Archives for posts with tag: Christchurch East

A trouncing. An embarrassment. A warning. A stonking win. Whichever way you try and spin it, Poto William’s 4613 vote victory in Christchurch East is a significant result that should be taken seriously. There are two lines which are being faithfully trotted out by the mouth-pieces of the right.

The first is that turnout was low, so it doesn’t matter. I disagree that turnout was low. Rob Salmond analyzed the turnout at the last few by-elections, and came up with 14,000 as a par-score. Actual turn out was 13,318 – which is pretty close to that. Saturday’s turnout of 41.4% was actually higher than the last two by-elections, Ikaroa-Rawhiti (35.7%) and Botany (36.4%) – and neither of those two electorates were the most badly affected area in a natural disaster. The by-election was fought on the 2011 boundaries, but we know that 10,000 people have left the electorate, compared to the last census (2005). At the 2011 election, many of these people would have either still been living in the East, having not settled their insurance claims, or would have left the area, thinking that they would be able to move back – but stayed on the Christchurch East roll. I spent the day on Saturday based out of the Aranui hub, and each of the streets we went down had a high number of boarded-up homes. Many of the people we tried to get out and vote were very disengaged with the political process, and I’d argue that if turnout had been higher, it could have actually been much worse for National.

The second claim about the turnout is even more disingenuous.

Key said this morning the result was not surprising and didn’t represent a big loss to the Government. “The turnout was pretty low,” Key told Breakfast.

Of course, low turn-out in an election doesn’t mean the result has a lack of legitimacy – just ask John Key. In 2008, he led National to the Beehive with 1,053,398 votes – 44.93% of those cast. In 2011, he was returned with an increased percentage of the votes – 47.31% – though National only increased their total by 5,240 votes. That was because voter turnout fell by over 5%. Key would be on pretty shaky ground if he wants to keep pushing this line of argument. A win is a win is a win. Of course it would have been better if 100% of electors had voted, but you can only count the votes that were cast, and some would argue (hey Eric!) that staying at home is just as valid as getting out to vote.

No, this does represent a big loss to the government. A humiliating one. In the last two months, we’ve had our MP for Christchurch East run for mayor, win comprehensively, and bring in a new left-leaning council with her. We’ve then gone out and fought to fill her seat, and have again had our candidate elected in a landslide. Two drubbings in two months – and I’m pretty sure that if they hadn’t taken ECan out of our hands, they would have had three. I don’t know how we could send more of a signal, without setting fire to the CERA offices.

L to R: Hayden Munro, DC, Poto Williams, your author

L to R: Hayden Munro, DC, Poto Williams, your author

I’ve been involved in the campaign for a while, and it’s been a hard, but rewarding slog. While people say that Labour was always going to win, I can honestly say that we weren’t taking anything for granted. There were two reasons to be concerned: firstly, the party vote in 2011, which Labour lost by a large margin. I’ve got no doubt that if they had put forward a better candidate, and run a more effective campaign, National could have done much better. They certainly sent a number of ministers down here – though one has to wonder about the effectiveness of sending an MP as unpopular as Gerry Brownlee out door knocking in some of the most damaged areas (imagine having Gerry turn up unannounced at your property after almost three years of unsuccessfully dealing with the government.) The other thing we were worried about was the local body results, which saw our popular local councillor Glenn Livingstone come in second in Burwood-Pegasus to David East. This risk was moderated by some smart policy announcements, especially around Kiwibuild and the New Brighton revitalization.

While much of the win has been chalked up to “the Labour machine” and “the old warhorse Jim Anderton”, it should be noted that it wasn’t just a case of flicking the ignition and getting the machine purring. All through the campaign, we were struggling to get as many volunteers as we wanted. After the local body elections (which also overlapped the by-election campaign for about 6 weeks), the leadership election and the annual conference, Labour members in Christchurch were pretty exhausted. You can also add to that the general issues that people have in town at the moment, and get a better picture about just hard people worked to pull this off.

