Vulnerable Labour MPs

Over the weekend, it was reported that National has targeted four Labour-held seats it thinks it can win – Trevor Mallard’s seat of Hutt South, Ruth Dyson’s seat of Port Hills, Damien O’Connor in West Coast Tasman, and Iain Lees-Galloway in Palmerston North. Let’s look at each of those seats.

The idea of National taking Hutt South is somewhat far-fetched. Although the recent boundary changes have slashed Mr Mallard’s paper majority from about 4,800 to around 1,800, there still needs to be a further swing against the incumbent. However, Mallard has gone list-only this election, which will likely aid his vote, and he’ll undoubtedly be calling in a wide variety of favours to ensure he’s got a constant supply of foot soldiers on the ground. As Tracy Watkins wrote:

Labour has thrown its foot soldiers at the seat, knocking on 13,000 households doors over the last 12 months. This weekend alone 40 activists are canvassing Mallard’s home suburb of Wainuiomata.

‘‘We’ve done more canvassing [in Hutt South] than I have ever done before,’’ Mallard says.

I’d be surprised though if National actually believed they are likely to take Hutt South. Instead, it’s a diversionary tactic. If Mallard feels under pressure, he’ll stay hunkered down in his electorate, diverting resources (people, time and money) to ensuring the continuance of his political career. A Mallard that is pinned down in Hutt South is a Mallard that isn’t traveling the country lending support to other electorates. Targeting Hutt South is a smart move for National.

In Port Hills, the situation is far less clear. Ruth Dyson may currently hold the seat with a 3,097 vote majority, but the boundary changes have created a paper majority of around 500 for the National candidate. It’s certainly winnable for National, but (as I’ve previously noted) they certainly took their time in selecting a candidate, possibly surrendering an edge to Labour.

Like Mr Mallard, Ms Dyson has gone list-only this election. One can only imagine that she has worked out that her slide down the Labour rankings (from 5th in 2011 to 28th after David Cunliffe’s last reshuffle) would result in a dreadful list position, and she’s hell-bent on shoring up her electorate support. It looks set to be a close race, with iPredict currently showing Dyson and National’s candidate Nuk Korako all tied up with 50/50 odds.

Over on the West Coast, Damien O’Connor would surely have to be fancied to retain his seat. After reclaiming the seat in 2011, having lost it in 2008, O’Connor has kept a close eye on what his constituents want to hear. Having hit all the right notes back in 2011 with his “gaggle of gays” and “self-serving unionists” comments, O’Connor recently crossed the floor to support the commercial removal of the swathe of storm-fallen native timber, and fought valiantly (albeit unsuccessfully) for the proceeds of the timber removal to remain in the region. It’s hard to see the West Coast Tasman voters deserting him.

Nonetheless, National have a tough candidate in the form of former Westland mayor Maureen Pugh, so there’s still a chance of an upset. Especially with National announcing tens of millions of new roading projects in the electorate, in the form of replacing the Taramakau Bridge and improving Mingha Bluff, already condemned by Mr O’Connor as “pork-barrel politics”.

Finally, there’s Palmerston North. With a 3,285 vote majority and no boundary change issues, Iain Lees-Galloway would ordinarily consider himself safe. However, National’s choice of candidate – Mayor Jono Naylor – may make Lees-Galloway vulnerable. Mr Naylor was re-elected as Mayor last year for a third term, receiving 52.7% of people’s first choice votes. Whether that support continues, as Mr Naylor goes from being a popular independent to a National Party candidate remains to be seen. Nonetheless, after Port Hills, Palmerston North is probably National’s best chance of picking up a seat off Labour.




  1. Actually I estimate that Trevor Mallard’s paper majority is 3700, not 1800 – 9.9% ahead of National on the candidate vote.

    And it’s 1000 votes, or 2.5% to National in Port Hills.

    If you’re interested, I’ve posted my calculations for the final boundaries on my blog here:

    I realised that I hadn’t updated the data to reflect the final boundaries.

    1. Thanks, Ben, that’s some great analysis you’ve got there on the boundary changes. Many thanks for taking the time to update on the final boundaries!

      Re Trevor Mallard’s majority – I’d been using the figure provided by the NZ Herald. Obviously your analysis is rather better than that of the Herald’s team…

      While my Port Hills figure was some ‘back of the envelope’ calculating on my part. 500 votes out – damn!

      Thanks again, and keep up the good work! Your site’s a great resource.

      1. And thanks for your insights about Hutt South – I’m writing my profile for it now and I’ll include some comments along those lines.

  2. You really need to get up to speed about Christchurch. The Nats are toast down here and that from someone who use to be one of them. They have completely screwed this city over EQC and the rebuild and will pay a price in September. The Press ran one poll a while ago which showed that the Nats were in trouble but have gone silent ever since. The last poll in this town was the Christchurch East by-election where the Nats won the party vote in 2011. They got a huge 26% this time. Not a great fan of Dyson but she will bolt in. Nicky Wagner is gone for all money and Woods is a certainty in Wigram. Before the earthquakes Christchurch was a “red’ city. It will be again this year.

    1. Hi Mark, thanks for your thoughts.

      Agree with you that Woods is a dead vert to return in Wigram, and that Wagner will lose Christchurch Central, but that entirely accords with most predictions. According to Ben Raue’s figures (see, the final boundary changes have swung the Christchurch Central electorate vote from a tiny 0.17% majority to National to a 1.33% majority to Labour.

      As to the Christchurch East by-election being an accurate indicator of the general election, most by-elections end up being wildly divergent from general election results, with governing parties seldom faring well. Hardly an accurate measure of how the blood will fall across Christchurch come 20 September…

      Port Hills? Well, I’m no native of Christchurch, so I can’t pretend to have any “on the ground” vibration in my bones. It’ll be an interesting one to watch come election night. If Dyson bolts in, it’ll mean there’s been a hell of a swing to Labour in the city. Given how close the left/right divide was last election, that sort of swing in Christchurch may well lose National the election, even if the Nats maintain their polling in Auckland and Wellington.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s