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Labour needs a big win in Mt Roskill

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 1/12/2016

If John Key knows what he's talking about, the result of Saturday's Mt Roskill by-election is a foregone conclusion.

The prime minister hardly gives National's candidate a chance.

He's made it clear he expects Parmjeet Parmar will lose, and he has been explaining why: "No incumbent government has won a seat they don't hold in a by-election."

Key is right, and Mt Roskill has been a safe Labour seat for decades.

Except for a three-year break, Phil Goff held it from 1981 to this year when he became Auckland's mayor.

In 2014 he retained it with a thumping 8000 vote majority.

National did win the party vote, however, which should give Key something to grasp.

He's playing that down as well.

"What we have done over the years is got a few people who have supported Phil Goff to give their party vote to National," he says.

Key is trying to set up Labour so anything other than a spectacular victory looks like a defeat.

If its candidate Michael Wood wins with less than Goff's 2014 majority - which is highly likely - Key will say it's another signal that Labour's support is falling apart.

And if there's a stunning upset, he'll say Andrew Little's reign as Labour leader is over.

He's more or less said that already: "If they lose Mt Roskill I just can't see how he would be able to return to parliament and argue that he could be the leader of the Labour Party."

Labour has campaigned hard and isn't taking anything for granted.

There have been boundary changes since 2014 that make Mt Roskill a tad more National-friendly, and the electorate has a strong mix of ethnic minorities.

Roshan Nauhria's People's Party is going for the Indian vote, and the wealthy businessman has put serious money into his campaign.

He could dent Labour's majority, but that's been offset by the Greens not putting up a candidate.

The Greens want to give Labour a clear run, and they're donating the 1600 votes their candidate won in 2014 to the cause.

Labour's problem is that it really doesn't want to end the year on a downer, because that means starting an election year on the back foot.

The last two opinion polls gave it 28 per cent and 23 per cent, with National nudging 50 per cent.

That's a phenomenal level of support for a government that in less than a year will be shooting for a fourth term, and Labour has to do something about it.

Parliament has five sitting days left.

There's not much time for opposition parties to make any big bangs before they all go away for their summer holidays and voters start taking even less notice of politics than they are now.

That's why Labour has a lot riding on this by-election.

Little badly needs an opportunity to stand tall, dismiss those dismal poll ratings and say: "We're back".

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