Responding to Raymond

Labour MP Raymond Huo has blogged:

Now that David Farrar is holidaying in South Africa and sending us pictures showing how big the turtles are there and how Hyenas are eating dead baby elephants. I wish to take his holiday spirit and send him this letter as my Christmas present.

His Kiwiblog is powerful and I hope this letter plays a small role in helping make his blog a bit fairer on some issues.

While on a roller-coaster over the past three weeks of being in and out of Parliament, I was told that Mr Farrar, rather indirectly, blogged on me by saying more than once that to the effect that: “It will hurt Labour. While not a huge contributor to Labour within Parliament, I understand he is a relatively large fundraiser for Labour”.

It is unfortunate that David Farrar made this sweeping comment without delving deeper into the subject.

The comments Raymond is talking about are here:

For Carmel, she is out of Parliament entirely, and Raymond Huo is once again a Labour List MP. A bit of a blow to the rejuvenation efforts for Labour, but at least a boost to their fund-raising efforts.

That was meant to be more a compliment to Carmel, that she was one of the younger new MPs who had helped rejuvenate their lineup.

I also said earlier:

The bigger loser is Raymond Huo, who loses his list place, as Sepuloni makes it back. While not a huge contributor to Labour within Parliament, I understand he is a relatively large fund-raiser for Labour.

Raymond thinks that these comments don’t reflect the contribution he makes as an MP, saying:

The Chinese community, along with wider communities, is a rather large constituency. They come to MPs for help or for an answer with all sorts of different issues: immigration, corrections, law and order, resource consent, leaky building remediation work, national standards and constantly, how to grow the economy.

To be an MP serving such a large constituency with many members virtually being unable to communicate effectively (both in a linguistic and political sense) is a difficult task. Therefore the selection criteria must be harsh – if not harsher – than the process to select a ‘mainstream’ candidate. It requires skills, knowledge about both NZ and the migrant’s country of origin, and above all, integrity to provide service that reflects the quality and name of our House of Representatives.

This provides a good opportunity to elaborate more fully on the different aspects of being an MP, as I see them. Some people have suggested that Raymond shouldn’t worry about what I have blogged, as I support National. That is a legitimate view, but I would state that I do try to be reasonable fair to individual MPs. While I’m never going to say “Vote Labour”, I do often highlight Labour MPs whom I think are high flyers, will make good Ministers etc. and this is based on my honest opinion.

The different aspects of an MPs job are:

  • Working on behalf of your electorate or community
  • Participating in select committees
  • House work
  • Policy formulation
  • Being a Minister
  • Assisting your party

Now in terms of work within his community, I have no problems saying that I’ve only heard good things about Raymond from the Chinese community. he is well respected and i like the fact he and Dr Jian Yang (new National MP) have talked about working together in some areas to improve ties with China and the like.

It is important to have a Parliament that is broadly representative of New Zealand, I think a strength of MMP is that MPs like Raymond can work with non geographically based communities.

But there is more to being an highly regarded MP than your elecotrate and community work. The parliamentary side of the job is also important. Parties need MPs who can lead their team’s effort on a select committee on a bill, who can analyse bills and points out weaknesses in them, who can hold the Government to account, who can drive policy in a portfolio area etc etc.

In 2010 I blogged an analysis of the output of various Labour MPs. A crude, but still interesting tool. Raymond was near the bottom with just 12 press releases in a year, 3 news stories and 116 written questions.

The analysis had Prasad and Choudary also down at the bottom. It may be unfair to them a bit, as they are encouraged to spend a lot of time building support in their communities, but I suggest none of them have the balance quite right. You won’t be regarded as highly by your party, if you are not making more of an impact in Parliament. You don’t have to become a Trevor Mallard, but you don’t want to be a Larry Sutherland.

Raymond also said:

I did organise public meetings and fundraising dinners quite successfully over the past few years, as acknowledged by David Farrar. For an opposition back-bencher I don’t have an ever-popular Prime Minister to offer smiles and photo opportunities which must have enriched National’s support as reported in the NZ Herald. This only proves the point that I am popular and have done a good job.

When the time was not with us and the trend was against us, this kind of response is regarded as a form of approval and endorsement by the constituency.

It is unfortunate that he seemed to imply that we Asian MPs are ATM machines for political parties and are token inclusions in Parliament. I hope the National Party does not have this same expectation of its Asian MPs. It is certainly not the case in Labour, where the vision of inclusive and strong communities has inspired many, including myself, to enter into politics.

I would not use the phrase ATM machines for parties, but I would say that in my experience both National and Labour value MPs who are able to help the party fund-raise. This comes under the category I listed of helping your party. Different Mps do it in different ways (some do campaign strategy, some teach candidates how to campaign better etc). There is nothing wrong with being a good fund-raiser for your party.

Labour especially will, I suspect, value effective fund-raising. I understand that their head office fund-raising was so dismal this cycle, they they had to be rescued by Jim Anderton who stepped in as their corporate fund-raiser, hitting up businesses.

In my experience Asian MPs do do far better than most other MPs at fund-raising for their parties. This is party a reflection of the fact they have strong links to their communities, and in return their communities are keen to back them by attending fund-raising dinners and the like.

Many years ago I was a Deputy Regional Chair for National, and as part of that role attended the Wellington Asian Committee meetings. I recall at one event they were arranging a Yum Char fundraising lunch. I was atsonished as they went around the room asking the committee how many $40 tickets they think they can sell. Most of the committee members said they will sell 40 – 50 each. When it came to me, I blushed and said I think I could handle two tickets 🙂

The point Raymond was making I think, is that Asian MPs should not just be seen as MPs just there for their fund-raising ability. I agree. Pansy Wong was certainly well regarded for her fund-raising ability, but I (like many others) also highly regarded her for many other things.

So, going back to the beginning, I do place a high premium of MPs serving their community. I think it is a vital part of being an MP, and think it is great when MPs who have done a great job serving their communities retain their seats (such as in Auckland Central).

But my point is that just being a great local or community MP is not enough. One also needs to have profile in Parliament, if you want to enhance your chances of remaining an MP and/or becoming a Minister.

So I hope that has clarified my views. I’m always happy to acknowledge the work done by communities of MPs from any party. At the end of the day I actually regard around 90% of MPs as quite decent hard working people just wanting to make New Zealand better.

In bloggin this though I can’t resist a link to firstly the Dim-Post who finds that I have been mentioned on Red Alert almost as often as the Prime Minister and ten times more than Bill English.

Even funnier is Imperator Fish who blogged:

Labour Party MPs are said to be red-faced, after discovering that prominent blogger David Farrar is not the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Mr Farrar has been the target of numerous attacks by Labour Party MPs over the last couple of years.

A source inside Labour has confirmed that party officials identified Farrar as the leader of the country shortly after the 2008 election, despite being given evidence to the contrary. Rumours that John Key was the actual leader of the National Party as well as the Prime Minister of New Zealand were dismissed at the time as mere speculation.

But this morning, in a shock announcement, Mr Key revealed that he is in fact the Prime Minister, and that David Farrar is merely an enthusiastic National Party member with a popular blog, a couple of newspaper columns, and only moderate political influence. …

Mr Mallard also vowed to keep piling the pressure onto Mr Farrar.

“He’s not fit to hold office. He’s certainly not fit to be in Cabinet,” said Mr Mallard.

“When Parliament reopens we’ll be piling the heat on David Farrar, and holding him to account. This Farrar-led government has been a disaster for New Zealand.”

I think disaster is too strong a word 🙂

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