FIGHT NEARS CLIMAX
(0.C.) CHRISTCHURCH, This Day. One by-election in Christchurch has provided the politically interested in that city with as much campaigning and haranguing in the last 10 days as might be expected, in a normal peace-time General Election fight. , The series of coincidences that have brought so many Cabinet Ministers to Christchurch and given them free evenings in which to espouse the candidature of Miss Mabel Howard, the official Labour nominee, proves just how seriously the Government is taking the fight. Labour men in Christchurch do not disguise their belief that defeat would be a shattering blow to the Government —defeat in a seat so staunchly Labour for so many years—and at the same time they cannot hide their anxiety. Ministers of the Crown—practised speakers all—have been at their most eloquent, and to make sure of a good Press have released real news at their meetings. But attendances have not been good for them, as against the crowds that have rolled up to hear the hard-hitting Nationalist candidate, Mr. M. E. Lyons, and the renowned crowd-pleaser, Mr. J. A. Lee, speaking in support of Mr. Herring, the hope of the Democratic Labour Party. No one takes very seriously the two other soloists in the Christchurch East quintet—Mr. Owen J. F. McKee, best described as the anti-Miss Howard candidate, and the Peace advocate, Mr. Lincoln Efford. Mr. Efford is already well known in Christchurch, and Mr. McKee is conducting his campaign almost solely by means of reader advertisements •in the newspapers. Some of the rounds in the main fight between official Labour and National have been indecisive, but one at least has been a straight-out win for Mr. Lyons, ably assisted by Mr. Doidge and Mr. Holland. That was the disclosure by Mr. Lyons that, unknown to the public, the Health Department had taken the unprecedented step of reducing the milk standard for the city. DISCUSSION OVER NEW ZEALAND DIVISION. | The undignified squabble about the return of the Middle East Division was one part of the campaign which seemed to please none of the electors. It showed the inevitable dangers that everyone but the Government foresaw of discussing so many things of widespread interest in hush-hush secret sessions. The public in Christchurch was not inclined to fight any election on that issue, and the same would almost certainly have applied if the election had been fought in any other New Zealand constituency. There has been criticism, too, that the Government saw fit to wait until Mr. D. G. Sullivan's only hearers were a partisan election meeting audience before announcing the news that affected so many thousands of homes — the fate of those called in the last agegroup ballot. The opinion . has been expressed in Labour circles that so many Ministerial speakers may in fact have done very little indeed to enhance 'Miss Howard's chances. It is even said that the party had some hopes of relying on the personal pres- j tige as a speaker of Mr. Fraser to carry the day. Judging by the heckling at Labour meetings the prestige of other Ministers, notably Messrs. Semple and Sullivan, is waning. However, Labour has the one big advantage of a smooth party machine. It is certain that even the bath-chair voters on the Labour side will be taken to the polls on Saturday. However, the National Party has exploited every possible angle of attack, bringing into action the heavy guns trained by Mr. Doidge and Mr. Holland on some very open Government targets. Mr. Lee's sledgehammer blows have been very cleverly stage-managed, but although he still represents a serious danger to Labour as a vote-splitter, Mr. Herring's chances of going back to the House of Representatives are not taken so seriously at this end of the campaign as they were at the beginning. | LABOUR OBVIOUSLY SCARED. It would be a debacle for the Government to lose the seat, in view of the huge majorities Christchurch East electors have always given it before. But Labour is obviously scared. If Miss Howard's banner is carried to victory, and Christchurch is represented by yet another union secretary in Parliament, it will not have been achieved without a very real lessening in the Government's prestige. There is more than a fair chance that it, will not be achieved. Miss Howard, if she wins, will have a hugely reduced majority in one of the safest Labour seats in the whole country. If she loses, the Government as a whole will be taking heavy stock of the hold it has on the workers.
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WORDY CAMPAIGN, Evening Post, Volume CXXXV, Issue 28, 3 February 1943
WORDY CAMPAIGN Evening Post, Volume CXXXV, Issue 28, 3 February 1943
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