The Mt Albert by-election results did not come as surprise to anyone as Labour’s Jacinda Ardern marched home with a thumping victory on election night on February 25.
There were some days of intense speculation in the media about Ms Ardern’s imminent elevation to the position of Deputy Leader of the Labour Party heading to general elections and Andrew Little’s persistent denial of any such changeover.
However, in the end, speculations turned real as Annette King, the current incumbent at the deputy leader position decided to step down on Wednesday, March 1, four days after Ms Ardern’s massive victory, and Mr Little quickly announced his nomination for Ms Ardern to be his deputy.
The Labour caucus is meeting on March 7 and is largely expected to give an approval to Mr Little’s nomination.
Earlier, the preliminary turnout was low in the Mt Albert by-election—just under 30%—as compared to the previously held Mt Roskill by-election where turnout was 38.5%.
The electoral contest was insignificant if not altogether meaningless when the Nationals had abstained away from fielding a candidate citing the reasons that Mt Albert was considered traditionally a Labour seat.
However, the electoral outcome was not as insignificant as the actual contest was.
Ms Ardern obviously had to fill in big shoes of the two previous Labour Party leaders and a prime minister—a challenge to which as the latest electoral results confirms that Ms Ardern had responded well.
Mt Albert electorate had been sending representatives such as David Shearer and Helen Clark who both were the Leaders of the Labour Party and the prime minister of the country in case of Helen Clark.
The massive landslide victory of 10,000 votes over her nearest contestant Green Party’s Julie Anne Genter would certainly build her profile within the party. It’s another matter that Ms Genter was more visible in demonstrating her personal solidarity with Ms Ardern during the campaigning rather than putting forward values that her party brings to the political scene.
In the end, it was a reminiscent of a scene from Rio Olympics last year where two German twin sisters finished a marathon holding their hands together. At that time, there were some criticisms in the media for those runners for not being driven by the zeal of producing their best performance every time they professionally compete.
Apparently, there is no such expectation of professionalism placed on our politicians.
Lessons for New Zealand People’s Party
New Zealand People’s Party (NZPP), the country’s only political party claiming to exclusively represent ethnic Indian and Chinese immigrants in New Zealand, again failed to make any noticeable impact on the electoral scene.
The party’s candidate Vin Tomar was at a distant fourth position with 199 votes behind the newly formed Gareth Morgan’s The Opportunities party (TOP) candidate Geoff Simmons.
It is high time that the party realises that time is running out before the next general elections arrive at their doorsteps.
The party needs to do more than just wishful thinking of hoping to get 10–12% votes in the general election so as to give the party a “balance of power” in the parliament.
The leaders and brains behind the party need to understand that there is a reason behind political class’ collective relaxed attitude towards individual political adventurism of wealthy businessmen.
The party’s progress in national politics will largely depend on their ability to offer some substance to the electorate rather than just making noise around law and order—the main reason for their existence as an independent political party as originally claimed by the party leadership.
As political commentator Bryce Edwards notes that in an election year, parties need campaigners and communicators in the leadership group. NZPP will have to ensure that they have got right communication strategy in place.