Christchurch East no safe Labour seat

I am pleased Lianne Dalziel has finally declared for the Christchurch mayoralty, after over a year of constantly saying she was not going to, and on the last election campaign constantly saying no to groups where we debated. She should have said things at the time in a less definitive way; no matter, I wish her the best of luck. (A byelecton will be held for the Labour MP's Christchurch East seat if she wins the Mayoralty).

Eastern Christchurch is where I and most of my rather large extended family were born and raised. It is where many still still are, including my own home.

My family would be described as working class.

Lianne came from multiple generations of tertiary educated people, with two very smart successful siblings.

My family was the opposite end of the educated spectrum, and on the face of it look far more Labour. I say this because I believe Labour is not connected well into what Christchurch East is today.

Lianne worked very hard with the Labour people locally and across the spectrum. The problem for Labour is that the seat has changed a lot. It is not Aranui, Woolston, Bexley, Wainoni, Bromley, New Brighton and Dallington. Ten years ago Waimairi Beach, Tumara Park, Waitikiri, and the massive new Prestons suburb didn’t exist. The biggest populations now are in Parklands, where I grew up, not Aranui.

So the interesting thing now, is the people who are saying Christchurch East is still a safe Labour seat.

It is not.

It is a Lianne seat.

Twenty years of hard work locally by her is hard to undo in a short while.

Christchurch East in the past ten years has changed hugely.

With the recent loss of over 12,000 mostly Labour voters due to the earthquakes, as well as the massive new middle class suburbs that have been built, there is no way that it can be called a Labour seat.

The seat will not disappear next election, but will most likely move westwards into Waimakikiri and grow as the large new suburbs are filled.

If anyone thinks these new areas are overwhelming Labour voters, unlike the areas that either went in the red zone, or which are now in Port Hills, I challenge them to go visit. At best they are upper middle swing suburbs.

This was seen, as an example at the last election, after my campaign was solely for the most important vote, the party vote. Lianne campaigned solely for personal votes, as she fell out of favour of some Labour people and did not go on the Labour List.

At many a place on the campaign trail she told people, as did I, if you vote for Aaron you just get Aaron, but if you party vote National, and electorate vote for Lianne, you will get a John Key government, which is what the locals wanted, plus Lianne, plus a reasonable chance of me as well. That is exactly how people voted. Yes Mr Hooton, over 3000 locals split voted. A few people don’t get it, but what we all campaigned for, and what they wanted, they got.

National got over 13,000 votes in Christchurch East, winning the party vote for the first time, and by more than 4000.

That was a great achievement. More important was due to the earthquake seeing the start of large numbers leaving the southern end of the seat, the total votes cast was low. National secured over 45% of the votes cast. This was basically the same as the National average across NZ. As an example it was a higher party vote percentage than in Wigram, Port Hills and Christchurch Central and far higher than most Labour held seats across the rest of NZ.

Labour keep flying in people from the other side of town to run here under their banner. Given the electorate has a very exciting future, I hope Labour choose someone young and local to try and win. They will need to campaign well to try and keep the seat.

Many locals have asked what am I going to do as part of this.

The answer to that is simple.

The byelection is not likely till after show week.

So good things come to those who wait.

After being hounded out of public office, after being called all sorts of things that are untrue, other than being rude to a barman; after being ridiculed from initially trying to apologise for the behaviour of someone else’s wasted girlfriend, as well as my rudeness, (more on all that rubbish some other time), I have learnt to hold my cards very closely. 

Bottomline, I do not want to see Labour hold onto the seat, as I do not think that is the best thing for the people.

Former MP Aaron Gilmore is an economic and financial advisor.

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