26 Mar 2015

Key acknowledges National trailing

6:59 am on 26 March 2015

Prime Minister John Key has conceded the National Party is in trouble in the Northland by-election and could struggle to hold the seat.

Prime Minister John Key talking to reporters in Japan in Wednesday

Prime Minister John Key talking to reporters in Japan in Wednesday Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

At the start of the month Prime Minister John Key said Winston Peters had zero chance of winning Northland.

Yesterday, Mr Key conceded National's candidate Mark Osborne was trailing Mr Peters.

"I've been saying for a period of time it's going to be a difficult and challenging situation up there.

"And that really reflects the fact that with the other parties not either running a candidate or throwing their weight behind Mr Peters that changes the playing field much more in Mr Peters' favour.

"So we probably go in as the under-dog."

Mr Key made the comments comments shortly before a TV3 Reid Research poll was published showing Winston Peters sitting on 54 percent support, 20 points ahead of Mr Osborne. The previous Northland poll had Mr Peters and Mr Osborne tied.

Labour's candidate Willow-Jean Prime was on just 10 percent.

The poll results came as no surprise to the Labour Party leader Andrew Little, who said Northlanders felt neglected by the Government.

"It was clear to us that we weren't going to win the by-election that we were going to come third - so the race then becomes between the two front-runners. That's very much what's happening.

"And because it's a fiercely contested election and there's a lot of public attention on it, I think Northland voters have really realised they can have an impact here and send a message maybe the Government hasn't heard before."

Winston Peters refused to comment on the poll.

However, the Northland Regional Councillor and former Labour MP, Dover Samuels, said his big lead was deserved.

"I think Winston brings a bit of charisma to the by-election. I think he's raised the bar, I think he's raised the consciousness of politicians ... perhaps it's about time they focused a little bit on the region."

But John Key is not throwing in the towel just yet.

He said Mark Osborne could still get over the line if National voters turned out in droves on Saturday.

"I still think we can win, and we're going to be doing everything we can to win, but it's in the hands of National voters."

Mr Osborne said the poll did not reflect the positive voter reactions he had been receiving on the campaign trail in the region.

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