Te Tai Tonga

No surprises in Te Tai Tonga poll

Native Affairs promised, prior to the election campaign, that they’d be polling all seven Maori seats this election. On Monday they released their results for the Te Tai Tonga electorate, currently held by Labour’s Rino Tirikatene. Unsurprisingly, Labour has a healthy lead in both the party and electorate vote.

In the party vote, the results were:

  • Labour – 43%
  • National – 17%
  • Maori Party – 16%
  • Greens – 10%
  • NZ First – 8%
  • Internet Mana – 6%

Meanwhile, the electorate vote results were:

  • Labour (Rino Tirikatene) – 48%
  • Maori Party (Ngaire Button) – 17%
  • Greens (Dora Langsbury) – 9%
  • Mana (Georgina Beyer) – 9%

In terms of the electorate vote, that’s a large swing against the Maori Party candidate (15%), but last election the Maori Party had gone into the campaign holding the seat, giving the party the benefit of incumbency. With a new candidate, the Maori Party has now well and truly lost their grip on the seat.

I’m surprised that Internet Mana wasn’t higher in the party vote, although I’d imagine their results would be significantly higher in Te Tai Tokerau, Waiariki and Ikaroa Rawhiti. Certainly, here in Gisborne, which falls into Ikaroa Rawhiti, there are Mana signs everywhere and a great deal of positive coverage of the Mana candidate, Te Hamua Nikora.

Returning to the Te Tai Tonga poll, I can’t seem to find any indication of the sample size. Polling of the Maori seats has traditionally been remarkably haphazard due to relatively small samples, so it would be interesting to see whether Native Affairs have upped the ante and gone for a sample of at least 500.

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National & Colin Craig – number-crunching, not love

There’s a considerable reluctance on the part of National to gift an electorate seat to Colin Craig. That’s understandable. No one quite knows what might come out of Mr Craig’s mouth. Right now, that’s no issue for National – John Key can simply shake his head, roll his eyes and say no more. It’s a different story if an electorate deal is announced, as Colin Craig becomes definitively tied to National. Suddenly, Key gets tied to every Craig-ism.

To a lesser extent, Key has a similar problem with ACT, with Jamie Whyte’s propensity for newsworthy philosophical musings. However, ACT at least has a reputation for not rocking the boat. Their support of National doesn’t come with too high a price. To centrist voters, looking for stability, ACT is a known quantity.

Colin Craig and his Conservatives aren’t a known quantity. If they make it into Parliament and strike a coalition or confidence and supply deal with National, no one knows how hard they’ll fight for their “bottom lines” and points of principle. Will they play nicely in the coalition sandpit?

It’s fair to say that if John Key could avoid working with Colin Craig, he would. Unfortunately for National, John Key can’t take the risk of not cutting an electorate deal with the Conservatives.

Various commentators assume that Key is watching the polls, trying to decide whether he needs to or not. That doesn’t make sense to me. After all, look at what happened to the polls in 2011. National was by far and away the largest party, getting 47.3%, but the final polls from One News, 3News, the Herald Digipoll and Fairfax all had National over 50%, able to govern alone. Fairfax was staggeringly high, showing National polling a massive 54%. National scraped over the line, thanks to ACT and United Future getting one seat each, and could also rely on the Maori Party for confidence and supply. If Labour had lost the Te Tai Tonga seat to the Maori Party, National would have been unable to run its asset sales agenda.

No matter how high National are polling, they won’t be able to trust that those polls will hold up on 20 September. The numbers from 2011 dictate that National will strike a deal with the Conservatives. They won’t dare risk losing a chunk of the right-wing vote that may be decisive.