Labour’s campaign for Mt Albert

April 27th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar


Thanks to Auckland Trains for the photo of Labour’s campaign billboard.

I’m stll amused by Labour launching their campaign before they have a candidate. Do they not realise that there is no party vote in a by-election – only a candidate vote?

Also not sure stealing Winston’s campaign slogan is a smart idea. People may ask then why they stopped the MP who lives in Mt Albert from standing, and instead are parachuting in a UN guy?

Now that Shearer is guaranteed to win. Head Office is highly dominant with 3/7 votes, but the local electorate committee will not necessarily roll over and play dead for Goff’s old school friend. The Herald has a photo of all the candidates here.

Brian Edwards blogs:

Meanwhile the media, and seemingly the party hierarchy, appear to have anointed UN diplomat David Shearer as Labour’s candidate for the seat. It’s a strategy that may well backfire. Shearer’s abilities are not in question; he might well make a first class MP. But local electorate organisations don’t like being presented with a fait accompli where candidate selection is concerned and may well rebel.

Edwards continues:

Seven votes will decide who wins the Labour nomination for Mount Albert – four from the electorate and three from Head Office. If I were one of those four, I might well be starting to feel somewhat disgruntled around now. Whether it is reality or not, the perception is that that the old boy network is at play here. A close friend and former advisor to Phil Goff, who has been out of the country for three years and does not in any real sense live in the electorate, has jetted home to be dubbed ‘frontrunner’ in the race before even getting off the plane. There are veiled suggestions of carpetbagging. None of this may actually be the case, but it is certainly how it looks. And in politics how things look is everything.

Perception trumps reality in politics.

At another level, what Labour now needs more than anything is rejuvenation. Shearer will be new to Parliament certainly, but his age and close association with the Labour establishment do not really suggest an infusion of fresh ideas. And with the announcement that Russel Norman will stand for the Greens, rejuvenation and new ideas have become an urgent priority.

I should declare that Judy and I have both offered 24-year-old Meg Bates our support in her attempt to win the nomination. Meg has been one of Judy’s tutors in Political Studies at Auckland and we have got to know her very well.  If she doesn’t win the nomination, we’ll be delighted to support whoever does.

Dame Cath Tizard has also endorsed the young Bates.

This is not Shearer’s first attempt at Parliament. In 1999 he was a list only candidate for Labour – was ranked No 62. In 2002 he was ranked No 45, and stood in Whangarei where he did not do so well. Labour beat National in the party vote by almost 4,000 votes but Phil Heatley won the electorate vote by over 3,000 votes.

Looking at the vote splitting, Shearer got only 74% of the Labour vote, and 1% of National voters, Heatley got 92% of the National vote and 14% of the Labour vote.

I understand Shearer also stood for the Waitakere nomination at one stage, but lost it to Lynne Pillay.

Shearer may also struggle with how well he fits the rejuvenation that Labour claims it is about, as he is in his 50s.

Twyford not standing

April 21st, 2009 at 4:41 pm by David Farrar

Phil Twyford has just announced he will not stand for Mt Albert for Labour.

This is a huge call, and shows how worried Labour were by the thought of the by-election turning into a referendum on Judith Tizard returning to Parliament.

I suspect Phil Goff will be pleased with the outcome. Goff’s leadership would have been fatally undermined if Labour lost Mt Albert due to voters not liking who would enter Parliament for Labour.

It is a tough break for Twyford. He is well regarded and respected, and in different circumstances would have won the nomination and very probably the seat.

He may need to wait a while to get a safe seat in Auckland. Mt Roskill may come up in 2014. I suspect Manurewa and Manukau East will come up in 2011 also. Te Atatu could also come up in 2011 or 2014 arguably.

So who will be the candidate? Nominations close tomorrow. At this stage I would say it is between Helen White and Meg Bates.

Four candidates so far for Mt Albert for Labour

April 16th, 2009 at 10:27 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Business studies lecturer Hamish McCracken, Auckland city councillor Glenda Fryer, Auckland University politics head tutor Meg Bates and employment lawyer Helen White have all confirmed their candidacies.

