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Richard Prebble: What is significant is what is not happening in the Tauranga by-election

By-elections can be harbingers of political realignment. In 2015 National was polling 50 percent seemingly heading to govern alone after the next election. Then Winston Peters won the Northland by-election. 18 months later New Zealand First, Labour and the Greens ousted National.


Prime Ministers only resort to cabinet reshuffles when their government is in trouble. In the country polls National has broken through the important 40 percent hurdle. Labour is polling around 35 percent. The Tauranga by-election will confirm whether the polling is correct.


But it is what is not happening in the by-election that is most important.


“All I want to be is MP for Tauranga”, Winston Peters, is not standing. If Winston thought he had a chance, he would be a candidate. Tauranga confirms New Zealand First is a spent force.


The Tauranga by-election should be an opportunity for Labour to deliver a devastating blow to National. Far from being a safe National seat Tauranga is a maverick electorate.

At the last election Labour won the party vote, 42% for Labour to just 32.5% for National.

Simon Bridges held the seat on his personal popularity.


The reason for by-elections affects the result. The electorate is sympathetic when it is caused by death or illness. Voters do not like having to vote again just because their MP has a better job offer.


By-elections focus on the quality of the candidates. The Hon Jan Tinetti has the advantage of having stood for Tauranga twice before. As a cabinet minister she can deliver for Tauranga.


In contrast National’s candidate, Sam Uffindell, is an unknown rookie who can deliver nothing.


But it is not happening for Labour in the by-election.


Jacinda Ardern is being disingenuous when she down plays Labour’s chances by saying the party has not held the seat since 1935. She will have seen Labour’s internal polling.

There are two public polls, the Reid poll and the Kantar Poll.


The Reid Research poll puts National’s Sam Uffindell on 56.9 percent of the vote, a massive increase on Simon Bridges 42.8 percent. Labour’s Jan Tinetti is on a disastrous 21.9 percent, a huge swing from her last election’s 35.5 percent.


Last Sunday’s Kandor poll has the parties closer. National is on 45 percent and Labour on 35 percent.


Both polls are relatively small and have significant margins for error. It is safer to average the polls. Averaging puts National on 50 percent. Both polls reveal a big swing to the Center/right.


The polls put Act candidate, Cameron Luxton, in third place on over 7 percent, up from 3.9 percent at the election. The near doubling of the party’s vote indicates Act is making things happen.


It is not happening for the Greens. The Greens have not stood a candidate. Apparently climate change no longer requires the party to campaign. In May the party announced their 20 candidates for the next election. The list did not include a candidate for Tauranga. Maybe the Greens’ complex candidate selection process is the reason for the inexplicable decision not to field a candidate.


The Reid poll included polling the Greens’ Party vote in Tauranga. In reaction to the failure to have a candidate the Greens polled at just 2.8 percent, a wipeout in a General Election.


The Tauranga by-election may be the harbinger that the Greens will not escape the third party MMP curse. Every third party in a governing coalition under MMP has at the next election been ejected from parliament.


The Maori Party polled very well in the Reid poll. Its party vote has increased to 4.7 percent. The Maori Party at 4.7 percent in a general election could sweep the Maori seats and or gain list members. By making the absurd claim the Tauranga is so racist it is unsafe to stand a candidate the opportunity to make things happen for the Maori Party has been missed.


It is always a mistake not to campaign.


Jacinda Ardern is just not happening. The PM is willing to travel to Washington and Canberra but not to Tauranga. In 18 months. Jacinda has gone from the leader of the fight against covid to an out of touch PM who has denied the cost of living is a crisis.


The captain of the team of five million was the party’s greatest asset. Today Jacinda is a polarizing figure who attracts a mob of protestors. Many of those protestors have lost their careers because of the vaccine mandates that she pledged never to introduce.

Every Jacinda walk-about produces TV pictures no candidate wants to be in.

If Jacinda cannot campaign in a by-election why will she be able to campaign in a general election?


To have any hope of winning the next election Labour needs to quickly resolve the vaccine mandate grievance.


Richard Prebble CBE is a former member of the New Zealand Parliament. Initially a member of the Labour Party, he joined the newly formed ACT New Zealand party under Roger Douglas in 1996, becoming its leader from 1996 to 2004

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49 Comments


Assuming there is a general election next year ...

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They can only print so much money before it runs out, would anyone in their right minds want to take over a bankrupt country, once our oil refinery goes we are in real shit, just brought 200 litres of diesel today on here on the Island $661, the fuel guy said that the next shipment will be around the $4 per litre, how can our country run on prices like that, for me I am not sure if I can afford to carry on my business depends if my buyers are prepared to cough up for the increase prices. Our country is sitting on a sea of gas and oil but we have been so brain washed about this climate…

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“To have any hope of winning the next election Labour needs to quickly resolve the vaccine mandate grievance.”


Already in progress. The ’buck’ has already been passed onto the faceless, unelected group known as the WHO. I’m just waiting for the historic utterance of “it wasn’t me guv“ to slip out from Ardern’s lips.

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You're on the money re Tauranga, but since you're punditing, that's not the real story.


Governments wax and wane in popularity, but no government since the 4th Labour one has been so actively reviled by a solid segment of the population as this one.

The parallels are revealing - the 4LG ruthlessly implemented idealogical measures devised offshore at massive social and financial cost, and imposed them upon a vulnerable segment of NZ. Jacinda's administration has done precisely the same, albeit in the medical arena rather than the financial one.

The World Bank very belatedly admitted their prescription to the 4LG was fatally flawed. The kiwis that bore the brunt of that misguidance received neither compensation or apology. Whether the WHO…

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No mention of the minor parties. They are the only ones who are awake to the global agenda going on. We need a bunch of them in parliament to stand up to rort going on there.

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Yes, they are 6% combined at present according to the polls . They need to band together and present a united front, Look at the power Winston had.

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