Congratulations have to go to a number of people. David Cunliffe made a big effort in this campaign, which has pretty much covered the entire period of his leadership. His first public appearance after being elected leader was at Poto’s selection meeting, and he’s been down often since that. The local Labour MPs – many of whom supported Grant Robertson in the leadership contest – have supported David and Poto through the campaign, especially Megan Woods, who has done a huge amount to help with street corner meetings and policy announcements. The local Christchurch East LEC did a phenomenal job. Jim Anderton was a great leader, but much of the credit should also go to campaign dogs body, Hayden Munro, who was everywhere, all of the time. I think he’ll be looking forward to a sleep.

Credit must also go to Poto. The party made a bold choice, and I think they will be rewarded with a strong MP. Poto hit the ground running, and worked incredibly hard to meet as many potential electors as she possibly could. She did 100 street corner meetings, even though she had lost her voice after about the first 10.

This was a resounding win for Labour, and hopefully it will convince any of the doubters within the Party that to win back Christchurch, we need to outline a strong plan for the city. This, by definition, means “politicizing” the earthquakes. A clearly articulated vision, which places people at the centre of recovery, will be key to not just winning back Christchurch Central, but also the all-important party vote across the city.


Poor Matthew Doocey. While David Cunliffe, David Parker, and a large number of Labour MPs and local councillors joined Poto Williams to celebrate her “stonking” win in Christchurch East, Doocey cut a rather solitary figure at his election night do, his party leader no-where to be seen. John Key can try and distance himself from this failure, but he did spend quite a lot of time down here in the East, campaigning with the Dooce. It felt appropriate to celebrate their short-lived but passionate bromance.

The first flowerings of a relationship:


Just hanging with the boys:


More boys (and Nicky Wagner):


Looking at the plans for the expansion of our dream home:


On our first trip abroad together, Matthew got a little sunburnt:


Matthew plays look-out for our first (unsuccessful) attempt to steal a child:


Our second attempt worked better:


Look all good venture capitalists, we successfully expanded our baby-acquiring business with the help of Judith Collins. Franchise opportunities in an area near you!


Always the party-pooper, Bill crashed one of our dates, and stopped us from ordering lunch. We were so hungry! Matthew gets cranky when he hasn’t had his lunch.

BZpNgTXCIAAug2l.jpg-largeI started to get worried that Matthew was seeing other men. Men that looked like him. I think he has a type.


Yesterday, I posted a link to Johnny Moore’s column about the Ministry nightclub being pulled down by CERA. There’s a by-election going on in town, and one of the candidates decided that it was worth making hay out of this issue. Surprisingly, the party that put it’s hand up was ACT. It’s an interesting press release, and shows just how conflicted the ACT Party is these days; they’re arguing for property rights and that the government shouldn’t be intervening in people’s business; at the same time, the only other issue that Gareth Veale has said anything about in Christchurch East has been from the Sensible Sentencing-trust wing of the party, the “Three Strikes” bill. While I’d never vote for them, it does kind of hearten me to see ACT making the libertarian argument about the blueprint – but where were they on this when the plan came out 18 months ago?

The campaign run by ACT has been about as coherent as their policy; they’ve put out this press release, about a nightclub in Christchurch Central electorate that has nothing to do with the East, and they have two massive billboards – also in Christchurch Central, rather than East. I’m picking that the Conservative’s Leighton Baker will beat Gareth Veale tomorrow, and probably reasonably comfortably (considering we’re talking about the likely 4th and 5th placed candidates.) If that’s the case, then the narrative coming out of this by-election may not be about Labour or National, but that Colin Craig has properly established himself as an electoral contender – and that the conflicted, confused ACT brand is done and dusted. Results are expected to start coming in around 9, with confirmation after 10.

There is a candidate debate being hosted tonight in Christchurch East. I’m not sure how many there have been – at least two previously. This one is being hosted by community group WeCan – but Matthew Doocey clearly doesn’t think that one of the most prominent voices in the East is worthy of his vote:

WeCan has invited the Christchurch East By-Election Candidates to attend a hosted meeting. Key focus will be the recovery of the eastern suburbs. We are disappointed the National candidate is unable to come and talk about the vital issues of earthquake recovery on the east.

This is pretty bizarre behavior for a candidate who would surely be looking for as much exposure as possible. Maybe he thinks that WeCan – a group that have been vocal in their opposition to many of the things Gerry has been doing – might be hostile. But the other candidates are all going, and have gone to other meetings which didn’t really favour them. The debate yesterday was held by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, and the one a couple of weeks ago was held by a group that wants a new school in the North of the electorate, and who have strong connections with Aaron Gilmore. You would think that if you really wanted to win this election, going to all of the candidate debates would be a bare minimum. Maybe Gilmore was right – that Doocey isn’t cut out for this shit.

