Jacinda Ardern claims Labour's been the 'underdog' in Hamilton West, by-election will be 'tough'

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern is claiming her party has been an "underdog" in the Hamilton West seat in "recent times" and expects the upcoming by-election to be "tough".

Hamilton West is a bellwether seat, meaning it typically goes to the party that receives the largest of the national vote. 

The current MP, Gaurav Sharma, entered Parliament on Labour's landslide victory in 2020, while National's Tim Macindoe was the MP for the four terms before when his party was the most popular.  Before him, Labour's Martin Gallagher held it while Helen Clark's Government was in power. National's Bob Simcok briefly held it during the Jim Bolger Government.

Ardern is painting Labour as being an "underdog" in the electorate in "recent times".

"In recent elections, we've held it once out of five. That is the history of this seat. I let that record speak for itself for the type of contest it is likely to be," she said.

When it was pointed out by Newshub that the electorate usually goes to the largest party, Ardern said there have been boundary changes. 

"It is my old region. Some of the Waikato has gone into that seat," she said.

While Labour is currently the largest party in Parliament, it's been trending down in recent polls with National consistently now ahead. 

A by-election will soon be held in the seat after Sharma officially resigned from Parliament on Wednesday. He was kicked out of Labour in August after making unfounded allegations of bullying within the party, claimed the Prime Minister was part of a cover-up, and secretly recorded his colleagues. 

Sharma claimed on Tuesday that Labour was planning to waka-jump him from Parliament next year ahead of the general election. Labour denies that is the case and has criticised Sharma for triggering a by-election he plans to run in unnecessarily. 

Ardern rejected her claims that Labour has been an underdog shows she isn't confident the party can win the electorate. 

"No, I am saying that in recent times we have been the underdog in that seat. I do think it would be a very robust and tough by-election," she said.

"We have had a Labour member who has not left on good terms and that does not reflect well for the local constituency there."

Parliament's profile of the seat says it was created in 1969 as the result of electoral boundary redistribution which split Hamilton's urban areas and surrounding rural areas into three electorates - Hamilton West, Raglan and Waikato. 

Hamilton West lost some population to the Taranaki King Country electorate in 2014 and then had about 2400 people moved to Waikato in 2020.

The profile also described the electorate as a "bellwether".

Ardern couldn't say on Wednesday when the by-election will be held.

"I am just awaiting advice, as is per usual practice, from the Electoral Commission on how long they will need to stand up a by-election and also from the Cabinet Office. Once I receive that, we will make a call."

She expects to receive that advice over the coming days.