National, Labour, the Greens and ACT have all set out on different routes to victory in the country's toriest seat. The billboards dotted around the electorate lay the strategies bare

A drive around the Epsom electorate is a study in campaign strategy. Here, the machinations of the country's best political minds are painted in vivid colour.

The parties can't hide in Epsom because it matters so much. It's the difference between life and death for Act, will influence whether National can rely on a right-wing coalition partner or needs to aim for a clear majority, and even has a stake in any potential Labour leadership battle, should Phil Goff come up short.

As Q+A's Epsom candidates debate made clear, the seat is one to watch this year. National's Paul Goldsmith devoutly - some might say cynically, cleverly or bizarrely - refused to seek the electorate vote. Can you remember the last time a political candidate appeared on national television asking people not to vote for him?

National's strategy is to gracefully allow Act, again, to win the most National-supporting seat in the country [see correction in comments]. The problem is that the party's own people are rebelling, saying they want to vote their true beliefs, not strategically vote for a party that's turned into a circus. The protest has been swelling all year, but National reasonably enough sees a coalition partner as more important than a few pissed off posh folk. And they're gambling that the loyalists of the Northern Slopes will bend to the party's will come election day.

John Banks was there on Q+A, repeatedly insisting Epsom voters don't want, "Tax, spend, borrow and hope". Now you'd think that even in Epsom "hope" would be worth something, but the way Banks garbled his syntax, it sounded as if Epsom voters were fans of despair.

David Parker made up the numbers - his standing in Epsom is exactly so that he can get on forums such as this, pushing the Labour party message and maybe even raising his own profile, should he feel like a crack at the leadership come the summer.

Oh yes, a line-up like that, however slightly barking, shows how important Epsom is.

And those billboards are the visual manifestation of that.

What you can see instantly is that the Greens, National, ACT and Labour are each taking very different approaches to the campaign. So let's go through some interpretations:


This is the start of my post at To continue reading, click here. But feel free to add comments and debate below

Comments (22)

by Graeme Edgeler on October 18, 2011
Graeme Edgeler

National's strategy is to gracefully allow Act, again, to win the most National-supporting seat in the country.

John Key* is stepping aside? How has this not made the news?!

*In 2008, the most National-supporting seat in the Country was Helensville (63.5%). Epsom saw only 62.4% of the party vote head National's way.

I love how, in 2008, the Greens got more support in Epsom than ACT did. And how more than 10% of Epsom voters who party voted ACT voted for an electorate candidate other than Rodney Hide.

by Tim Watkin on October 18, 2011
Tim Watkin

Oh, that's bloody annoying Graeme. I've had so many people refer to Epsom as having the highest proportion of the National party vote, I've obviously absorbed it as fact in my head.

At least I can get one back on you though – According to the Parliamentary profile, National got 62.6% in Epsom, not 62.4%, while it got 63.7% in Helensville. Or do you have some correction for them too?

by on October 19, 2011

A more appropriate statement would have been to say that Epsom is consistantly the most National voting seat in the country, which I suspect is true - at least when comparing it to Helensville.

Helensville hasn't always been so good for National - Labour won the party vote there in 2002 (which was, admittedly, a really bad election for the Nats). In contrast, National easily won the Party vote in Epsom on '02.

by on October 19, 2011

Opps, scratch that - I was looking at the electorate vote. National won the Party Vote in Epsom in 2002, but only just - 170 votes in it.

My point still stands, although isn't as strong.

by Graeme Edgeler on October 19, 2011
Graeme Edgeler

Or do you have some correction for them too?

Not really. The calculation I did included informal votes. The calculation the Parliamentary Library did (or used) includes only validly cast party votes, and not votes where the voter intention was unclear. Both are acceptable ways of showing the result: their party vote percentages will add up to 100%, mine will add up to 100% when you include "0.3% of Helensville voters cast informal party votes".

Oh, that's bloody annoying Graeme ... I've obviously absorbed it as fact in my head.

