Tricky election looms for Mallard
In Hutt South in the 2011 election, Labour MP Trevor Mallard won the electorate by nearly 5000, yet Labour lost the party vote to National by 2500.
What message did Mallard take from that result? The same message, he replies, as in Labour seats elsewhere round the country.
‘‘In the South Island, I think we only won one seat on the party vote.
‘‘People were prepared to vote for Trevor, while they weren’t necessarily prepared to vote for the party.’’
This time around, boundary changes will also play a major role. The western hills suburbs – Normandale, Harbour View, Tirohanga, Belmont and Kelson – will come in from Ohariu, and the Labour stronghold of Naenae has been added to the Rimutaka seat.
What impact will that have on Mallard’s majority?
‘‘It’s really hard to tell, because of the Peter Dunne factor. You can’t translate an electorate vote in the western hills straight into a Hutt South situation.’’
The Dunne factor, Mallard insists, makes a ‘‘real mess’’ of the figures.
‘‘My expectation is that on the 2011 results, the changes have reduced the majority to a bit under 2000.’’
Essentially, hasn’t the Hutt South electorate been gentrified by the boundary changes?
‘‘ There’s no doubt the only extensive decile 1 area [Naenae] has been taken out of the electorate, and much of the western hills are in deciles 8, 9 and 10,’’ Mallard replies.
‘‘But to be absolutely fair, it is a logical boundary, running up those hills. While the old boundaries might have been better for me politically, it wasn’t logical.’’
There are three ways Hutt South could pan out.
It could be a one-horse race in which Mallard wins as usual.
Or, a two-horse race in which Mallard and the Greens’ candidate, Holly Walker, work together in the way the Labour/ Greens need to do elsewhere around the country.
If that co- operation doesn’t eventuate, it could become a three- horse race in which National’s Chris Bishop comes through the middle.
Asked to choose, Mallard picks the second option: ‘‘My view is that it could well be close. I will say that Holly and I have worked together across a lot of issues – both locally and nationally, and on select committees – pretty well.
‘‘There’s nothing in it for the Greens for there to be a National local member. We regularly have a cup of coffee at the same cafe, but there’s been no cup of tea in the John Key/John Banks sense.’’
In one sense, Mallard is the odd one out.
Walker and Bishop are veterans of the Victoria University Debating Society, and are of the same generation.
Yet when Mallard entered Parliament in 1984 in Hamilton West, Walker was a 2-year-old learning how to walk.
During the campaign, won’t Chris Bishop, at least, be arguing that it’s now time to put the old man out to pasture?
‘‘I’m sure they’ll argue that. And if the National Party is arguing that people in their 50s are not appropriate representatives, then there will be a large part of the population of New Zealand that will take note.’’
Except Mallard will be 60 come June, right?
‘‘I will be 60 come June, but when the campaign starts, I won’t be.’’