Rudman on Labour selections

Brian Rudman writes:

The Party’s announcement on Monday that it had received only one nomination to be its candidate in each of four former seats is a reminder of how different politics has become under MMP.

Auckland Central, Maungakiekie, Ohariu and West Coast-Tasman are seats with strong and historic Labour roots that have, in the past, seen fiercely contested nomination battles.

None are presently held by Labour.

Before MMP, that would have been an added incentive for young hopefuls and dumped MPs alike to battle to the death to carry the party banner.

The problem is that the Head Office has such a dominant say, that if they make it clear they want no contest as they have hand picked a List MP, there is little chance of a grass roots member going up against them.

Auckland Central certainly was a battleground seat in the past.

A traditional Labour seat, it became the battlefield when Labour split asunder during the battles of Rogernomics, In 1993, after a six-year tussle, sitting MP Richard Prebble was voted out of office by the city’s richest per capita electorate in favour of leftwing Alliance candidate Sandra Lee. At the height of the contest, both candidates had about 800 active campaigners apiece. This was local participation, pre-MMP, in all its glory.

That Labour can now only come up with one contender for nomination shows how much things have changed. …

For local party organisations, regardless of party, the one real power they have – or had – was to dig their toes in regarding candidate selection. Head office organisations could bully and cajole and in the end, by fair means or foul, usually get their way. Determined locals could make the going very sticky. But these days they’ve lost their power.

And Rudman quotes the famous Jordan Carter blog:

A recent entry on a Labour Party blog by party activist and 2008 Hunua candidate Jordan Carter headed “What must Labour do?” canvasses the issue every defeated party must face up to. Labour, he says, stopped listening to the people.

To turn this around, Labour has “to invite people in to join with us and help shape what we are doing next … We need to be the party that people see as grassroots-based, and where they know that if they want to raise an issue or a concern, it will filter through to what our policy is and what our politicians are saying and thinking”. …

But if Mr Carter is correct, then it’s hard to see the rubber-stamping of candidates in four “battleground seats” as a good step towards recapturing either the public imagination or the enthusiasm of party workers expected to fight to get the candidates elected.

Thinking more about it, another reason there was no internal contest is because Labour held the selection so early. Very few people, except existing MPs, can afford to be campaigning for two full years.

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