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Labour needs a big win in Mt Roskill

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/11/2016 Peter Wilson, Political Writer
Phil Goff © Getty Images Phil Goff

Labour has a lot more riding on the Mt Roskill by-election than National, and retaining the seat with a reduced majority won't be enough, says NZ Newswire political writer Peter Wilson.

It needs a convincing victory, because although there's a big difference between by-elections and general elections the result on December 3 is going to be seen as a test run for next year.

Labour knows this, and it's using two hours of its annual conference in Auckland at the weekend to put its troops on Mt Roskill's streets.

The government has never taken an opposition seat in a by-election and National doesn't seriously believe it can win.

It's hoping for a close result, which it would consider an excellent outcome.

And that might not be too much to hope for, because in by-elections things can go badly wrong.

In 2010 Hekia Parata gave Labour a fright in Mana, one of its rock solid seats, when she held Kris Faafoi to a 1406 majority.

Two years earlier, in the 2008 general election, Winnie Laban held it with a majority of more than 6000.

National's 2015 Northland campaign was a train wreck and Winston Peters won the seat with a majority of more than 4000.

Mt Roskill is an intriguing electorate.

Phil Goff held it for more than 30 years and was a popular MP.

In the 2014 general election he retained it with a majority of just over 8000.

But when it came to party preference, National comfortably beat Labour - 14,275 to 12,086.

The Phil Goff loyalty factor is no longer there and Michael Wood is fighting to keep the seat for Labour.

He lives in Mt Roskill and was Goff's campaign manager. In 2010 and 2013 he was top-polling candidate in local board elections.

National has put up Parmjeet Parmar, a list MP who stood in Mt Roskill against Goff in the last general election. She ran second with 10,546 votes against Goff's 18,637.

Another reason Labour will look bad if it wins with a reduced majority is that the Greens have given it a bonus.

They ran third in 2014, when Barry Coates won 1682 votes, and they're standing aside to help Labour.

The campaign hasn't really kicked in yet but Labour made the first move with its promise to fast-track a light rail system through Britomart to Mt Roskill.

This 13km link would cost $1.4 billion and Labour's idea is that it would be funded 50-50 by the government and Auckland Council.

Goff, now Auckland's new mayor, didn't seem to have been told about that and wants the government to pay for all of it.

Labour insists it's merely bringing forward a transport project that's scheduled for 2028, while the government claims it's pork barrel politics on a phenomenal scale.

National hasn't promised anything yet, and after the 10 new bridges fiasco in Northland it's probably wondering whether it should.

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