PoliticsSeptember 21, 2017

The Spinoff Predictometer: Which candidates will win on Saturday?


Who’s going to be an MP when this is all over? Simon Wilson has been studying the candidate battles, counting down the lists and poring over the chicken entrails. 

Who’s going to be an MP on Sunday? That depends on how well the parties do in the election, of course, but it also depends on what happens in each electorate.

Mostly, electorates are not important in the overall scheme of things. They don’t have anything to do with the total number of seats for each party – except in the case of the Māori seats and Act, where they’re incredibly important (see below). The parties have learned this so well, none of them is even running a “two ticks” campaign this time. They want your party vote. “Party vote party vote” is all they say. They don’t want anything to confuse that message. Sure, give them your electorate vote if you want, but it won’t help them form the next government.

But electorate votes are still important in determining which candidates get into parliament, because their outcomes disrupt the party lists.

It works like this. If you win an electorate, you become an MP. The party list then tops up the numbers to the full allocation. Say Labour gets 40% – that would probably entitle it to 50 seats. But you don’t just count down the party list to 50, because five of the party’s Māori electorate candidates are not on the list at all. If they all win, they will become MPs, pushing list candidates further down.

As for National, it has several safe-seat candidates who are very low on the party list. Todd Barclay’s replacement in Clutha-Southland, Hamish Walker, for example, is bottom ranked. He won’t get in off the list, but he will almost certainly win the electorate and become an MP that way. Along with a bunch of his colleagues, he will push some mid-ranked list MPs down the list and potentially out of parliament.

So who’s going to be an MP? I’ve looked at the electorate battles and the polling trends and drawn up a list for each of the two major parties, assuming they both get at least 35% (and not more than 46%) of the total vote.

I’ve also made some assumptions about minor party votes: that the Greens and NZ First will both win 5-10% of the party vote, the Māori Party 1-4%, Act will win Epsom but with less than 0.5% overall and the other parties combined will get around 5%. In other words, the percentage of votes that go to parties not in parliament will be small. For more on the importance of this, see below.

It’s possible Act and the Māori Party (and perhaps others) will win more electorates than they would be entitled to from the size of their party votes. What happens? First, those electorate winners all become MPs. Second, the size of parliament is enlarged by the number of extra party seats that were won. It’s called an “overhang”. Instead of 120 MPs, we’d have 121 or even more. For these calculations I have assumed no overhang.

A queue of advance voters in downtown Auckland – and yes, that is finance minister Steven Joyce wandering past at right. (Photo Simon Wilson)

The trends

There are two big contradictory trends in this election campaign. One is an all-party swing to Labour, the other is a swing to National. The most obvious reason for the two swings is that one is urban, the other rural.

The polls suggest both these trends have been extremely damaging to the minor parties, especially the Greens, NZ First, the Māori Party, TOP and United First. Act’s poor showing in the polls has its own explanations.

National has skilfully exploited rural concerns: that farmers’ rally in Morrinsville was a National Party rally in all but name. It has stirred up antagonism to Labour’s water tax and other policies, and engaged in pork-barrel politics over roads, and the upshot is a countryside likely to vote very solidly for National.

That will hurt Labour in one or two seats, most notably Wairarapa, where the high-profile Kieran McAnulty might have had a chance against National’s low-profile incumbent MP Alistair Scott. That’s not so likely now. But Labour doesn’t really have much to lose in the rural seats, in electorate or party votes. The battle over asking farmers to pay more to deal with water pollution and climate change doesn’t hurt Labour in the big cities.

The real damage of a rural swing to National will be done not to Labour but to NZ First. Winston Peters himself will be lucky to hold Northland. He’s up against two strong candidates – National’s Matt King and Labour’s Willow-Jean Prime – and it’s not easy to pick a winner. If Peters loses and his party falls below 5%, he and it will be out of parliament. It wouldn’t be the first time, remember: they failed to make the cut only two elections ago, in 2008.

However, National’s rural surge could also hurt National itself. At least, it could hurt the party it likes to portray itself as: urban and diversely multicultural. That’s because unless the party holds its vote into the mid-40s, the low-ranked rural and provincial MPs (nearly all Pākehā and mostly male) will win their electorates but the likes of Jian Yang, Parmjeet Parmar, Melissa Lee and Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, who have marginal list places, may be out of parliament.

National is the most multicultural party in parliament right now. If it does even moderately poorly this election, it will have more of a country party look and feel than we’ve seen for many years.

The biggest single trend, though, is the Jacinda Effect. She bumped Labour up almost 20 points when she became leader on August 1, nearly doubling the party’s support. Has the new popularity held up? Jacinda Ardern has obvious appeal to women, young people, urban liberals and everyone who reckons it’s time for a change. There are far more of them than there are people in the rural economy, which is why the swing to Labour and away from all the other parties is so important.

