Labour tipped to win
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 email@example.com.