Aaron Gilmore has stepped out from the shadowy world of accountancy to offer his opinion on the Christchurch East by-election, and in his view, it’s not good for National:

He said National’s campaign for the by-election was “not being run right and I don’t think the candidate is right . They could have won with the right person and the right campaign. The major parties should have selected a well-known, local, successful person to make the result more clear-cut. People are annoyed no good local person put their name up.”

It’s hard to know what to think of this – does one discredit Gilmore because of his failure as a politician, or give some credence to a man who got 10,225 votes in the electorate last election? Either way, it shows that there has been no love lost between Gilmore and the National Party, which is one of the risks when you cut someone loose from the party, Chris Carter-style. From what I’ve seen of Matthew Doocey, he looks completely out of his depth; his performance at the first candidate debate could either be put down to nervousness, or an inability to comprehend basic English sentence structure. While the by-election on Saturday will ultimately come down to voter turn-out on the day, this has raised a potential embarrassing situation for John Key and National: that Aaron Gilmore was right.


So yesterday, I got my hands on one of the Conservatives pamphlets that are being used in Christchurch East. I know I shouldn’t spend so much time on these crazy people, but they’re just so damn funny. At least three people responded to my tweet by asking whether the guy on the left was Bashir Al-Assad (it’s the candidate, Leighton Baker, but he might well appreciate being compared to a hard-line religious crackpot). My main reason for tweeting the picture was to ask whether they had got some new stock photos for their flyers. In the general election two years ago, someone pointed out that this was the case with their advertising. It turns out that some of them aren’t even new:

Conservative party 2011

Grunt to rodzina, whatever that means:

As The Egonomist pointed out, these Conservative Party followers are all over the internet:

Unlike in 2011, when they at least bothered to pretend that they had some non-white members, this time they’ve gone with the “it’s all white here” vision for the East – which is sure to appeal to the large Maori, Pacific Island and Chinese populations in the electorate.

Eric Crampton took a picture of one of the other stupid Conservative billboards doing the rounds:

As he pointed out in his tweet, it’s a misleading set-up. Another academic? None of the main contenders are academics; Poto Williams works in the community sector, whilst Doocey is in health management. There is another, more bizarre variation on this theme, which has the legs of three people, all clad in suit trousers, and then (presumably) Leighton Baker’s legs, in shorts and steel cap boots – and asks which legs you’d rather vote for?

Obviously, I think the Conservatives are a joke, but worryingly, they are a joke with a lot of money and not much sense. They will be a real threat at the general election next year.

IMG_1673Are you confused about which Right-wing nut job party to vote for? Well, Leighton Baker hasn’t been helping things, with his billboard which can be seen in Christchurch East. Yes, the hoarding reads as though it is soliciting votes for ACT, not the Conservatives. ACT President John Boscawen* tweeted this not long ago:

Conservative Party changed Chch East billboards from Act to Action after our candidate thanked them for their support

It says a lot about this wannabe political party that they can’t even get their message clear. That said, ACT aren’t doing much better; they have big billboards up, rather than hoardings, and the ones I have seen have all been in the wrong electorate. They also have a tick in place of the “V” in Gareth Veale’s name, so it’s unclear whether you should be voting for Eale or Veale. Again, poorly designed and poorly executed.

* don’t worry, I’m not going to make a habit of quoting John Boscawen here


So hand proposed boundary changes are now out, and there our major moves in Christchurch. Christchurch East has lost the most people, and so needs the most people added. The suburbs being added are Shirley, Mairehau and Bromely – ie some of the most Labour areas in Christchurch Central and Port Hills, which will make those two seats very hard for Labour to win. Port Hills loses Sydenham, Waltham and Beckenham to Central, in a move that makes little sense from a community or geographic point of view. Port Hills then gains Halswell, Westmorland and Akaroa, which are very blue areas. Beyond Ruth Dyson’s personal appeal, this will be a very hard seat for Labour to keep hold of.
Wigram and Selwyn have seen a lot of growth, and so not too many changes. Moving Hei Hei from Wigram to Selwyn seems to be a move that needlessly breaks up communities. Ilam is the only electorate that doesn’t change, which is difficult, considering every other electorate is moving significantly around it. As there is such a major redraw in all the other electorates, it would make sense if Ilam’s boundaries were on the table too. Waimakariri may lose Redwood, one of the urban centres of Labour vote. This looks like becoming a more rural, rather than urban electorate, which may mean that National can transition from Kate Wilkinson to someone new. All in all, these are pretty dire boundary changes for the left.

