UPDATED: The fix isn’t in – Labour to contest Northland

To hear more from Nick Grant on Labour standing a candidate in Northland, tune into Last Call on NBR Radio

UPDATED:

The confirmed list of candidates in the Northland by-election are, in alphabetical order:

  • Adrian Bonner, Independent
  • Joe Carr, Focus New Zealand
  • Robin Grieve, ACT
  • Maki Herbert, Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party
  • Adam Holland, Independent
  • Mark Osborne, National
  • Rob Painting, Climate Party
  • Winston Peters, NZ First
  • Rueben Porter, Mana Movement
  • Willow-Jean Prime, Labour
  • Bruce Rogan, Independent.

EARLIER:

Despite a rumoured joint Labour-NZ First poll showing the latter’s leader, Winston Peters, “in a dead-heat with National in a two-way race” for the Northland electorate, Labour is standing a candidate in the by-election.

Nominations for the by-election triggered by National MP Mike Sabin’s sudden resignation on January 30 closed at noon today, with a full list of candidates expected by 4pm.

However, Labour leader Andrew Little hasn’t entirely ruled swinging in behind Mr Peters if polling during the campaign indicates the NZ First leader has a shot at winning as a result.

Appearing on Radio New Zealand this morning, Mr Little said Mr Peters had a good chance of capturing the seat’s “soft National vote” and some of its centralists, and agreed there is a mood for change in the electorate National has held for the past 49 years.

However, he’s not convinced that mood will result in the groundswell of support necessary to get Mr Peters over the line.

The NZ First leader is late in his political career, which raises questions about “how long is he going to hang around” and “that may well be a turn-off,” Mr Little said.

As such, circumstances “at this point” didn’t justify Labour standing aside its candidate.

Pressed on whether he’s open to being convinced to do so later, Mr Little said he thought it was “totally unlikely” but didn’t entirely shut the door on the prospect.

According to political commentator Bryce Edwards, Mr Little’s stance is based on “what’s in his and the party’s best interests in the short term.”

Although a win for Mr Peters would weaken National for the remainder of its term in government, “it would also give weight and credence to NZ First as a stronger player in the opposition,” Mr Edwards says.

“At this stage Andrew Little’s main goal is rebuilding Labour in opposition and he’ll be very reluctant to jeopardise that process and allow a rival party to gain at Labour’s expense.”

Distaste at “electoral accommodations” in past elections – especially National’s with ACT in Epsom – has also probably been a consideration, Mr Edwards says.

“In the past Labour has campaigned against unpopular National electorate deals, so it could both look hypocritical to now do a deal itself. It would also reduce the chances of using that weapon again in the future.”

However, being less decisive at this stage could create an even “murkier” perception if Labour were to scuttle its candidate mid-campaign because polls showed Mr Peters was in with a chance, Mr Edwards said.

The Northland by-election will be held on March 28.

To hear more from Nick Grant Labour’s Northland candidate, tune into Last Call on NBR Radio

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