Tracy Watkins writes:
As if national politics wasn’t brutal enough, Andrew Little has turned the Wellington mayoral campaign even uglier by verbally attacking a high profile candidate.
Little has drawn a new battle line in the mayoral campaign by claiming one of the front runners, Nick Leggett, is a “right wing” candidate, backed by right wing funding. He also claimed Leggett’s campaign manager was a “leading identity” in the ACT party, which Leggett rejects, as he does the “right wing” label.
None of this would be particularly extraordinary except Leggett is the long time Porirua mayor and a former Labour Party member who only resigned the party when he entered the mayoralty campaign in opposition to its official candidate, Justin Lester.
And if you look at Leggett’s resign in Porirua, it could hardly be called right wing. He has a left wing Council which he generally governed well with, and his opposition tended to come from the right.
Little’s assault on Leggett as a right winger is revealing on two counts; it tells us the extent to which party politics is taking over local body elections. And it is an insight into the resurgence of Labour’s age old battle between the left and right factions of the party.
Helen Clark kept the factions united by being careful with her favours; Little’s approach hints at a purge, rather than a leader prepared to make allowances to keep the party’s right wing under the roof of the one broad church.
Damn the Judean People’s Front!
So what sparked Little’s assault on Leggett? The Labour leader found out a member of his caucus, Napier MP Stuart Nash, was due to share a stage with the Wellington mayoral hopeful at an Auckland pub opening.
I have awful news from Andrew. Last night at the Backbencher there were numerous Labour MPs having a drink at the Saunders Unsworth function. And shock horror, there were some right wingers there also.
If Little’s intention in taking on Leggett was to give Lester a leg up it could just as likely backfire. It exposes the extent to which national politics has crept into local body elections, something that may not sit well with all voters.
It also rips the scab open on Labour’s left right divide. And given the party’s brutal history on that front – think back to the Lange, Douglas years – he might regret going there.
If Leggett wins, how will Little work with him having attacked him like this?
But as Watkins suggests, being attacked by Little may help Leggett in Wellington.