National has today declared that the Wigram seat is “marginal” and “winnable”. I’d have to disagree with that analysis.
On first glance, it looks as if National may be in with a chance. The sitting Labour MP, Megan Woods – who took the seat in 2011 following the retirement of Jim Anderton – holds a 1,500 vote majority. With just a 4.81% buffer between Ms Woods and the 2011 National candidate, Sam Collins, that makes the seat the fifth most marginal in the country (not accounting for the new electoral boundary changes, which seem to have slightly benefited National in Wigram). Further, National was streets ahead in the party vote, gaining 44.55% compared to Labour’s 30.61%.
So here’s why National will struggle to take Wigram:
- In 2011, Megan Woods was a new Labour candidate in a seat that had been held for the longest time by Mr Anderton. National’s Canterbury-Westland chair, Roger Bridge, may describe Ms Woods as a low-profile MP, but she will still go into this year’s election with the benefit of incumbency.
- National don’t yet have a candidate. Nominations have just opened, with a candidate likely to be announced in mid-May. That gives the successful candidate just four months to begin working their way through the electorate, raising their profile. That’s not long. Especially not against a sitting MP.
- In 2011, National benefitted from a sharp swing against Labour. Labour’s nation-wide party vote plummeted to just over 27%. Unless something catastrophic occurs, Labour won’t be ending up with an election result that’s worse than that. Likewise, National’s polling is averaging at just below their 2011 result – they’ll be struggling to get higher come election day, and may well sink lower throughout the election campaign. It’s highly unlikely that National’s Wigram candidate will be benefitting from an anti-Labour, pro-National swing.
My pick? Megan Woods’ majority will increase. Maybe not by much, but it will still increase. Wigram won’t be changing hands this election.