THOSE who . examine by-election voting results with the object of discerning the shape of things to come usually, 1 whatever their political allegiance, profess to see something that satisfies them. In the Dunedin North result, obviously, there is much more cause for satisfaction to the Nationalists than to Labour. Labour, it is true, won the seat, as it had done-almost without interruption for more than 20 years, but its majority was reduced to a figure which, in such an electorate, is almost dangerously narrow. This reduction is too. great to be explained away by the fact. that in by-elections the Labour voters are less likely than their opponents to poll their full strength, or that some of them would regard a Labour majority as assured. The striking feature of the by-election is that the Nationalist vote, cast for a very young N man, exceeded the vote cast at the general election for a candidate better known and much more experienced. It was a straight-out contest, so that it cannot be said that one side gained or another lost by votesplitting. By the Labour party the result must be regarded as an indication that in the present temper of the country there are few seats that it can think of as unquestionably safe, and many that it is as likely to lose as to retain. To the Nationalists the result must be heartening, for though they are expected to win country seats there are some city seats —and Dunedin North was one of them—in which their candidature has often been regarded as a forlorn hope. But there is nothing forlorn about a minority of 738 votes.
It is a fact worthy of comment that the Labour conference's decision that the Government shall take over the Bank of New Zealand has been followed, in a Labour stronghold, by a startling drop in the Labour vote. Some of Labour's zealots would have it that the bank purchase is the Act, above all others, for which the Government's less solid supporters are waiting, and that its delay in giving effect to this part of its policy has been detrimental to it. This supposition gained some apparent support in the general election, by the appearance of splinter parties, such as Democratic Labour and the Real Democracy party, which made an appeal to currency reformers. Yet, in Dunedin North, although the bank purchase was advocated—more correctly, it was defended—by the Prime Minister and others, it very obviously did not prove a vote-winner. It will be for the Labour tacticians now to consider whether it was not actually a vote-loser.
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