I do the same thing, but have had it bite me enough times that I now tend to check (at least before I correct someone!). And next time Mike Williams pulls out that "Labour's fantastic get out the vote operation in South Auckland won them the 2005 election" pull him up on it, the numbers don't back him up. (He didn't do it this week, but he does it quite often).

by Richard Aston on October 19, 2011
Richard Aston

Aside from historical stats I am interested in which direction the epsom voters are moving.

The recent Herald on Sunday-Key Research poll of 500 Epsom voters gives National's candidate, Paul Goldsmith,  32.9% support and John Banks 18.9% ! Plus their party vote preference was 67.6 % National &  5.7% Act.

Considering National is not even campaigning for the elctoraet vore it kooks like the "good people of epsom" are giving a one finger salute to John Banks and the National/Act power games.

Excellent - and if this small poll translates to actual votes - I personally would like to vote for the people of epsom - they are obviously not easily duped.




by alexb on October 19, 2011

I fail to see why Parker isn't trying to actually win the seat. Surely with Banks looking shaky compared to National's patsy candidate there would be room for someone like Parker to slip through. There are an awful lot of dissatisfied people in every electorate, even Epsom, and vote splitting on the right could allow Labour to score a real symbolic victory in an election they seem destined to lose.

by Graeme Edgeler on October 19, 2011
Graeme Edgeler

I fail to see why Parker isn't trying to actually win the seat.

1. He can't win. Maybe he could, in some circumstance, but with the tide this far out for Labour, he has no hope.

2. What they tell you about the party vote is actually true: it is the most important. If the price of Labour candidates pushing for personal electorate votes is that they get slightly fewer party votes, then is it worth it? Winning an electorate seat is nice on a personal level, but if it means Labour's overall strength is lower, then it harms the party.

3. Parker apparently has leadership aspirations. I wish him well, he's perhaps my favourite MP, but winning Epsom would be really bad for his chances. Short-term, he'd seem awesome, but when he lost Epsom in 2014 - which he would do because there wouldn't be a split vote - his stocks would take a massive hit.

by on October 19, 2011

The poll of Epsom, as reported by HoS is quite misleading: Goldsmith (33%) leads Banks (19%). BUT, 42% were undecided. So what these numbers really translate as is Undecided (42%), Goldsmith (19%) and Banks (11%). Normally, when the proportion of Undecideds is lower, ignoring them is not too much of a problem, and it's not too unreasonable to assume they'll broadly behave like the decideds (or not vote). In this poll for example, only 11% are undecided on their party vote. The poll certainly suggests Banks is in trouble, but that so many people are undecided suggests there is a long way left to run.

by on October 19, 2011

Haha ooops. Profoundly retract that. On the pollsters website, it's made clear that the 33% and 19% are not of decided voters, but of all those polled. Interesting to contrast the pollsters graph with HoS

by Matthew Percival on October 19, 2011
Matthew Percival

The Centre-Right vote in Epsom would have to be split 4-5 ways before a Labour candidate could be considered a chance.

Word on the street is Banks has a lot of ground to make up to win this seat.

Should ACT fail to win the seat it will probably signal the end of Brash and Banks (on the national scene anyway). Long term it will cause problems for National as the party will lack a stable co-alition partner to the right (unless Colin Craig can somehow establish himself by winning Rodney).

Peter Dunne isn't getting any younger so National could face the real possibility in 2014 of having only 1 viable co-alition partner in the form of the Maori Party. A party which is only ever likely to win 3-4 seats max.

by Tim Watkin on October 19, 2011
Tim Watkin

Jeremy, exccept that Helensville has only existed since 2002 and has always had John Key as its MP. So even with the party vote going to Labour that once (which is interesting in itself), I'm not sure you could make a case for inconsistency.

Alright Graeme, I'll bite. Labour was behind on the night until those South Auckland booths came in late and large. Is your point that the turnout wasn't any bigger than usual? Or what?

by Tim Watkin on October 19, 2011
Tim Watkin

James, the point is the number of undecideds. That will mostly be right-wing voters trying to figure out how they can best help John Key. The Nats will be keeping a close eye on the seat via polling and local contacts, but I suspect they're confident that their core block will do as they're told when the time comes.

