MP David Benson-Pope is considering standing as an independent Labour candidate.

Mr Benson-Pope lost the contest to remain the Labour Party candidate on February 2 when he was defeated by Dunedin public relations consultant Clare Curran. Labour Party headquarters staff were on hand to ensure Mr Benson-Pope did not win and some last-minute shifts in support left the MP without the votes to retain the nomination.

This is what happens when the rules enable HQ to out vote the locals.

Mr Benson-Pope has been highly visible in the electorate this year. He has always been regarded as a hard-working and effective MP but seems to be putting an extra effort into his work in recent months.

The Otago Daily Times understands the MP has been telling people in the electorate that, under MMP, they had a choice of voting for Labour with their party vote but that they could vote for any of the candidates.

Inquiries by the newspaper found a high level of discontent in parts of the electorate, particularly centred on the South Dunedin branch, which has the money and the people to mount a campaign in support of Mr Benson-Pope.

A women’s branch has disaffiliated itself from Dunedin South and is considering its options, which include affiliating to the Dunedin North electorate or the party’s Otago regional council.

The South Dunedin branch is now controlled by supporters of the MP, although Labour Electorate Committee chairman Richard Good said yesterday the public comment from the branch was “nothing but 100%” behind Ms Curran.

Public comment might be, but the last thing a new candidate, or the Party, need is the incumbent and his supporters working on a different agenda.

 

When approached for comment, Mr Benson-Pope was reluctant to make any public statements, but did give a brief response: “My loyalty to the party is beyond question and I don’t intend to change that. I understand what loyalty means.”

However, the ODT was told Mr Benson-Pope seemed out for revenge and a few people were “baying for blood” within the South Dunedin branch.

Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton and United Future leader Peter Dunne have both proved that Labour MPs can leave the party but retain enough local support to win their electorates with handsome margins.

Mr Anderton, now loyally behind the Labour-led Government, despite having major personal and political differences with Prime Minister Helen Clark, left to form New Labour. Mr Dunne resigned to position himself for the introduction of MMP in 1996.

Individuals can go independent and win seats, but it’s almost always better for parties if they don’t.

Mr Dunne said under MMP, loyal Labour supporters could give their party vote to Labour but still vote for Mr Benson-Pope and feel their honour was satisfied.

“Effective local MPs under MMP can stand out against a national trend politically.”

Two examples were Labour MP Harry Duynhoven, in New Plymouth, who held the seat with the largest majority in New Zealand while National took the party vote, and National Party MP Nick Smith, who was popular in Nelson but Labour was often ahead in the party vote, Mr Dunne said.

Or Dunne who wins the electorate but the party vote still goes to Labour or National.

Ms Curran said her campaign committee was working well and she had a team of 60 or 70 volunteers preparing to deliver 25,000 leaflets to every household in the electorate.

“There are some members of the party in Dunedin South who found the selection process painful.”

Full marks for restraint when she must be spitting tacks. Benson-Pope won the seat by around 10,000 votes but National candidate, Conway Powell, knocked his majority, and the all important party vote, back by about 5,000 compared with 2002. I’m not going to predict a National win in a deep red seat, but internal ructions always help the other side so even if Benson-Pope doesn’t stand there is enough bad blood being spilt to do some harm to Labour.

Update 1: Monkeys with Typewriters  notes Benson-Pope’s declaration of loyalty to Labour today which reminded me of this declaration  “I’m a loyal Labour Party person,” when questioned about standing as an independent in November last year.

Update 2: David Farrar  points out that if Benson-Pope won the seat as an independent it might help Labour as he’d vote with them and if he takes the seat they’d get another list MP.

 


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