With the people of Mt Roskill set to go the polls within a couple weeks, the campaign could be described as vigorous. A crucial battleground before next year, we’ve seen National and Labour duking it out for the soul of the electorate with no shortage of controversy or passion.
The main controversy surrounding this by-election has stemmed from the behaviour of National party activists towards Michael Wood’s family, starting at a debate. Held by the Central Leader, the local Fairfax owned newspaper, there was two way debate between Michael Wood and Parmjeet Parmar, which was very eventful to say the least. Indian students, facing deportation due to fraudulent paperwork, protested as well as an independent candidate who complained he wasn’t getting an opportunity to speak. However, Parmjeet’s husband made the most controversial move, making comments about Wood’s wife, Julie Fairey, currently the deputy chair of Puketapapa Local Board. Mr Parmar was escorted out by Michael, though accusations that he ‘manhandled’ him flew from activists. They were disproven by video, but no apology has been made despite calls from Labour. This could potentially damage National’s chances, but no indication has been given (no public polling data has been released for the by-election as of writing).
The People’s Party has a decent support ground, as has been displayed up and down the streets with their hoarding numbers. However, I am not convinced they can win the electorate. I have not seen any activists out on the streets, and their only policies I know are that their candidate plans to donate his salary for children in poverty and to stop Indian students being deported. There is very little information on other issues, which was not helped by their rather vague pamphlet. They clearly are trying to court the immigrant vote, and while support could be reasonable, I think the best case scenario for the party would be that their candidate saves their deposit. It’s clearly a two horse race.
Both campaigns have had distinct themes and is shown through how they interact with the community. Michael Wood’s campaign has a very community based theme to it, painting the government as having abandoned and neglected the community and promising to be its champion, advocating to improve local infrastructure and essential services that have been cut under National. He’s taken the message to the streets, whether to businesses, a street corner, he’s even been speaking at bus stops, as I found when I was heading off to an exam. Parmjeet has oriented her side to more business-friendly politics. She commonly speaks to business owners and one of her main policies is to bring forward a business association akin to those in Panmure and Tamaki. She has tried to focus on some of the issues arisen by Labour, criticising Wood’s light rail plans and claiming he is opposed to house development in Three Kings Quarry. About the community, however, I have heard some negative reception from residents, from believing she is out of touch with the community, to being somewhat cold in an informal setting. But as mentioned before, I cannot conclusively make a call on where the pendulum is leaning due to a lack of polling.
It is clearly a vigorous competition for this seat, but we won’t know for sure who made the biggest push until next Saturday night.
– Liam Bateman, Capital HardTalk