Who will represent Dunedin voters after the general election in November? At the moment there are six MPs resident in Dunedin (electorate MPs Clare Curran and Pete Hodgson; and list MPs Metiria Turei, Michael Woodhouse, David Parker and Hilary Calvert). This mix will change considerably, especially because Hodgson is retiring, Parker is shifting to Auckland, and Calvert is not standing again. So, which Dunedin candidates will get into Parliament via their party lists or the Dunedin electorate contests? This blog post reproduces my monthly column from the DScene newspaper. [Read more below]
It’s the party lists that have the most potential for bringing in candidates from the minor parties, but there are few parties that look likely to either break the 5% MMP threshold (or win an electorate). The Greens are certain to do so, therefore bringing Metiria Turei back in as she’s number one on the Green list, but Shane Gallagher (standing in Dunedin South) won’t, as he’s a lowly number 27 on their list.
Act is expected to be in Parliament, but it hasn’t placed a Dunedin-based candidate in the electable part of its list. New Zealand First hasn’t issued a list yet, and although it’s expected to have Dunedin South candidate Randall Ratana fairly high, on current polling the party is very unlikely to be in Parliament at all. United Future is probably going to get back in and might have more than one MP, but unless the Dunedin North candidate Pete George can get a top slot, he’s not likely to represent Dunedin.
Then there are the micro parties such as the Alliance (no candidate or list yet) and the Democrats for Social Credit (with local candidates Jeremy Noble and Dennis Dorney). But these minnows have demonstrated no recent likelihood of electoral success.
Instead it’s the major parties that are likely to bring Dunedin politicians in via the lists. In particular, current National list MP Michael Woodhouse will be returned because he’s rocketed up his party list from 49 to 31. On the Labour side, MP Clare Curran is at a marginal 28 on its list, and new candidate David Clark is even lower at 49 – so both will need to win their electorates to be certain of being MPs.
Calculating the likely MPs to come in on party lists is relatively easy, because New Zealand is well-served by numerous opinion polls purporting to tell us how the political parties are doing in terms of the party vote nationally. But opinion polls have not been carried out for the local Dunedin electorates.
One way to help forecast electorate outcomes is with the use of the online political prediction market, iPredict (www.ipredict.co.nz), owned by the Victoria University of Wellington. The website allows the public to buy and sell stocks based on various possible political outcomes. The concept, based on a lot of cutting-edge research, believes that those that are expert in the field are likely to use their insights and insider information to use real money to produce an accurate prediction. In the 2008 general election the iPredict market was more accurate any individual polling company in projecting the results.
In Dunedin South, Labour MP Clare Curran is the incumbent and according to iPredict, has a 92% chance of re-election. But shouldn’t she be a more certain bet in such a safe ‘red seat’ where in 2008 she achieved a majority of 6,500? This lack of certainly probably reflects that Curran is regarded as a bit unpredictable and volatile, and she’s struggling in her first term to make an impression on the electorate. She’s also up against a National candidate, Joanne Hayes, who on the surface at least, is an appealing candidate (a Maori women with background in health, business, and agriculture). Yet baring disaster, Curran should win easily. And there’s a small chance of Hayes also coming in on the National Party list, but that would require a 51% party vote.
In the North, Labour candidate David Clark ought to also be a solid bet. But again iPredict traders give him only a 93% chance of victory, which probably reflects the fact that he’s untested and unknown in the electorate. Nonetheless he’s a very capable campaigner with the ‘right look’ to take the seat with ease.
Of course Dunedin is also part of the Maori electorate of Te Tai Tonga, and iPredict projects an upset in this contest, with Labour’s Rino Tirikatene supposedly having a 74% chance of beating Maori Party incumbent Rahui Katene.
All in all, there’s likely to be some change in Dunedin’s parliamentary representation, but most of this has already been signaled in advance with three current MPs moving on. There seems no reason to expect any significant upsets – apart from in Te Tai Tonga – and the only fresh new blood coming into local parliamentary politics is likely to come from David Clark’s expected win in Dunedin North.