National wins Northcote but with lower majority
National has held on to the Northcote seat left vacant by Jonathan Coleman’s retirement but its majority has been slashed.
Its candidate, Dan Bidois, won 10,147 votes, beating his Labour opponent Shanan Halbert by a majority of 1362.
In 2017 Dr Coleman won the seat with a majority of 6210 votes. Fewer people voted in today’s by-election – 19,900 compared with 36,995 in 2017 – but even taking that into account National’s majority has slumped.
National Party pollster and conservative commentator David Farrar pointed out on social media that National's vote had slipped only slightly in percentage terms amid low turn-out, Labour benefiting from NZ First not standing a candidate and the Greens running a light campaign.
However, lawyer and commentator Graeme Edgeler noted it was the only post-MMP byelection, besides Mana in 2010, where the governing party had increased its share of the vote.
Final results are Nat 51.1% (-1.7%), Lab 44.2% (+8.6%), NZF no stand (-3.8%), Greens 2.9% (-3.9%) #Northcote— David Farrar (@dpfdpf) June 9, 2018
Before today, National leader Simon Bridges had been confident but cautious that the vote could be close because byelections can be unpredictable.
Mr Bridges said National had been careful to make the byelection about Mr Bidois (a high school dropout who wound up at Harvard and worked as a Foodstuffs strategy manager before entering politics) as the local candidate.
“We’ve deliberately made it a local campaign about Dan Bidois because he is a compelling candidate and I think that’s what the people want. They want someone who’s a champion for their area and we’ve talked his story and so on. He’s a compelling guy and it’s that local grassroots campaign about the candidate, not about National.”
Despite that though National also attacked the coalition government’s record on housing and transport during the byelection campaign.
Mr Bridges will be satisfied with the win but Labour will also be buoyant that despite criticism of the coalition government it has substantially cut National's majority. Labour was helped by the fact that coalition partner New Zealand First did not stand a candidate.
Northcote preliminary final result, plus 2017 and 2014 results pic.twitter.com/lGD2nJSuhX— Chris Keall (@ChrisKeall) June 9, 2018
The Green Party did stand in the seat but its candidate, Rebekah Jaung, won just 579 votes
Special and overseas votes are still to be counted and the final result will not be announced until June 20.