Otago Daily Times

Crim­son dawn for South

- mike.houla­han@odt.co.nz UK News · Politics · Elections · South Island · Arbeidersparty · Invercargill · Southland Region · New Zealand · ACT New Zealand · Jacinda Ardern · New Zealand national rugby union team · David Clark · Dunedin · Michael Woodhouse · New Zealand First · Wellington, New Zealand · Nick Smith · Gerry Brownlee · Ilam · Jacqui Dean

THE South Is­land is now the red is­land, af­ter Labour hur­tled to a re­mark­able party vote clean sweep south of Cook Strait as part of its record­break­ing elec­tion vic­tory on Satur­day.

While Na­tional held on to six elec­torates in the South — in­clud­ing In­ver­cargill, South­land and Waitaki — it lost the party vote in all 16 South Is­land seats, many for the first time.

Of the 15 seats Na­tional lost in Satur­day’s shel­lack­ing, three were in the South Is­land.

Labour had dared to dream to take Nel­son from long­serv­ing MP Nick Smith, but a 3577 ma­jor­ity for Rachel Boy­ack in a seat her party had not held since 1993 was an eye­opener.

If that was sur­pris­ing, Jo Lux­ton claim­ing Ran­gi­tata — a seat Na­tional won with a 6331 ma­jor­ity in 2017 — by 3484 votes was as­ton­ish­ing.

Most far­fetched of all, Na­tional deputy leader Gerry Brown­lee was de­throned from the Ilam seat where he has been the MP since its foun­da­tion in 1996.

Brown­lee — with an 8236 ma­jor­ity in 2017 — lost to Labour’s Sarah Pal­lett by 2220; it was not even close.

Ms Pal­lett was struck dumb by the enor­mity of what she had achieved, and Labour gath­er­ings across the South ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar emo­tions as elec­torates where any­thing la­belled blue would tra­di­tion­ally waltz to vic­tory danced off to the red col­umn.

In Waitaki, where Na­tional’s Jac­qui Dean staved off a spir­ited chal­lenge from Labour’s Liam Wairepo, Na­tional lost the party vote by 4728 — in 2017 it won by 10,444.

The south­ern ru­ral heart­land, the bedrock of Na­tional elec­tion suc­cess for decades, has been lost and party strate­gists will now be won­der­ing if they can ever find it again.

Farm­ers es­chewed Na­tional to vote for Act New Zealand — in South­land the Act party vote soared from 142 in 2017 to 4371 in 2020.

Some also, no doubt with se­vere mis­giv­ings, voted for Labour — ei­ther in grat­i­tude for the Covid­19 re­sponse or to try to give Labour an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity and limit the in­flu­ence of the Green party.

Why ever Na­tional lost — and much soul­search­ing is still to come on that score — the fact re­mains that Labour won, and won big time.

The 2020 elec­tion was held against the back­drop of a global pan­demic, and was ef­fec­tively a ref­er­en­dum on Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern’s han­dling of the health cri­sis.

While that has not been per­fect, yes­ter­day 47,000 Auck­lan­ders were able to gather at Eden Park to watch the All Blacks beat the Wal­la­bies.

Al­most ev­ery­where else in the world Covid­19 means sport, if it is able to be played at all, is con­ducted be­hind closed doors.

Covid­19 Alert Level 1 was the key to Ms Ardern’s vic­tory, and she owes the 1.1 mil­lion peo­ple who voted Labour on Satur­day ev­ery ef­fort pos­si­ble to keep it that way.

South of the Waitaki, Labour re­turned four MPs.

David Clark re­tained Dunedin, In­grid Leary won the new seat of Taieri, and Dunedin lawyer Rachel Brook­ing was elected off the list.

Liz Craig gets a sec­ond term as a list MP, but still has out­side hopes of se­cur­ing the In­ver­cargill elec­torate, be­ing just 685 votes be­hind on elec­tion night.

Penny Sim­monds’ vic­tory in In­ver­cargill was a rare bright mo­ment in the South for Na­tional, and neigh­bour­ing fel­low first­time can­di­date Joseph Mooney won in South­land, al­though not with the ease he would have an­tic­i­pated.

Na­tional front­bencher Jac­qui Dean was briefly be­hind be­fore as­sert­ing her su­pe­ri­or­ity in Waitaki, and af­ter a ner­vous night fel­low se­nior Na­tional MP and Dunedin can­di­date Michael Wood­house made it back to Par­lia­ment via the list.

The sole south­ern MP to lose his seat was New Zealand First list MP Mark Pat­ter­son, whose po­lit­i­cal demise was sealed af­ter his party failed to reach the 5% thresh­old.

Labour MPs gather in Wellington to­day with an un­prece­dented MMP man­date.

Ms Ardern now has the dif­fi­cult task of balanc­ing the power Labour’s ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity al­lows her for far­reach­ing change with the need to re­tain the elec­toral gains of 2020 in three years’ time.

She has pre­vi­ously pledged to be trans­for­ma­tional, and now has the votes to de­liver on that.

That said, her nat­u­ral cau­tion will drive her to keep as many of those new Labour vot­ers along­side as pos­si­ble, and not cast them aside in the rush to re­form.

And, of course, the spec­tre of Covid­19 still haunts New Zealand.

Yes­ter­day’s new com­mu­nity trans­mis­sion case was a timely re­minder that that threat is still real, and that Covid­19 could wipe out Labour’s ma­jor­ity as swiftly as it helped cre­ate it.

 ?? PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY ?? Cel­e­brat­ing suc­cess . . . In­grid Leary is wel­comed into the South Dunedin Labour Party head­quar­ters in Ma­can­drew Rd.
PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY Cel­e­brat­ing suc­cess . . . In­grid Leary is wel­comed into the South Dunedin Labour Party head­quar­ters in Ma­can­drew Rd.
 ??  ??
 ?? PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES ?? Labour leader Jacinda Ardern claims vic­tory in the 2020 elec­tion at the party’s func­tion at the Auck­land Town Hall on Satur­day night.
PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES Labour leader Jacinda Ardern claims vic­tory in the 2020 elec­tion at the party’s func­tion at the Auck­land Town Hall on Satur­day night.
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand