Monday, November 22, 2010

[pima.nius] Relieved Faafoi gets feast fit for a king

11:57 AM |

Relieved Faafoi gets feast fit for a king

 
TRACY WATKINS - The Dominion Post
Last updated 05:00 22/11/2010

OPINION: If Labour has a heartland, it is in Porirua, where Pacific drums beat out a welcome to Mana's new MP, Kris Faafoi, as he arrived to the cheers of hundreds with his wife, Gina, and young son George.

This is the seat held by Labour's Winnie Laban for nearly three terms and where her personal vote soared compared with her predecessor, Graham Kelly.

It wasn't enough to give Mr Faafoi a flying start. After a mammoth effort by Labour's foot soldiers to turn out the vote in Mana, Mr Faafoi held on to the seat but with a much-reduced majority, because of a low turnout and a swing to National at Mana's gentrified northern end.

But a win is a win, as they say, and the huge smiles refused to be dimmed. Supporters had produced a feast fit for a king – or maybe the prodigal Tokelauan son – a spit-roasted pig carried out ceremoniously an hour before the final count was due. No matter what happened, Mr Faafoi and his supporters were determined to celebrate.

But the nerves were barely hidden as the vote count started. Whenever National's Hekia Parata got too excited about her prospects, husband Sir Wira Gardiner would remind her that Mana was Labour's Clutha-Southland.

Mr Faafoi and his supporters certainly weren't acting like that on Saturday night. Mr Faafoi admitted he stayed away from the Labour camp that day "for peace of mind".

As the count started, the mood swung gently from jubilation to nail-biting tension; at one stage Mr Faafoi's lead soared to 2000-plus – some were even nearly ready to call it.

A sudden swing back to National after some big booths were counted rocked everyone back on their heels. There were rumblings over the spoiling role played by Left-wing activist and union leader Matt McCarten, whose 800-plus votes trimmed Mr Faafoi's majority further.

But after a punishing campaign that saw Mr Faafoi shed nearly 10 kilograms during a hectic round of door-knocking, candidate meetings and street corner meet-and-greets, none of that mattered on Saturday night.

As Mr Faafoi told the party faithful: "Let's party, we won." 

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