Mt Roskill: Michael Wood sets sights on Cabinet

Michael Wood (file)
Michael Wood (file)

The country's newest MP has his sights set on one day becoming a Cabinet minister - but isn't counting his chickens just yet.

It was third time lucky for Labour candidate Michael Wood, who won the Mt Roskill by-election on Saturday after two previous unsuccessful attempts at entering Parliament.

"I made the decision some time ago if I was going to enter Parliament, it would be as the MP for Mt Roskill," he told Paul Henry on Monday. "If I couldn't win the support of my own local community, I'd try and contribute in some other way."

It wasn't even close, with Mr Wood taking two-thirds of the vote - more than twice the support National's Parmjeet Parmar received. He credited the win to a "strong local campaign" that focused on affordable housing, transport and crime, as well as pressing the flesh.

"We knocked on 25,000 doors… You only win people's trust when you're face-to-face. They can size you up and see that you're listening. That's an important part of it."

The other key he says was staying positive despite the campaign getting messy at times, with Mr Wood at one point wrongly accused of manhandling Ms Parmar's husband.

"We raised issues, but we also put solutions forward," says Mr Wood. "We weren't just whining at the Government."

While Mr Wood says he'd one day like a Cabinet spot, he's not sure yet which role he's gunning for.

"I'm interested in a while range of areas - I've come out of local government recently, have a huge interest in those big infrastructure challenges in Auckland around housing, transport, those sorts of issues. But I also want to find my way in Parliament and work out where I can contribute best," he says.

"Simply being the MP for Mt Roskill is a big job and there's a lot to learn there. Simply being an effective parliamentarian is a big job. It's a weird institution, so I've got time to learn about that and try and make a difference there."

Labour has been wallowing in the polls for much of Prime Minister John Key's time in charge, and Mr Wood hopes his comprehensive victory is a sign of things to come.

"It's been a little while between drinks, so that's a really good feeling and it gives me confidence about next year."

Mr Key has blamed National's poor showing in the Mt Roskill by-election on their supporters just staying home. He says the party knew weeks ago they were unlikely to triumph.

"We didn't do a lot of polling there, to be honest," he told Paul Henry on Monday. "We polled about three weeks ago and we were behind."

Mr Wood improved on longtime MP Phil Goff's share of the vote, but the extremely low turnout meant Labour's overall margin of victory was cut from more than 8000 votes to 6518.

Mr Key's not surprised hardly anyone showed up to vote on Saturday.

"Mt Roskill was one of the lowest turnout electorates of the main electoral seats in 2014 - 75 percent turned out then, about half of that this time."

Last week he told the New Zealand Herald low turnout would help National, but he's now admitting it hurt Ms Parmar bad.

"The problem you have with our voters is they know we're not going to win the electorate seat - it's all about the party vote for us there, so they just stayed home."

Mr Wood says it's not his place to tell National what to do with Ms Parmar, but her poor showing can't be ignored.

"Parmjeet's performance is a matter for National. I'm a person who thinks that results are important, so I'd take that into consideration."

National won the Mt Roskill party vote in the 2014 general election, despite Labour's Phil Goff romping home as the preferred candidate.

As for Mr Wood, Mr Key says he "looked competent enough".

"They needed the win, they got the win. Fair enough, good on them. We congratulate them for that."