What went wrong for National in Mt Roskill

Venkat Raman

Voters in Mount Roskill returned the Labour Party to Parliament in the by-election held on December 3, 2016, giving overwhelming support to Michael Wood.

Based on the total number of votes polled (16857), Mr Wood picked up an impressive 66%, with a convincing majority of 6518 votes over his nearest rival, Dr Parmjeet Parmar, an incumbent of the National Party list.

Given the fact that this was first-ever by-election in Mount Roskill and considering the so-called experience of Dr Parmar as a List MP since September 2014, National may have had a chance to win.

It had a wrong candidate.

Disconnected Candidate

Reports from party-insiders, including staunch supporters and workers said that Dr Parmar had not connected with the people of the Electorate and that many found her ‘indifferent,’ ‘withdrawn’ and even ‘arrogant.’

She had at her command the Prime Minister, several cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament who campaigned in the constituency continuously over several weeks and going by the media attention, it looked as though National was slated to win, achieving the Mission Impossible.

Dirty Politics

And then there was the alleged assault on her husband by Mr Wood. Initially, all media went to town condemning the incident (which is the right thing to do) but turned cold when it was proved through a video clipping that it was a fabrication.

“This is Dirty Politics,” was the verdict of some people.

But in the end, it was not to be. National had its worst record in the Electorate. Even in 2005, at the height of Labour Party’s popularity, Dr Jackie Blue polled 9581 votes in the general election.

It was perhaps over-confidence, miscalculation or both, Dr Parmar simply failed to deliver, despite the entire Party machinery placed at her disposal.

Mistaken Impression

Early in the Campaign, National’s Campaign Chair Steven Joyce said, “The Mt Roskill by-election will be about who is the best person to represent the electorate in Parliament. Parmjeet Parmar is already showing the people of Mt Roskill that she is a hardworking conscientious MP who will be a strong diligent voice for Mt Roskill in Wellington,” he said.

How wrong he was!

Labour Strategy

The Labour Party mounted one of the strongest strategies for Mr Wood. He was everywhere meeting people in homes, offices, shops, places of worship and street corners. He is a regular traveller in public buses, engaging in conversation with the people and understanding their concerns.

It was a simple, and yet effective move that took Mr Wood straight into the hearts of the people in Mount Roskill.

Interesting Constituency

Contrary to popular belief, Mount Roskill is not the ‘Indian haven,’ and an easy-to-win electorate. It is ethnically diverse, with almost 70% of the voters listed as European and Pacific origin. It would therefore be a tall order for a candidate of Indian origin to win in an election. The performance of Roshan Nauhria, who ran a good campaign with his New Zealand People’s Party, should prove the point.

He has been a resident of the Electorate for more than three decades, connected extremely well with the people and has helped the community in many ways.

On election night, his tally was 709 votes (4.2%).

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