In this two-elections race, where do the provincial cities line up? Last election every provincial city in the country except Napier and Palmerston North voted National. Are they more likely to succumb to National’s steady-as-she-goes heartland messages or Ardern’s hope for a new generation? At heart, are the residents of Rotorua, New Plymouth, Whanganui and Timaru more urban or more rural?

Perhaps they’ll split their votes, supporting the incumbent National electorate MPs but giving their party votes to Labour? Or will they simply stick with National? This election, it feels like they’re going to vote blue.

That will hurt Labour’s Steph Lewis in Whanganui. Traditionally a Labour seat but held in recent times by National’s Chester Burrows, if all else was equal it would revert. But Whanganui is in dairy country and the rural connections are strong. Expect National’s newcomer Harete Hipango to hold on.

Whanganui and Wairarapa are bellwether seats: if they do show any kind of swing to Labour, a change of government will be very likely.

Will it be different in the metropolitan cities, where National holds some seats that used to be regarded as traditional Labour? Not a lot, as it happens. Labour should make big inroads to National’s metropolitan party vote, but surprisingly few of National’s electorates are vulnerable.

Auckland has two seats on the edge. One is Maungakiekie, where National’s Sam Lotu-Iiga has retired and the party is standing high-profile city councillor Denise Lee against Labour’s highly regarded Priyanca Radhakrishnan.

Chlöe Swarbrick could spoil it for Labour in Maungakiekie. (Photo Tim Onnes)

Maungakiekie was Labour during the Helen Clark years and National during the John Key years, and it might still be a bellwether seat, destined to stay with the governing party, whoever it is. But there’s a complication this year: the Greens are standing Chlöe Swarbrick. She’s asking only for the party vote, but she’s popular and if she sucks a few thousand votes away from Labour she will hand Lee the seat.

It seems more clear cut in Auckland Central, the most marginal seat in the country. But National’s Nikki Kaye has a very strong personal following and she’s no longer competing against Jacinda Ardern, who has hopped over to neighbouring Mt Albert. Kaye seems on course to buck the Jacinda Effect and increase her 600 majority by several thousand. Again, if that doesn’t happen, it’ll be a rough night for National.

Change is unlikely in Hamilton, where National’s rural appeal almost certainly means it has the city locked up. But in Wellington, the retirement of Peter Dunne leaves Ōhāriu, hanging by just 743 votes in 2014, ripe for the picking by Labour’s Greg O’Connor. If this doesn’t happen, Labour are toast.

It’s a bit different in Hutt South, where Labour’s long-standing MP Trevor Mallard has moved onto the party list. National’s popular list MP Chris Bishop is running a very strong campaign against Labour newcomer Ginny Andersen. He has to beat a majority of only 709 from last time and could well squeak home. Another to stare down the Jacinda Effect. Vote splitting could see him picking up the seat (National’s for the first time ever) but Labour dominating the party vote.

In Christchurch, though, this should be the year Labour wins back Christchurch Central, with Duncan Webb on track to beat Nicky Wagner. If that doesn’t happen, Labour will probably not be forming the government. But the water price controversy should keep Waimakariri in National hands, despite its marginal majority of 2506 last time. Labour already holds both the urban Dunedin seats.

Labour, in other words, will clearly pick up a lot of party votes from 2014, but will gain few new electorates. That doesn’t affect their overall numbers in parliament, but large parties always like to have electorates: it helps their credibility and their organisational strength.

The Greens are chasing only one electorate, Nelson, but they’re doing it primarily to gather party votes by focusing attention on National’s environment minister Nick Smith, who holds the seat comfortably. They’ve spent most of the campaign strongly focused on climate change and clean water, promoting the idea that the party is needed in parliament because no one else has coherent progressive policies on environmental issues.

Their battle is with Labour, not because the Memorandum of Understanding is dead, but because they’re fighting in much the same voter pool. Labour wants progressive voters to believe a vote for Ardern is the best way to help elect a government led by Ardern. They want the moral authority that comes with being the largest single party in parliament. The Greens want you to believe a vote for them is vital, because it will help secure them a total over 5% and therefore a place in parliament. They will support a Labour-led government, and therefore, they say, a vote for them is also a vote for Ardern as prime minister.

The Greens are right in this, provided they get at least 5% of the party vote.

Act will stay in parliament because National allows its leader, David Seymour, to hold Epsom. But Act is languishing at less than 0.5% of the party vote, far short of the 1.3% it needs to bring in another MP.

The Māori seats are volatile, and could determine the election. Labour holds six of the seven and will benefit from the Jacinda Effect. Labour already dominates the party vote and that should now become overwhelming.