I would be surprised if McCracken has much of a chance. Not based on any specific knowledge, but the reality he has stood many times before for Labour and never been ranked highly. In 1999 he was no 60, in 2002 no 52, in 2005 no 49 and in 2005 no 50. I can’t see a fifth time lucky.

Bates is well regarded and well connected as a former electorate agent. Her age will be a factor though. Helen White could do very well too – she has a professional career established, and has union support.

Fryer is more unlikely, but not as unlikely as McCracken. She doesn’t particularly represent rejuvenation, and her Auckland City Council junket draconian attempt to ban sign billboards will be fresh in some minds.

But the potential candidate cited as Miss Clark’s favoured successor, list MP Phil Twyford, is still deciding whether to put his name forward a week before nominations close. Mr Twyford said he had discussed the matter with senior party members, but declined to comment further.

Twyford is a popular and respected MP for Labour. Definitely one of the stars of the future, and no doubt wants a safe seat as security. But by pure bad luck the Tizard issue is a real factor, and no one knows how much. So his choice is does he go for Mt Albert in 2009, or wait for another safe seat to come up, such as Mt Roskill in probably 2014?

At Backbenchers last night they discussed the Tizard issue, and it is fair to say no one was wamly welcoming the possible return. In fact there was a hilarious moment as Wallace Chapman went up to the loudest noisiest most partisan pro-Labour table, and asked them if they wanted Judith Tizard back in Parliament. One of them fell mute, while another could only repeat the official script that the issue is about the best candidate, not about who comes in on the list. You know there are problems, when not even your most partisan crowd supporters will say on camera they want Judith back.

And over on Labour Grassroots, members and supporters are not keen. Some quotes:

Suzanne says:

Headlines that say “Goff: Happy to have Judith Tizard back” says nothing to me about a party that wants to revitalise, bring in some new faces, get behind some issues that central Aucklanders care about.Like the Supercity, the environment. If Labour is behind Tizard it makes a mockery of the party recreating getting more in touch with its grassroots.

And Tanya:

Still, the voters are pretty MMP savvy these days, and I believe will be annoyed at Goff for backing Tizard back into parliament, after the voters said no.

And Darren:

Well said, Suzanne. I could not agree more. Labour needs ‘new blood’ everywhere, and to be SEEN to be bringing new faces in at every opportunity. Ms. Tizard did not strike me as a particularly effective MP. Certainly her hand on the on the intellectual property tiller steered it way off course and into the sea of stupidity…. witness the mess of s92a!?!

Her electorate obviously didn’t think she did a good job either, so why the hell would Phil want her back? Regardless of his motivation, which was obviously to keep Tizards’ supporters happy in touchy electoral times, it just makes our Parliamentary leader look horrendously out of touch.

And finally Caitlin:

This whole hullaballoo about Judith Tizard was started by media rumours (probably started by political opposition) and while some Labour activists and supporters may have qualms, we have to continue to pull together as a party to make sure we win this seat. We can’t be complacent – an assumption of victory was one of the problems with the Auckland Central campaign.

Caitlin is right that a party needs to be unified to win, but how motivated will supporters be to bring Judith back into Parliament?

There is also an associated danger with all this. The media will cover the by-election, and the media always have to have some big issues for the by-election. In TKC it was Stratford Hospital. In Tamaki it was send Wellington a message. Now with Mt Albert there may be no big issues on policy – National has just won an election and has gone so centrist it is probably going to even cancel the future tax cuts a couple of weeks before the by-election. So it is hard to see that there will be major policy issues at play in the by-election (unless the Govt decides to knock down 400 local homes for a motorway). But if there are no major policy issues, then issues such as the Tizard dilemma will become a major issue, because the media will make it an issue. They’ll do vox pops on the street asking people about it. They’ll do electorate polls and publish them. People will ask questions at meet the candidate meetings.

Now maybe Mt Albert voters won’t give a damn, even if the media do. They might only care about who will be their local MP, not who will enter Parliament as a result of their vote. But this is the fun thing with by-elections – they are notoriously unpredictable – and with the Greens planning a vigorous campaign, it really will be interesting.

