Bill English accused of chickening out in Mt Albert

7:36 am on 20 December 2016

Some Mt Albert voters are accusing the new Prime Minister of chickening out by refusing to stand a National Party candidate in the upcoming by-election in the electorate.

February's Mt Albert by-election was Bill English's first opportunity to lead his team in a by-election but he has opted instead to stand aside.

Finance Minister Bill English.

The new Prime Minister Bill English. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

National's candidates were beaten in both the Northland by-election last year and the Mt Roskill by-election earlier this month and Mr English might have wanted to avoid another defeat just months before the general election.

Labour's deputy leader Annette King is disappointed.

She said the Mr English had missed an opportunity to justify the housing crisis and cuts to healthcare to the Mt Albert electorate.

"I think he's a bit of a scaredy-cat, he doesn't want to look as if he's not successful and he doesn't want to have a defeat at the beginning of the year," Mrs King said.

"That's fair enough, but it's very strange that he wouldn't take the opportunity to run a candidate and put out their policies and what their achievements are, if they can identify them."

While it is considered a Labour safe seat - National won the party vote in Mt Albert in 2014 and Mrs King said that made their decision even stranger.

"Well I would say even National voters in Mt Albert would say it's a very arrogant government that doesn't think they need to have their views heard."

On the streets of Mt Albert voters also thought Mr English was running scared.

"It's like he's chickening out, that's what I first thought when I heard it on the radio, I said 'man, why would you chicken out?' You can't not stand geez," one voter said.

"It's always been a strong Labour seat, they'll probably lose anyway," said another who went on to predict, "Jacinda will probably win, won't she?"

Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern wants to stand for Labour in Mt Albert. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern wants to stand for Labour in the seat.

But National's campaign manager Steven Joyce said the decision not to stand in Mt Albert was a tactical one.

"This is a very safe Labour seat, if you add the Labour and green votes together it's hugely safe, our view is simply to conserve our resources and have the General Election at the end of the year."

"They [Labour] made their own decision for example not to stand in Northland and that was fine for them," Mr Joyce said.

When it was pointed to Mr Joyce that Labour did field a candidate in the Northland by-election he responded "oh they did, but they didn't - they just said 'you guys will vote for Winston' [Peters] and they did."

"When they said they stood I think that's a relative term."

The Mt Albert by-election will be held on the 25th of February.

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