First, if you voted for me this election: thank you. I am grateful for your support and will work hard to repay the trust you have placed in me. Thanks also to those who supported me throughout my first term. I very much look forward to serving Dunedin North for a second term as your electorate MP.
A full week has passed since election night. Every day since has proved afresh (were it necessary) that a day is a long time in politics.
Now, the obvious. Election night 2014 was a huge disappointment for Labour supporters. A party vote tally of 24.7% was no mandate to lead a new progressive Government. It was a trouncing.
For Labour: listening, reflection, learning and rebuilding must now occur.
Questions must be asked. Why, for example, was Labour’s share of the electorate vote up 9.3% across New Zealand? And why did the party vote slump whilst we won more, rather than fewer, electorate seats?
For Labour the overall election result was grim. Perhaps less obvious on the night, hidden in the local results were some small silver linings.
Dunedin North was National’s fifth-worst result. Projections based on Labour’s difficult 2011 election defeat would have seen National comfortably win the party vote in Dunedin North. Instead, taking boundary changes for this election into account, National’s booth-by-booth party vote actually took a 1.3% hit (compared to a rise across the country of 0.8%). On election night Labour actually won the party vote in Dunedin North. It remains to be seen whether Labour will hold the party vote once special votes are counted. But the fact it was close must be a huge disappointment for National – with so much rural territory coming into the electorate in 2014, and an upswing of support elsewhere in the country.
A large part of National’s party vote decline can only be put down to the intelligence and insight of the voters in Dunedin North. But I believe no small amount of credit is due also the experience, wisdom and hard work of volunteers on my campaign. They were motivated to campaign because they believe in creating a better New Zealand. Still, I feel I owe them a huge debt of thanks on behalf of the people Labour represents.
At a candidate level, I was chuffed that my personal majority was the highest of any Labour MP in the South Island. Again, I think this a reflection on the contributions of many. In particular, I am grateful to those who have shared and continue to share the fight for a common-sense outcome at Invermay. And also the many many people who have educated me about shortfalls in New Zealand’s health system, particularly as they play out in the South. I must thank the staff in my office too – whose hard work and dedication is often the very thing electorate MPs are judged upon.
In addition to the musings above, here are a few early reflections on what went right in Dunedin:
1/ I think Labour’s relatively strong showing in both North and South Dunedin owes a lot to the positive plan for Dunedin that Clare Curran and I launched when the Labour Leader visited the city early in the campaign. Our simple message – that Labour would save Invermay, grow a modern engineering cluster around Hillside, and upgrade our dilapidated hospital – resonated. It resonated because it reflected local concerns, and because it gave concrete examples about what Labour’s wider ‘vote positive’ campaign meant in practice.
2/ I also think tying this local campaign to a party vote message worked. Our additional billboards were simple: Labour will save Invermay; Labour will support local manufacturing; Labour will upgrade Dunedin Hospital.
3/ Literally hundreds of local volunteers and supporters contributing to a campaign generates an energy of its own. Everyday heroes like Ciaran and Heather bring a lot of people with them. If you have hundreds of heroes, thousands of people in their wider social circles will be predisposed towards hearing what these heroes have to say – before they ever don a rosette. The days of mass-membership may have passed, but healthy and active membership does make a difference.
I’m keen to hear your feedback on other things you think influenced the local result.
I’ll be back in my regular pattern of Saturday door-knocking before too long. But if you have something to share, don’t wait for me to knock on 18,000 other doors first. Drop me a line. I’ll be pleased to hear your considered reflections.