Labour’s Jamie Strange and Dr Gaurav Sharma will head to Wellington on Monday and plan to get working straight away as Hamilton’s new electorate MPs.
Labour’s Jamie Strange and Gaurav Sharma say they’ll use every opportunity to advocate for Hamilton as the city’s new electorate MPs.
The pair were at the heart of a historic night for Labour on Saturday as the party claimed back Hamilton’s east and west electorates from National. It’s the first time in 18 years Labour won the city’s two seats together.
Strange and Sharma head to Wellington on Monday for party meetings and say they’re determined to be a strong voice for Hamilton in Parliament.
Jacinda Ardern claimed a “mandate to accelerate” in her victory speech following Labour’s landslide win.
“Saturday’s result wasn’t the end, it’s just the start,” Sharma told Stuff on Sunday.
“A lot of people are going to hold us accountable, for all the right reasons, including [National’s] Tim Macindoe and David Bennett, so we have to hit the ground running.”
According to latest figures, Strange won 15,254 votes in Hamilton East, compared to Bennett’s 13,306.
Former Labour MP Martin Gallagher, centre, says Jamie Strange and Dr Gaurav Sharma are the new standard-bearers for Labour in Hamilton.
In Hamilton West, Sharma secured 16,950 votes, well clear of Macindoe on 12,525.
On current numbers, Bennett will return to Parliament as a list MP. Macindoe is undecided about his future career plans.
Despite having held Hamilton West for 12 years, Macindoe said it was impossible for him to retain the seat given the groundswell of support for Labour.
“There was a tidal wave of support for Labour and you just can’t resist that. We’ve seen other seats, which may have been considered safe National seats, go to Labour by comfortable majorities,” Macindoe said.
“I didn’t expect it to be as big a defeat as it was, but I have genuinely expected to lose.”
When asked if they have ministerial aspirations, both Sharma, 33, and Strange, 44, said those calls will ultimately be made by Caucus.
Strange first tasted political success in 2017, securing his spot in Parliament as a Labour list MP.
Being an electorate MP will be quite a different role, he said.
“As an electorate MP I’ll have more resourcing and staff to enable me to work in the community. In the past I’ve wanted to be able to do more but I wasn’t able to because of my smaller resources. I also now have a mandate from Hamilton East voters to represent them.”
Sharma’s victory in Hamilton West was his second tilt at the seat. He has strong interests in health and economics given his background as a GP, and his MBA qualification.
National MP David Bennett congratulates Jamie Strange for his victory in Hamilton East.
He will meet with the party’s whip at 9am on Monday ahead of a Caucas meeting.
Neither Labour MP has yet spoken to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern although Strange has received a group text from her.
Sharma is open to continuing to work as a GP, if time allows.
“Even if it’s two to four hours a week, that will allow me to see people and discuss things.”
Former Labour MP Martin Gallagher, who served four terms in Hamilton West, said Strange and Sharma are the new standard-bearers for Labour in the city. Their success is a tribute to two well-planned campaigns.
“Also, when the tide comes in for Labour, Hamilton goes with that tide. What [Saturday’s] result has shown is that, in spite of having two exceptionally hard-working local MPs in Tim Macindoe and David Bennett, the tide was just too much for them to withstand,” Gallagher said.
Bennett said his electorate vote held up well, given the swing away from National across the country.
After five terms as an electorate MP, Bennett still has unfinished business to do but will wait until final election results are confirmed before making any definite plans.
“I always use the idea that about 85 per cent of voters will stick with the candidate of the party they vote for. So if you’ve got a 50:30 split in Labour’s favour, then if you get 85 per cent of that split, there’s no way you’re going to win your seat,” Bennett said.
“It’s been a great honour to be an electorate MP in Hamilton. I love the people here and the vision of where we’re going. Tim [Macindoe] and I have played our part in delivering things for the city. Whatever happens in politics is secondary to that. It’s about Hamilton doing well.”