The interesting thing for me is whether they will feel compelled to say out loud "vote ACT", or whether they decide Epsom voters can figure it out for themselves.

Those undecideds will be watching National's and ACT's party vote numbers. If it looks as if only Bank will get in -- or perhaps even if it's only Banks and Brash -- they won't bother and will back Goldsmith. But if ACT's numbers grow or if National's slide, they will look to ACT.

by Tim Watkin on October 19, 2011
Tim Watkin

Alex, people such as Bob Harvey share a similar view. But it would take a phenomenal swing at a time when  there's no nationwide swing to Labour. I'd give you good odds on that one, if I was a bookie.

by william blake on October 19, 2011
william blake

@ Matthew, "the centre right", who is that? Labour; yes, National; after the next election, regardless of outcome; no and ACT must be the far centre right...

by on October 19, 2011

Tim - I agree. If I'd been able to edit my original post, I probably would have made that point more clearly. The very high level of undecided voters did not feature highly in the HoS story, and does suggest there is something intersesting going on.

by Graeme Edgeler on October 19, 2011
Graeme Edgeler

The very high level of undecided voters did not feature highly in the HoS story, and does suggest there is something intersesting going on.

The Rugby World Cup? It's both interesting, and ongoing.

by Graeme Edgeler on October 19, 2011
Graeme Edgeler

Alright Graeme, I'll bite. Labour was behind on the night until those South Auckland booths came in late and large. Is your point that the turnout wasn't any bigger than usual? Or what?

I've been on the case of this for a while now, so here's something I prepared earlier:

Labour got a lot of votes in south Auckland, and without them would have been toast. But that's what happens every election. If National voters stayed home, National wouldn't do well either.

And turnouts did rise in south Auckland at the 2005 election (south Auckland being defined for my analysis as the electorates of Mangere, Manukau East, and Manurewa), but the 2005 election was close – so turnout was up everywhere.

Across New Zealand, it was up 3.94 points. Across the general electorates only, it was up 3.51 points. In Mangere, turnout was up 2 points, in Manukau East, it was up 2.24 points and in Manurewa it was up 2.64 points: well below average.

And it wasn’t a large increase in enrolled voters, either. The population of New Zealand having increased, numbers of enrolled voters were just up. Admittedly, south Auckland electorates were up by more than the average, but Auckland is growing faster than the average (Auckland picked up an extra electorate in the subsequent post-census re-districting). And the south Auckland electorates weren’t growing at a vastly different rate from, say, Auckland Central.

The three south Auckland electorates had the lowest turnout across all general electorates in both 2002 and 2005, with turnout growth substantially less than the rest of the Country as well – the south Auckland turnout meme seems entirely baseless.

p.s. the Helensville electorate did exist before 2002. I've heard it as a tie-breaking pub quiz question: who was the MP for Helenville before John Key? Answer, then-National MP Dail Jones (1978 and 1981).

by Tim Watkin on October 20, 2011
Tim Watkin

Yes, but surely a trick question in that quiz. It was abolished and then created as something different with the same name. Saying Helensville existed before is a bit like saying it's the same cricket bat, just with a different blade and different handle.

Interesting numbers on south Auckland though.

by Tim Watkin on October 23, 2011
Tim Watkin

Hi Christine,

That's an interesting experiment. Let us know of any of the candidates turn up for a chat – or if anything else happens. Parker or Hay might want to make the most of a photo opportunity...

Check out NBR for its poll on Friday, which backs up the others re Goldsmith's undesired lead... but also shows that those polled think the leadership change to Brash has done more harm than good.

by Frank Macskasy on October 26, 2011
Frank Macskasy

Isn't it amazine that ACT wants a "deal" with the Nats, so their near-dead party can survive.

Is this the same ACT that demands that Maori win seats on the Auckland City Council through MERIT only, and without arrangements such as Maori-only seats?

Why, yes, indeed it is:


by on March 07, 2012

If you’re looking to assemble the most suitable outfit and have a pair of these special Jeremy Scott Bones , it is almost guaranteed no one else and an event would have them.

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