But the electorate votes are more complicated. Polls suggest Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell will hold his Waiariki seat and Howie Tamati may well pick up Te Tai Hauāuru, the seat that used to be held by party founder Tariana Turia. Shane Taurima might also take out Tāmaki Makaurau, although that’s a long shot.

If the Māori Party wins just one electorate, it will probably need 1.3% of the party vote to bring Marama Fox back. That’s possible. But if it wins two electorates, it would need perhaps 2.3% of the party vote to bring her back, and that starts to look harder. Currently, they’re at 1%.

There’s cruel irony for Fox in this. She’s been the face of the party during the campaign and her personal appeal has been instrumental in keeping it alive at all. But it could be at her own expense. If the party doesn’t win Te Tai Hauāuru, she’ll have a better chance of returning to parliament herself.

Yes, Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox really does want to get back into parliament.

And the rest? The tide ran out on TOP even before it ran in, and Damien Light’s resemblance to Ryan Gosling won’t be enough to save United Future. Hone Harawira of the Mana Party trails far behind Labour’s Kelvin Davis in Te Tai Tokerau. None of the others will bother the statisticians at all.

Who’s going to be an MP? The party caucuses

These party lists show which candidates are expected to win their electorate seats (in the order they appear on the lists, not in order of majority). Then the list MPs, in rank order, who will make up the rest of the caucus, depending on how successful the party is.

I’ve assumed the Māori Party will win two electorates, Winston Peters will just hold Northland, the urban swing to Labour will see only Christchurch Central and Ohariu changing hands, and the rural swing to National will prevent any provincial seats from changing hands. Nick Smith will hold on to Nelson.

One of these men tops the National Party list. The other is not on the list at all.

The National caucus

Electorate candidates expected to win their seats: Paula Bennett (Upper Harbour), Gerry Brownlee (Ilam), Simon Bridges (Tauranga), Amy Adams (Selwyn), Jonathan Coleman (Northcote), Anne Tolley (East Coast), Nathan Guy (Otaki), Nikki Kaye (Auckland Central), Todd McClay (Rotorua), Nick Smith (Nelson), Judith Collins (Papakura), Maggie Barry (North Shore), Louise Upston (Taupō), Mark Mitchell (Rodney), Jacqui Dean (Waitaki), David Bennett (Hamilton East), Tim Macindoe (Hamilton West), Scott Simpson (Coromandel), Jami-Lee Ross (Botany), Barbara Kuriger (Taranaki-King Country), Matt Doocey (Waimakariri), Jonathan Young (New Plymouth), Ian McKelvie (Rangitikei), Simon O’Connor (Tāmaki), Andrew Bayly (Hunua), Chris Bishop (Hutt South), Sarah Dowie (Invercargill), Todd Muller (Bay of Plenty), Shane Reti (Whangarei), Alistair Scott (Wairarapa), Stuart Smith (Kaikoura), Simeon Brown (Pakuranga), Andrew Falloon (Rangitata), Harete Hipango (Whanganui), Denise Lee (Maungakiekie), Chris Penk (Helensville), Erica Stanford (East Coast Bays), Tim Van de Molen (Waikato), Lawrence Yule (Tukituki), Hamish Walker (Clutha-Southland). Total: 40 electorate MPs.

National list MPs

(Where they are also contesting an electorate, I’ve noted which.)

Bill English
David Carter
Steven Joyce
Christopher Finlayson (Rongotai, will remain an MP if the party gets 35% of the vote, giving it 44 MPs)
Michael Woodhouse (36%: 45 MPs)
Paul Goldsmith (Epsom)
Alfred Ngaro (Te Atatu, 37%: 47 MPs)
Nicky Wagner (Christchurch Central, 38%: 48 MPs)
Brett Hudson (Ōhāriu, 39%: 49 MPs)
Melissa Lee (Mt Albert, 40%: 50 MPs)
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (Manukau East, 41%: 51 MPs)
Jian Yang
Parmjeet Parmar (Mt Roskill, 42%: 53 MPs)
Jo Hayes (Christchurch East, 43%: 54 MPs)
Nuk Korako (Port Hills, 44%: 55 MPs)
Maureen Pugh (West Coast-Tasman, 45%: 56 MPs)
Nicola Willis (Wellington Central)
Agnes Loheni (Mangere, 46%: 58 MPs)

National needs 45% to get all its MPs back (Maureen Pugh is the lowest-ranked sitting MP). It needs 38% to retain all its cabinet ministers, but at that level it would lose eight MPs.

The party will have nine new electorate MPs (the bottom nine on the electorate list above). But to get any new list MPs it will need 46% of the vote in order to bring in Nicola Willis and Agnes Loheni.

