The battle for Hamilton West has opened with an “own goal”, a tough-on-crime tone and suggestions one party can smell a win.
Both Labour and ACT candidates have been announced and National will reveal their pick on Sunday afternoon.
Yet the gaffes have already begun.
Labour’s Georgie Dansey scored “an absolute own goal” this week, according Josie Pagani, a commentator on current affairs and regular contributor to Stuff..
Dansey was spotted picketing her party’s own senior minister on Wednesday and attempted to back-pedal shortly thereafter saying: “I was there in my capacity as an education sector union rep. I wasn’t there to protest the minister. When it became clear the minister was being ambushed I left.”
* ACT announces sitting MP as Hamilton West candidate
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* ‘Underdog’ National Party unveils diverse candidate shortlist for Hamilton West by-election
Gaurav Sharma announces he has resigned from Parliament, sparking a by-election in Hamilton West. Video first published October 20, 2022.
The election is quickly becoming a barometric test of policy and personality before next year’s general election.
Not only was it an embarrassing gaffe for Dansey, the candidate who in 2020 was last on her party’s list, but it also appears an indictment against the Labour Party at large, Pagani said.
“From the Labour Party point of view, they’ve clearly had no preparation or progress for this by-election. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that Sharma was going to resign early and force a by-election … It feels like they haven’t got a campaign machine up and running, they don’t want to fight for it.”
Labour ought to have better prepared for a ministerial visit, perhaps including Dansey in Andrew Little’s entourage, Pagani suggested.
“If you had a minister going into that area the day after you announce a candidate, you would have a campaign diary and a campaign team and at the very least an event. ‘Let’s turn this announcement into a campaign event and let’s introduce the candidate at this event’.”
On the other side of the aisle, the National Party has been making hay while the sun shines.
After repeated laments from party members to stand candidates with more diverse backgrounds, the National party has heeded those calls.
Their three-person shortlist announced on Monday, includes business leader Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau, the general manager of Oceania Health Dr Frances Hughes, and chief executive of Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki Tama Potaka.
In a rare moment of political unity, both the National Party and their rivals Labour touted their “underdog” status entering the election.
However, the underdog picks of the blue team might have a hunch that come December 10 they will emerge victorious, Pagani said.
“What this [shortlist] tells you, National have decided they can win this – that’s what it feels like. Whereas with Labour it feels like they’re probably just going to lose it, so they’ll go with the obvious candidate for them.”
The proximity of this by-election to the 2023 general election could prove it to be a dry run for party’s testing policy ideas out with typical Kiwi voters.
On Thursday night the ACT party revealed their candidate to put to the voters of Hamilton West. Dr James McDowall, 34, who has a background in immigration law, has spent much of his life in the city and is a sitting member of parliament.
Should McDowall win the by-election, ACT would add a member to their parliamentary ranks from the party list.
At an ebullient campaign launch in Hamilton’s CBD on Thursday night, ACT leader David Seymour told party faithful that the party represented a shift from the purple haze that has become the norm in the seat.
“Hamilton West being the seat of middle New Zealand, has alternated so rapidly between Labour and National over the years that they’ve almost turned into a purple blur. Nobody can tell the difference!”
Seymour said that Hamilton was representational in that it reflected New Zealand as a whole remarkably accurately.
“It’s just about in the middle of statistics for every single social and economic statistic.”
Seymour reiterated that McDowall and the ACT party would campaign on the “unbelievably high” cost-of-living and crime.
Saying of young offenders: “First and foremost we’re going to put an ankle bracelet on you, make sure we know you’re going to school, not breaking your curfew and not at the scene of any future crime.”
New Zealand First has decided not to contest the by-election decrying it as a waste of taxpayers’ money, saying it will concentrate resources on a 2023 comeback instead.
The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party has put forward Peter Wakeman, a former pilot and non-smoker of the plant, as their candidate.