Trotter on Mana

November 24th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

writes:

Analysing last weekend’s by-election results, I’m wondering if we might be witnessing another seminal political moment. Like the 1972 general election, it is possible that the closely- fought contest holds some crucially important lessons for the major parties.

At the most superficial level, the result was a clear moral triumph for the Government and its very effective candidate, Hekia Parata. In a country only slowly emerging from recession, in an Opposition- held electorate perfectly positioned to send the Government “a message”, it almost beggars belief that the by-election campaign ended with a 14 per cent swing towards the governing party.

A moral triumph indeed. Heh it reminds me of the caption that my brother’s rugby team had on their team photo. It was “Played 15, Won 11, Moral Victories 4″ :-)

Indeed, without radical Left-wing trade unionist Matt McCarten’s last-minute entry to the by-election race, it is entirely possible Parata would have won the seat.

Umm, that is an unusual interpretation.

His challenge to Labour was to give on-the-ground, practical expression to the progressive policy ideas announced at its annual conference by campaigning – as he did – on low wages, inadequate housing and the urgent need for job creation.

Labour’s candidate, the woefully inexperienced television journalist Kris Fa’afoi, wasn’t equal to that challenge, but McCarten’s sudden intervention was sufficiently worrying for the Labour hierarchy to pour everything it had into the Mana campaign.

It was this massive intervention that ensured Fa’afoi’s victory – albeit with a sharply reduced share of the popular vote.

I think Labour were always going to pour everything into the campaign, but McCarten’s candidacy may have cemented that.

To the cynical observer, McCarten’s 3.6 per cent share of the Mana vote might seem derisory. But then, so did the 2 per cent share won by Values in 1972. Besides, there are moments in politics when, as Key told Parata’s jubilant supporters on Saturday night, “losing is winning”.

Hopefully Labour’s “got the message” McCarten was sending it throughout the campaign. That, if it is to successfully counter Key’s (obviously still effective) appeal to aspirational Kiwis, it has to maintain the sort of on-the-street presence for which McCarten and his radical Unite union are justifiably famous, and which, ultimately, is all that rescued Fa’afoi from catastrophic defeat.

But, even more important than getting Labour out on the street, McCarten’s candidacy – like Values’ campaign in 1972 – should remind Labour that getting people to vote is only half the battle; the other half is giving them something to vote for.

What you mean no GST on fruit and veges is not enough?

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16 Responses to “Trotter on Mana”

  1. RightNow (6,994 comments) says:

    “What you mean no GST on fruit and veges is not enough?”
    Clearly they need to add no GST on KFC.

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  2. Bryce Edwards (248 comments) says:

    Trotter makes some very good points. After all, although McCarten’s 800+ votes is pretty tiny, I think most commentators would see that he actually had a much greater social-political impact than is suggested by those small number. McCarten was probably disappointed with such a low vote, but his objective was always about much more than those numbers – he’s trying to have an impact on political debate and especially on working class / public consciousness. If there are any further by-elections over the next 6-9 months – Botany, Te Atatu, Manurewa – then I can imagine that McCarten will be back in the battle, and we might see that Trotter’s analysis has some ongoing relevance.

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  3. berend (1,708 comments) says:

    DPF: Key’s (obviously still effective) appeal to aspirational Kiwis

    Really? You mean the borrowing $250 million a week from our kids? Not listening to 90%+ kiwis who don’t want the government to interfere with their families? And with the largest ever exodus to Australia last month? Making sure there can be no effective opposition to politicians by squashing efforts by groups which do not have the politician’s megaphone to reach the electorate?

    Ah, yes, the aspiration is just another Pacific Island. Of course. Just like Helen.

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  4. wreck1080 (3,905 comments) says:

    I’m just glad helens gone.

    Phil-in Goff is just a dork . Maybe a good guy if you speak to him personally, but he does not have mass-population charisma.

    @berend: If labour were still in , we’d be borrowing 500million a week.

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  5. Sam Buchanan (501 comments) says:

    I’d have thought the main message Labour should learn from this is that most of the population don’t consider being Phil Goff’s mate a sufficient qualification for their political representative.

