Mana is once again up for grabs and there are two serious candidates seeking the nod. One of them, Kris Faafoi, is a press secretary to Phil Goff, Labour’s current leader (and, full disclosure, an old mate of mine — although we haven’t spoken in a while). I am sure Faafoi is a tremendously capable guy, but his candidacy annoys me. Here’s five reasons why:
1. I have seen a letter he has sent to branch members. The complacency and sense of entitlement reflected therein is reason enough to vote for anyone but him. His candidacy, judging by his letter, is entirely about him, and the local party members are expected to fulfill the role of fawning pawns.
2. He is neither fish nor fowl. Faafoi is neither a local candidate with strong Party credentials nor a celebrity vote-magnet. I am not someone who rejects outright the idea of parachuting in well-known identities to contest by-elections, and Faafoi , a former TV reporter, has pretensions toward such a category — but he falls way short. His fame is ankle-deep and is worth precisely no votes for Labour.
3. I gather from well-placed sources that Faafoi first considered becoming an MP two weeks ago. Call me old-fashioned, but the Labour Party should not reward such fly-by-night ambitions with (nominally) safe seats. If he has harboured no political ambitions for all but two weeks of his charmed life, then it begs the question: how much time has he dedicated to learning about public policy and preparing himself for Parliament? None, I would venture to guess.
4. The Porirua/Mana electorate has been treated like a prison-bitch by the Labour Party for too long. Outsiders like Faafoi, Laban (the retiring member), Kelly and his predecessor, Wall, have represented the seat since its creation. If Faafoi thinks that having family members in the electorate adds up to something, then he is more naive than I thought (and I thought he was quite naive to start with).
5. The NZLP should stop looking at 20-year old census data: Mana is not the overwhelmingly Islander-dominated seat they think it is. Since the expansion of the electorate for MMP, it now encompasses large white, middle class suburbs of the kind Labour ought to be very nervous about (from the formerly marginal seats of Kapiti and Western Hutt). The instinct to back Faafoi purely on ethnic grounds is patronising and simplistic — but it is also strategically misguided.
This should be wringing some warning bells, when it comes from someone with no interest in the outcome, yet knows the electorate well.
I have nothing against Kris, but it is obvious the fix has gone in for him to win, with his replacement as Chief Press Secretary already lined up.
If I was a Labour delegate in Mana, I would find it hard to go past Josie Pagani. Josie would appeal to all sections of the electorate, and would seriously help Labour’s rejuvenation.
I’m not saying this as some sort of cunning double plan, where I am trying to get some Tory mole in place, or some doofus. Josie will be a serious pain in the butt to National if she wins.
All I am saying to delegates is to keep an open mind, and decide on the performance of the two candidates – don’t let Head Office decide for you, who will be the MP for the next 20 years or so.