Analysis: Though the National Party was widely expected to be in a position to govern after the election and was almost certain to regain the conservative, rural seats it lost to 2020’s “red wave”, almost no one predicted the party’s Auckland “bluenami”.
At least three extremely safe red seats have been ransacked by National, with senior Labour MPs missing out on Parliament.
In Mt Roskill, former minister Michael Wood lost to National newcomer Carlos Cheung by nearly 1500 votes. Phil Twyford appears to have been kicked out of Te Atatū, although Angee Nicholas’s 30-vote margin may not hold up once the specials are counted. Then in New Lynn, former National backbencher Paulo Garcia has beaten minister Deborah Russell by almost 500 votes.
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In Mt Albert, where Jacinda Ardern won by 20,000 votes in 2020, Helen White is hanging on by a margin of 106 – though her race was complicated by a strong third-party bid from the Green Party’s Ricardo Menéndez March, who picked up more than 6000 votes.
The shock of losing safe red seats – some of which have never elected a National MP – is drawing comparisons to Labour’s 2020 monumental victory, in which it swept a number of blue rural electorates. But is the scale of National’s victory on Saturday synonymous with Labour’s just three years ago?
The preliminary election data suggests not. With all of the votes now counted (barring the specials, due on November 3), it’s become clear that though Labour’s collapse is a national phenomenon felt most keenly in Auckland, the National Party’s win is a regional one.
It has less to do with National and more to do with voters fleeing Labour. These aren’t just the National-to-Labour swing voters of 2020 – every single party now in Parliament has gained seats off of Labour’s demise, as the seating chart below shows.
Roughly, for every two votes Labour lost from 2020, National gained one and the other went to a different party altogether.
The regional nature of National’s win becomes apparent when we look at the party vote swing across all electorates.
In 2020, Labour’s victory was so complete that it won at least 36 percent of the party vote in every single electorate. In all but one electorate, Labour won more party votes than National.
On Saturday, National received less than 36 percent of the party vote in 28 electorates. Though it outpaced Labour for the party vote in most seats, there were still 18 where Labour came ahead. It was the victor, of course, but by nowhere near Labour’s 2020 margins.
Labour’s own collapse was more total. Its worst party vote result in 2020 came in Epsom, with 36 percent of voters there ticking the red box. Now, it has posted a worse result than that in all but seven electorates.
Still, that’s a better showing than National in 2020, which didn’t top 40 percent in the party vote in any electorate in the country. This time, Labour has topped 40 percent in nine electorates, including six of the seven Māori seats.
Some of Labour’s biggest declines were in Auckland, in safe red seats. The party’s share of the vote fell by almost an extra percentage point in Auckland compared with seats outside of our largest city.
Labour did set a record for lowest share of the party vote in 10 electorates this election, since either the establishment of the seat or the beginning of MMP (whichever was earlier). All of them were in Auckland, including red strongholds such as Mt Albert and New Lynn as well as blue seats such as Papakura where the party underperformed even historical poor results.
National saw a similar, but more intense, boost in Auckland. Outside of the city, it improved its share of the party vote by an average of 12.5 percentage points from 2020’s result. In Auckland electorates, however, that uptick was 16.4 points.
If the two big parties had performed in Auckland as they did outside of it, National would have one fewer seat and Labour would have one more. In the alternate scenario, where their national results match up with their Auckland results, National would be on track for two more seats than it currently is, taking one each off of Labour and the Greens.