Last days: Labour, National taking it to the streets

A Labour Party supporter holds her sign in front of a National Party supporter as the two groups...
A Labour Party supporter holds her sign in front of a National Party supporter as the two groups clash in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, before the arrival of National leader John Key. Photo from NZ Herald.
National Party leader John Key showed yesterday he is a fast learner when he set off early from Auckland on a campaign tour that stretched from Auckland, Napier, Taupo, Nelson and Christchurch before heading back to Auckland.

In the last days of the United States presidential race, both president-elect Barack Obama and Republican candidate John McCain were on the road 24 hours a day shoring up every possible vote.

Mr Obama was even seen working the phones in campaign headquarters across must-win states.

Mr Key said in the last leaders' debate on Wednesday that he regarded Mr Obama's victory as a sign of change and he wasted no time in adopting the same tactics.

Today, he will be doing another sweep of the northern part of the country, pressing the flesh.

Prime Minister Helen Clark was in South Auckland as the Labour Party finally woke up to the fact that Maori and Polynesian voters were less than enthusiastic about voting again for Labour.

And while National had former All Blacks Michael Jones and Va'aiga Tuigamala for support this week, Labour had league legends Stacey Jones and Wairangi Koopu.

Miss Clark bumped into Stacey Jones during a walkabout in a Manukau City mall and he said he had come along to support her.

"She's been a great supporter of league," he told reporters.

"She's always given her best wishes to all the teams I've been involved with."

In turn, the prime minister said she had known him since he was in the juniors.

"I've watched his career for many, many years."

Veteran Warriors player Koopu said he supported Labour, although he was thinking about the Maori Party because he wanted to ensure the Maori seats in Parliament stayed as they were.

Celebrity endorsements can be important in the last moments of a campaign and Miss Clark and Mr Key showed this week they are not above using that tactic to woo the all important Maori and Polynesian voters of South Auckland.

But it will probably all come down to how the rest of the country feels and Taking the Pulse found during nearly three weeks on the road that there is a mood for change among a wide selection of voters.

Voters across the spectrum want to see New Zealand First leader Winston Peters lose tomorrow although no-one really totally dislikes NZ First the party.

Mr Peters is expected to lose again in Tauranga, this time to new National Party candidate Simon Bridges.

Last time, he lost to Bob "the builder" Clarkson, in a campaign that ended in court.

An important electorate to watch will be Rimutaka, where NZ First MP Ron Mark rates his chances highly.

Mr Mark is facing off against a new Labour Party candidate, who is defending a huge majority built up by retiring MP Paul Swain.

If Mr Mark wins, Mr Peters returns to Parliament and can then leave on his own terms. Labour voters blame Mr Peters for the low polling of their party.

National Party voters are desperately keen to have their MPs control the Treasury benches but they are still reluctant to acknowledge that party leader John Key will have to call upon other parties to help form a National-led government.

Even if National did win an outright majority of votes, something that has not happened since 1951, he said he would call in other parties and has already offered cabinet or other posts to United Future leader Peter Dunne and Act New Zealand leader Rodney Hide.

Act has been campaigning on the slogan "Change of government and a government of change".

The Green Party wants a change in thinking by voters so that instead of voting for themselves, they vote for the planet and the next generation.

In a world of the "now generation" and "me too", that is a big ask.

Central city seats are going to be crucial for the party which wants to form the next government.

Dunedin South and Dunedin North will remain Labour, unless there is a massive upset, but whether the party vote will hold up enough to counter lost votes in Auckland is a major talking point in the party.

Auckland Central could swing to National in both electorate and party votes.

Wellington Central should be retained for Labour by former Dunedin man Grant Robertson who faces big challenges from National's Stephen Franks and Green MP Sue Kedgley.

If the Green vote goes up, Mr Robertson is at risk and so is Labour's party vote.

Christchurch Central has been solidly Labour but affluent inner city dwellers are reported to be shifting their allegiance towards National.

Silly things like light bulbs and shower heads annoyed voters, even though long-life light bulbs are better for the planet and Labour says Building Minister Shane Jones was not serious about restricting water flows for showers.

Issues like law and order, health waiting lists and educational standards continued to prove that the election, like ones in the past, came down to traditional wish lists.

National is expected to form the next government but unless it can get across the line tomorrow with United Future and Act New Zealand, voters should not expect an early announcement.

If the Maori Party is needed to help form any government, led by either National or Labour, it could take two weeks of consultations before a decision is made.

Taking the Pulse will be taking a breather.

National Party leader John Key adopted United States-type campaigning techniques yesterday by flying to Napier, Taupo and Christchurch and back from Auckland.

He got shouted at by protesters in Christchurch.

He shouted back.

Miss Clark realised that voters in South Auckland were swinging away from Labour and used league legend Stacey Jones for a celebrity endorsement.

Mr Key takes the point for finally showing that politicians do not have to be polite all the time.

Dene.mackenzie@odt.co.nz

 

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