This is a cross-post of my most recent piece, which went up at the Daily Blog on Saturday.

A change of seasons, and a mysterious smell hangs in the air over Christchurch. No-one quite knows what it is. Could it be the change of council, alongside the change in the seasons? Is this the Canterbury Spring? In one of the least surprising elections of all time, Lianne Dalziel coasted into the mayoral chambers without even breaking a sweat; along with her came a swag of new councillors, many from the left, many with some innovative new ideas. It wasn’t just talk though – one of her first actions was to put a stop to some of the excessive spending that seems to have characterised the arrogant, out-of-touch attitude of the Parker-led administration. Just this week, the first council meeting was opened up to the sunlight of the livestream. Not much happened, but it was the principle of the thing. We could watch nothing happen, from the comfort of our own homes. We could watch it later, if we had something else to do, like, say, work.

The council isn’t the only thing that is showing signs of changing – the big man may be for turning. Incoming councillor Raf Manji is leading the voices questioning the wisdom of the “green frame”. I’ve written about it before, but this is the large amount of land that was going to be bought up and converted into green space on the centre-east part of the CBD. Except now the green elements are being watered down, with buildings and projects being added. The grand artifice of the blueprint, with it’s digital flyovers and shiny brochures, is starting to crumble. The revelations about EQC intentionally excluding people from it’s surveys was not taken well by Gerry, who has been less than supportive of his chief executive, Ian Simpson. Even the recovery’s most vocal cheerleader, Peter Townsend from the chamber of commerce, has admitted that we are only 3-5% of the way through the rebuild. Coming up to 3 years after the February quake, that simply isn’t good enough.

In the middle of this dynamic time, the Labour party made the bold choice to have it’s annual conference in Christchurch. I was on the organising committee for the conference, and it certainly wasn’t easy to hold it here. We could have done it somewhere else, and it would have been much, much easier for everybody. But we stuck with it, and made sure it happened here – because it meant something to the party, to give something back to the city. The organising committee was then rewarded by the party for their work hosting, with some bold policy announcements which will help the city get out of this rut.

The announcements at conference – KiwiAssure, plus extra Kiwibuild in the east, red zone temporary accommodation and the New Brighton revivatlistation – are all designed to benefit Christchurch East, but the also single the end of the phoney war that has been going on over the rebuild. “Don’t politicise the rebuild” has been the catch-cry since February. These announcements show that Labour isn’t afraid to make some bold decisions. The Christchurch East by-election is high stakes, for both Poto Williams and David Cunliffe. A win onNovember 30 wont just be a vindication of the change of leadership; it will be the next step towards winning back Christchurch, and ultimately the Treasury benches, in 2014.

A Doocey Abroad

A Doocey Abroad

Super-talented Waimakariri MP Kate Wilkinson is the latest in a long list of National MPs who have announced that they won’t be standing at the next election. While that in itself was not a surprise, what is more of a shock is that National’s candidate for the Christchurch East won’t rule out running for the vacant seat, even though he’s currently meant to be campaigning in the East. One wonders why they couldn’t have waited another month before announcing this. I can’t see its going to convince the people of the East that Doocey actually deeply cares about anything except his own political ambitions. As they put it over at the Standard:

It is not as if he does not have a chance of winning in Christchurch East.  National won the party vote heavily in the last election and it was only the high regard that Lianne Dalziel was held in that resulted in her re-election.  And a large number of people have left the area, further confusing the analysis of the political leaning of the area.  Anything can happen on November 30.

Christchurch East and the people who have suffered through the earthquakes deserve an MP who will work for the people in the area.  This news suggests that Doocey’s focus may be more on his own career than on helping local people.