The devil will be in the detail of the result from the Mt Roskill by-election on Saturday.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday was at pains to portray National as the underdog unlikely to win, and if it did it, it would be such a cataclysmic defeat for Labour that it would take Andrew Little out too.

Probably true.

The Prime Minister was at such pains to emphasise National’s underdog status saying the expectation was that they would lose.

I think that in Parmjeet Parmar we have the best candidate,” he said.

“There’s a lot of support her.

“But the reality is that there is relatively little at stake for us.

“I think if Mt Roskill were to go to National then I think it would be terminal for Andrew Little.”

Ms Parmar had to grin and bear this write down of her chances. She was standing alongside Key while he wrote her off.

Her response was straight out of a media training manual.


“I’m working hard, I’m focused on local issues, and this has been a great opportunity to talk about local issues, and so it will all depend on voter turnout.”

Labour, however, has not focussed on local issues. Instead, it has repeatedly argued that National has failed on housing and law and order. By and large National has avoided getting into a debate on those issues.

A quick look at the last election results in the electorate shows one inconvenient truth for Key.

National won the party vote.

He explains that away by saying the seat has been held by Labour “forever”.

“What we have done is over the years we have got a few people who have supported Phil Goff to give their party vote to National because they believe in the overall direction that we are going.”

The “few” people was, in fact, a National party vote of 14,275 while Labour got only 12,086 giving National a party vote majority of 2189.

But Parmjeet Parmar got only 10,546 electorate votes.

So it could be the other way round; that the seat is a National seat and that the vote for Goff was a personal one for someone who was first elected there in 1981 and who had been positioned on the right of Labour’s caucus more or less ever since.

It is that that gives National a faint hope but what is spooking both Labour and National is the possibility of a very low turnout.

That means whoever’s supporters are the most motivated could win.

But on that, neither side is helped by the fact that their candidates, to put it kindly, lack charisma.

Furthermore though Key has paid several visits to the electorate, if yesterday’s tour of three supermarkets was anything to go by, he has been going through the motions, posing for selfies and shaking hands with the limited number of shoppers around on a Thursday morning but hardly drawing the crowds.

Little will be in the electorate today, and his grand climax will be more Labour street corner meetings.

Compare this with Key’s election eve crowded street walk through Dargaville during the Northland by-election or Winston Peters’ omnipresent bus.

And National; has not sent the procession of Ministerial cars to Mt Roskill that it did to Northland.

Also complicating things in Mt Roskill is the presence of the People’s Party in the form of candidate, Roshan Nauhria, a wealthy Indian businessman who is campaigning on a platform heavily focussed on law and order — a big issue among the immigrant small business people in the electorate.

He also accuses both National and Labour of not recognising immigrant needs in general and calls for more immigrant representation in Parliament.

National worries that he might be drawing votes from Parmar and wonder whether he is in cahoots with Labour.

But within the electorate, there are some pockets of strong National support, particularly in the leafy avenues around Maungawhau (Mt Eden) or across on the edges of the Manukau Harbour in Hillsborough.

Once the Maungawahu School voting booth was a sort of national indicator; the votes there tended to echo the overall national percentages.

No more.

It is now a solid National voting area. These are streets of million dollar plus houses.

What will be interesting when the votes are counted how National has fared in its own heartland.

For Labour, the test will be more onerous. Was the vote for Goff simply a personal one? Has their incessant attack on National’s housing policies had any impact?

In the neighbouring Mt Albert seat, once held by Helen Clark, her replacement David Shearer, has been able to keep the seat safely in Labour’s hands.

Whether Michael Wood can do that this weekend may depend on whether the immigrants of Mt Roskill are sufficiently motivated to get out and vote.