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  6. James Stephenson (2,171 comments) says:

    Umm, that is an unusual interpretation.

    I heard the same suggestion from Tamihere on the Radio.

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  7. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    Bryce

    and we might see that Trotter’s analysis has some ongoing relevance.

    That would make a pleasant change. Courageous corruption will be Trotter’s most relevant and enduring piece. It describes every lover of corruption and big govt Labour party apologist.

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  8. Paulus (2,626 comments) says:

    I am glad we have Trotter.
    I may not agree with very many of his sentiments but I am glad nevertheless that we have the opportunity to read him.

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  9. Shazzadude (529 comments) says:

    “Indeed, without radical Left-wing trade unionist Matt McCarten’s last-minute entry to the by-election race, it is entirely possible Parata would have won the seat.”

    I can only presume the logic is that Trotter believes that McCarten’s voters only voted for him because he’s Maori, and would otherwise have voted for Parata because she’s Maori. It seems a bit far-fetched to me.

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  10. david (2,557 comments) says:

    Shazza, no. I think what Trotter is postulating is that the fear of McCarten getting some traction galvanised the LP into action, particularly the gov activity which in the end became the defining difference between them winning and losing. If McCarten hadn’t stood, Labour would have sleepwalked their way to almost certain defeat.

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  11. Sam Buchanan (501 comments) says:

    Actually I reckon McCarten’s influence wasn’t so much in galvanising the Labour Party, as forcing it to put some politics on the table – embarrassing Labour into taking a stronger stance on cost of living issues.

    A rhetorical stance only, but that’s rather more than we usually get from Labour. Fa’afoi’s leaflets – presumably written well before the campaign got going – were probably the most empty of content of any political leaflet I’ve ever seen.

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  12. BeaB (2,123 comments) says:

    Fa’afoi’s record, his selection and his vacuous campaign say all that needs to be said about the present state of the Labour Party.
    Goff is yesterday’s man – like Mallard. No policy. No appeal.

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  13. annie (539 comments) says:

    I suspect that “the Labour hierarchy .. pour(ing) everything it had into the Mana campaign” probably helped the swing to National. I think some Mana voters had a close up look at what they would be voting for in the form of the Labour faithful on the ground and decided they didn’t want any of it.

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  14. Pete George (23,558 comments) says:

    Comparing the outcomes of Parata and Fa’afoi:

    Parata went in as a list candidate and came out the same, but in the meantime enhanced her electioneering and political standing. She is being talked up for a possible promotion to cabinet, if she doesn’t get that she has still improved her long term chances. It will be easy for her to build on what she has done.

    Fa’afoi was a key mouthpiece in the opposition leader’s office. He is now MP in a safe-ish electorate, where he had a shaky introduction to electioneering. If he is to gain respect in his electorate he has to distance himself substantially from his previous job and roll up his sleeves locally. He has to accept that he has gone from being associated with the top of the Labour pile to the bottom of the Labour pile. It will be a real test of his character.

    Parata has taken a sizable step up the ladder.
    Fa’afoi has to start from scratch and prove whether he is a puppet or a representative of people.

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  15. Fisiani (1,039 comments) says:

    Faafoi was a very weak campaigner. He failed to have the oratory of Parata or McCarten.
    Hekia Parata has 12 months to win the hearts and minds of Cannons Creek. She needs to letter drop every house in that suburb with a simple message. Split your vote. By all means give your Party Vote to Labour but vote Parata as Mana MP

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  16. tvb (4,415 comments) says:

    This by-election highlighted that local issues will dominate especially under MMP when the electorate MP does not matter though it could involve a “pick-up” for the Government so it does have some “national” significance. In this case the Labour Party parachuted an outsider in, fixed the selection and got their man in. I do not think the Labour Party will take this sort of risk again in candidate selection especially against an opposing well connected candidate from National as was the case here. By-elections are NOT the time to parachute a well desired outsider candidate, you do that at General Elections when local issues tend to take a back seat.

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