The announcement that Laila Harré had jumped ship from the Greens to lead the Internet Party ruffled a lot of feathers in the Green Party, and today’s announcement that former Labour MP Georgina Beyer is standing for the Mana Party in Te Tai Tonga is likely to have draw a similar opinion.
The big question is if she can win it. In the absence of any polling in the electorate, the best starting point is the 2011 result. Labour’s Rino Tirikatene won with a 1,475 vote majority over the sitting MP, Rāhui Kātene of the Māori Party. Despite a competitive race in which the seat changed hands, only 57% of voters bothered to turn up.
During the 2011 campaign, Mana candidate Clinton Dearlove surprised many. He performed very well during debates and in the media, but suffered simply because he didn’t have an adequate campaign machine to get his message out around this huge electorate. He only gained 1,360 votes in the end.
So what can we expect in 2014? Even if the Mana Party haven’t improved their campaign machine ( though with the support of Kim Dotcom’s millions, I wouldn’t count on it), Beyer is likely to be the beneficiary of her higher profile, and the media interest that will attract. If she can double the Mana vote, which is a huge task, then that might make some impact.
That said, Rino Tirikatene now has the advantage of incumbency (which is a huge benefit in an electorate this size). As well as that, he no longer has to face Kātene – who did run a decent campaign.
The demise of the Māori Party will certainly change the dynamic in Te Tai Tonga, but it is hard to see Georgina Beyer giving Tirikatene much of a run for his money given the size of his existing vote.