UPDATE: Today’s Dom Post editorial talks about the Tizard issue, noting:

Though the parliamentary party is in capable hands leader Phil Goff and deputy Annette King are respected for their knowledge Labour must nonetheless now find a new generation of leaders to carry the party forward.

How ironic, then, that the departure of Miss Clark and Dr Cullen might reopen the door for two has-beens, Damien O’Connor and Judith Tizard. …

A party that is poised to welcome back Mr O’Connor and Ms Tizard is far from positioned to resume the Treasury benches.

Campaign for Mt Albert is live

April 14th, 2009 at 8:33 am by David Farrar

One of the candidates for the Labour nomination, Meg Bates, has a campaign website up.

Putting aside all the interesting ramifications of if a List MP wins the nomination, and then the seat, it is good to see there will be a hard fought battle for the nomination, with a number of good candidates. Safe seats (and I still consider Mt Albert relatively safe for Labour unless a List MP is selected as their candidate) should have a vigorous contest for the nomination. After all, that person who wins it could well end up being an MP for 20 – 30 years.

And even though it is a decision for the party only, I think it is good to see campaign sites from candidates for the nomination. That way the public gets to see what is on offer at an earlier stage.

National has extremely restrictive rules on campaigning for a nomination – basically you can’t do so publicly. You can’t even confirm you are seeking the nomination until after pre-selection. The rules were designed to stop candidates from attacking each other publicly, but in my opinion should be amended so that websites, like the one for Meg Bates, are allowed at any stage.

If readers know of any other candidate websites, let me know and I will cover them.

Kiwiblog likes elections. We consider the three years between general elections as boring (even though academically we think a four year term is preferred) so relish a by-election. Haven’t worked out yet exactly what sort of coverage we can do, but at this stage I am keen to spend at least a week in Mt Albert doing interviews with voters, candidates etc. Also cover some meet the candidate meetings.

UPDATE: The Greens have confirmed they are standing a candidate, despite some informal approaches by Labour not to do so. A Green candidate could do quite well – by-elections often do strange things – the Alliance almost won Selwyn and Tamaki, and ACT almost won TKC.

The race for Mt Albert

March 31st, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Ten people have lined up so far for the Mt Albert by-election – seven for Labour and three for National. The Labour seven are:

  1. Phil Twyford
  2. Louisa Wall
  3. Hamish McCracken
  4. Helen White
  5. Glenda Fryer
  6. Conor Roberts
  7. Meg Bates

Twyford has to be the favourite, so long as he can deal with what the Herald calls the “Tizard dilemma”.

Louisa Wall impressed me as an MP. Labour has a pretty bad record of selecting Maori candidates for winnable general seats, so this would be a chance to change that. However Wall did not go out of her way to curry favour with various party factions and they may not want to give her a seat for life.

Hamish McCracken has stood three or four times before and never been ranked above the 50s, which suggests he is not seen as being of the quality needed to have a safe seat. His EPMU background will help with the head offices votes though.

Helen White also has an EPMU background, and is politically quite experienced. Could do well.

Glenda Fryer. Has some profile from Auckland local body politics but I doubt a front runner for the seat.

Conor Roberts. Conor is one of those annoying people – annoying because absolutely everyone likes him! He may be seen as a bit too young for the seat, but on the other hand it has only had two MPs since 1947. Conor would do well on the campaign trail.

Meg Bates. Meg is the only Young Labour President I have not met, so can’t really comment in detail. She used to work for Helen, and Helen generally employed pretty smart people, so she could be another Jacinda Ardern potentially.

The Nats list is:

  1. Melissa Lee
  2. Ravi Musuku
  3. Mike Loftus

As membership is over 200 in their Mt Albert electorate, the selection will get decided by a selection panel of 60 delegates.

Labour’s selection is a panel of seven, made up of:

  • Three people appointed by the NZ Council, one of whom must be a woman
  • Two people elected by the LEC, one of whom must be a woman
  • One person elected at the selection meeting
  • One vote by ballot from those at the selection meeting