Labour tipped to win

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Scott Mor­gan

PO­LIT­I­CAL com­men­ta­tors are pre­dict­ing Labour will hold the Mt Al­bert elec­torate in a by­elec­tion when for­mer prime min­is­ter He­len Clark takes up a prized United Na­tions job.

Miss Clark, who has held the seat since 1981, is ex­pected to be named the new ad­min­is­tra­tor of the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme to­day.

Auck­land Uni­ver­sity New Zealand pol­i­tics ex­pert as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor Ray­mond Miller says Miss Clark’s ma­jor­ity of 10,351 will be tough for Na­tional to over­turn.

“Na­tional has to be a rank out­sider. It has a long his­tory of be­ing a Labour seat.”

He says fac­tors that could af­fect the re­sult in­clude how much of the elec­torate vote was a per­sonal en­dorse­ment of Miss Clark and what sort of sup­port the gov­ern­ment has when the by­elec­tion is held.

“They cer­tainly are en­joy­ing a hon­ey­moon of pop­u­lar sup­port, but how much of that tran­si­tions into a by­elec­tion we don’t know.”

Mr Miller be­lieves Labour will do ev­ery­thing in its power to main­tain a hold on the seat.

“My guess is He­len Clark will cam­paign on be­half of the Labour can­di­date. Labour will be looking for some­one who is a lo­cal.”

He says the can­di­date Na­tional se­lects will also in­flu­ence the out­come.

But his­tory shows try­ing to in­sert a well-known can­di­date into an area where they have no lo­cal con­nec­tions doesn’t al­ways work.

Mr Miller pointed to the 1992 Ta­maki by­elec­tion where Na­tional un­suc­cess­fully tried to in­stall for­mer All Black cap­tain David Kirk ahead of lo­cal can­di­date Clem Simich af­ter the death of Sir Robert Mul­doon.

“You can’t pre­dict how lo- cals will vote. Of­ten they are in­ter­ested in lo­cal is­sues,” he says.

“The can­di­date has to know what the is­sues are and re­flect the view of the elec­torate.

“Some­times vot­ers can take a pretty dim view of a car­pet­bag­ger brought in to con­test the elec­tion.”

Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Chris Trotter also be­lieves Labour is likely to hold Mt Al­bert.

But he be­lieves Labour could be in trou­ble if Na­tional stands a high-pro­file can­di­date.

“They will be looking for a truly stel­lar can­di­date. They will want to cap­ture the at­ten­tion of not just vot­ers in Mt Al­bert, but vot­ers across the coun­try.

“If you’re Na­tional and re­ally want to de­mor­alise Labour, steal­ing He­len Clark’s seat for two-and-a-half years is cer­tainly go­ing to do the trick.”

Labour leader Phil Goff says if a by­elec­tion is held, the party won’t be tak­ing Labour’s large ma­jor­ity in the seat for granted.

He says the lo­cal Mt Al­bert or­gan­i­sa­tion will be re­spon­si­ble for se­lect­ing the can­di­date.

No one from Na­tional could be reached for com- ment about a po­ten­tial can­di­date.

Miss Clark’s ma­jor­ity fell from 14,749 in 2005 to 10,351 in 2008.

A by­elec­tion is ex­pected to cost tax­pay­ers about $450,000.

The last by­elec­tion was in 2004 when Maori Party leader Tar­i­ana Turia re­tained her Te Tai Hauauru seat.

Once a seat is de­clared va­cant, Prime Min­is­ter John Key will de­cide when a by­elec­tion will be held.

Tell us what you think. Who would you like to see stand­ing in a by­elec­tion? Email

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