These numbers would change if the vote for parties that don’t make it into parliament was much higher (or lower) than 5%. For example, if it’s 9%, because either the Greens or NZ First don’t make it back, a 40% vote for National would give it 52 or even 53 MPs. (To understand how the votes for parties that don’t get into parliament are relevant, see here.)

Find out more about the National candidates here.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern at Mangere market, with Dunedin MP David Clark. (Photo: Simon Wilson)

The Labour caucus

Electorate candidates expected to win their seats: Jacinda Ardern (Mt Albert), Kelvin Davis (Te Tai Tokerau), Grant Robertson (Wellington Central), Phil Twyford (Te Atatu), Megan Woods (Wigram), Chris Hipkins (Rimutaka), Carmel Sepuloni (Kelston), David Clark (Dunedin North), Nanaia Mahuta (Hauraki-Waikato), Stuart Nash (Napier), Meka Whaitiri (Ikaroa-Rawhiti), Iain Lees-Galloway (Palmerston North). Aupito Su’a William Sio (Mangere), Damien O’Connor (West Coast-Tasman), Jenny Salesa (Manukau East), Kris Faafoi (Mana), Peeni Henare (Tāmaki Makaurau), Clare Curran (Dunedin South), Ruth Dyson (Port Hills), Rino Tirikatene (Te Tai Tonga), Poto Williams (Christchurch East), Louisa Wall (Manurewa), Michael Wood (Mt Roskill), Deborah Russell (New Lynn), Paul Eagle (Rongotai), Greg O’Connor (Ōhāriu), Duncan Webb (Christchurch Central). Total: 27 electorate MPs.

Labour list MPs

(Where they are also contesting an electorate, I’ve noted which.)

Andrew Little
David Parker
Priyanca Radhakrishnan (Maungakiekie)
Raymond Huo
Jan Tinetti (Tauranga)
Willow-Jean Prime (Northland)
Kiri Allan (East Coast)
Willie Jackson
Ginny Andersen (Hutt South)
Jo Luxton (Rangitata)
Liz Craig (Invercargill)
Marja Lubeck (Rodney)
Trevor Mallard
Tamati Coffey (Waiariki)
Jamie Strange (Hamilton East)
Anahila Kanongata’a Suisuiki
Kieran McAnulty (Wairarapa, will become an MP if the party gets 35% of the vote, giving it 44 MPs)
Angie Warren-Clark (Bay of Plenty, 36%: 45 MPs)
Helen White (Auckland Central)
Steph Lewis (Whanganui, 37%: 47 MPs)
Lemauga Lydia Sosene (38%: 48 MPs)
Janette Walker  (Kaikoura, 39%: 49 MPs)
Anna Lorck (Tukituki, 40%: 50 MPs)
Romy Udanga (North Shore, 41%: 51 MPs)
Rachel Boyack (Nelson)
Sarb Johal (42%: 53 MPs)
Naisi Chen (East Coast Bays, 43%: 54 MPs)
Shanan Halbert (Northcote, 44%: 55 MPs)
Dan Rosewarne (Waimakariri, 45%: 56 MPs)
Jin An (Upper Harbour)
Jesse Pabla (Papakura, 46%: 58 MPs)

Labour will bring in four new electorate MPs (the bottom four on the electorate list above). At 40% it will also have 19 new list MPs.

I’ve assumed one Labour MP will lose his seat: Adrian Rurawhe in Te Tai Hauāuru. As he’s not on the list, he will not return to parliament.

Again, these numbers would change if the vote for parties that don’t make it into parliament was much higher (or lower) than 5%. For example, if it’s 12%, because neither the Greens nor NZ First make it back, a 40% vote for Labour would give it 55 MPs.

Find out more about the Labour candidates here.

Sadly, none of these Act Party candidates is likely to make it into parliament this time. (Photo Simon Wilson)

A note about Epsom

By the way, it’s true that because Act holds Epsom the centre-right gets an extra seat in parliament. This is because if National beat Act in Epsom, it would take the seat, but it wouldn’t get one more on its total unless it also increased its party vote.

When they divide up the number seats for each party, if Act isn’t there they won’t assign the seat to the party that’s politically most aligned to it. It doesn’t work like that.

Say Act wins 0.4% of the vote and one electorate seat, while National wins 40% of the vote and 50 seats. That would give National and Act together 51 seats.

But if National won Epsom, Act’s 0.4% of the vote would not entitle it to a seat. National would gain an extra electorate, but lose a list seat. It would still have only 50 seats overall.

National’s arrangement to let Act win Epsom is beneficial to both parties. It’s surprising there aren’t more electorates like it.



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