Home > The Body Politic > Northland by-election – a damning poll and a damnable lie?

Northland by-election – a damning poll and a damnable lie?




A recent TV3 poll and associated story yielded two interesting observations. Firstly, that Winston Peters has a better chance of winning the Northland by-election than Labour.

Secondly, that the National candidate, Mark Osborne, is quite likely a liar.

The Poll

Despite TV3’s Patrick Gower thoroughly unprofessional interview with Winston Peters on The Nation, on 28 February, where he condescendingly referred to the NZ First leader’s candidacy in the Northland by-election as “a stunt” with “very little chance of winning here” – a TV3-Reid Research poll has put Peters firmly in the lead.

Peters’ lead is a commanding five percentage points over his nearest rival, National’s Mark Osborne;


tv3 poll- northland by-election - 5 march 2015


The poll results are a stunning up-set for National and creates serious doubt whether the Key government can survive a full three-year term.

The poll also revealed that Northland voters are far from “relaxed” about the police investigation  surrounding former Northland MP, Mike Sabin, which evidently began in August last year;


tv3 poll- should voters have been told sabin was under police invstigation - by-election poll - 5 march 2015

Even a clear majority of National voters agreed with the question whether “voters should have been told Mike Sabin was under investigation”;


tv3 poll- should voters have been told sabin was under police invstigation - national voters - by-election poll - 5 march 2015


The TV3 poll is evidently backed up by a  “secret poll” recently referenced by the National Business Review.

From a majority of 9,300 in the 2014 election, National is now set for a crushing, humiliating defeat. Worse still, it will take their numbers in the House from 60 to 59 with reliance on ACT, Peter Dunne, and the Maori Party to pass legislation and survive confidence votes.

Any further by-elections between now and 2017, and even support from ACT and Peter Dunne may not be sufficient to save this government. For the first time since the first MMP government was formed in 1996, New Zealand could see an early election, and the subsequent demise of John Key’s political career.

On 35%, Peters has a fairly good chance of taking Northland. But with 19% Undecideds – the outcome is by no means “done and dusted”.

This is still a First Past the Post election, and Osborne could still win the electorate with one single vote, even with a majority voting against him.

Labour Leader Andrew Little should re-visit his comments on Radio NZ’s Morning Report on 3 March, where he stated that the Labour candidate, Willow-Jean Prime “was in with a chance“.

Little also said that he did not know “where Peters stands in terms of peoples’ affections for him” in the electorate.

I suggest that the TV3 poll is a fairly clear indication.

Little added, “I’m just not convinced that the level of support is there for Winston that some people claim“.

Perhaps the poll may begin to convince Little that  “the level of support is there for Winston“.

Guyon Espiner pointedly  asked Little “are you  open to being convinced if a poll were to come out“?

Little replied that it thought it was “unlikely“.

It is no longer unlikely, and indeed, it is likely that Labour’s Ms Prime will come a distant third in what has quickly become a two-horse race.

The question for Labour, now, is what is more important?

  1. Contesting a by-election on a point of principle even at the cost of  potentially helping National retain the seat?
  2. Swallowing pride; adopting a truckload of pragmatism;  giving Peters a free run; and perhaps hastening the demise of this increasingly self-serving government?

Former Labour president, Mike William said on 4 March, on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon programme, that he would have counselled against Labour contesting the by-election. Williams cited cost and Peters working alongside Labour to assist Kelvin Davis to win the Te Tai Tokerau electorate last year.

If Peters wins Northland, it would be a win/win for the Opposition;

  1. The government’s majority would fall by one,
  2. The government would become more vulnerable to future by-elections,
  3. Peters would have to vote with the Opposition on every important issue that mattered. Peters simply could not afford to vote with National and risk being seen as another coalition partner alongside Dune, ACT, and the Maori Party.

The question that Andrew Little should ask himself every day and night from now on is; do I really want to risk splitting the opposition vote in Northland and thereby help John Key preserve his government?

Because in the final analysis, that is what it boils down to.

The Lie?

In the TV3 video with Gower’s voice-over, note Osborne’s response (at 2:16) to an off-video question regarding the curious circumstances surrounding Mike Sabin’s sudden resignation from Parliament on 30 January;

“Ah, I’m not aware of the situation or the circumstances behind it.”

Then note Peters’ response (at 2:20) to Osborne’s comment;

“They all knew. And at the top. Including my opponent, who was a Treasurer of the organisation.”

If Peters is correct and Osborne was (is?) the Treasurer of the Northland Branch of the National Party – then it is inconceivable that he was unaware of Sabin’s situation and the police investigation.

Enquiries made to the National Party, by phoning the Electorate Office, and on Twitter,  on the morning of 6 March have not resulted in any responses to questions on this issue.

Electorate committee executives are almost always the first to find out what is happening on their own patch.  For Osborne to deny any knowledge of Sabin’s situation is simply not credible.

Osborne was either kept out of the loop by other electorate executives; never attended committee meetings; and never spoke to other committee members – or he is lying.

Which is more likely?

Not exactly an auspicious start to his nascent political career?

Perhaps he is following in his Dear Leader’s footsteps.






TV3 The Nation: Transcript – NZ First leader Winston Peters

TV3 News:  Peters on track to win Northland seat

TVNZ News: Police asked questions about Mike Sabin six months ago

NBR: UPDATED: The fix isn’t in – Labour to contest Northland

Wikipedia: 2014 General Election results

Radio NZ: Labour won’t rule out deal in Northland byelection (audio)

Radio NZ: Labour urged to make way for Peters in Northland

National Party: Northland electorate

National Party: Twitter

Other blogs

Bowalley Road: Sorry Winston – Why Labour Needs To Stand In Northland

Polity: Herald on Northland

Polity: Game on

Public Address: The Northland by-election; or The so-called Tizard Effect

The Daily Blog: Why National might lose Northland and why Labour can’t win

The Daily Blog: Poll shows Winston winning Northland

The Dim Post: Northland

The Standard: On Northland

The Standard: Northland Polls; Horrorshow for National



Northland by-election - the public going to sleep


This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 March 2015.



= fs =

  1. graham limbrick
    25 March 2015 at 6:44 pm

    (Comment deleted.)

    • 27 March 2015 at 8:05 pm

      Sorry, Graham, but all details of Sabin’s charges have been suppressed by the Courts. If I was to allow your comment to be posted, I would be in contempt, and face charges myself.

  1. 30 March 2015 at 4:58 am
  2. 3 April 2015 at 8:01 am
  3. 13 September 2016 at 8:01 am

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