No way should Labour do a 'Cup of Te' deal.

Labour should stand up for its own strong values.


Mana-Internet supporters have been vocal that Labour should accommodate a deal to sacrifice Kelvin Davis and make sure Hone Harawira wins Te Tai Tokerau. Labour MPs are dismissive, as Stuff has noted

I'm less dismissive than Phil Goff, Chris Hipkins and David Shearer about the Internet-Mana collaboration itself.  I commented last week about the value a stronger non-Labour left party could add.

There is a genuine place for a socialist party to the left of Labour, and if they can get someone to cough up the cash to pay for it, good on them. 

But we are already seeing the right wing depicting the fringe politics of Internet-Mana as representative of the wider left - a kind of authentic form of left.  If New Zealanders were asked to pick between the Mana-Internet and National, they would pick National. (In fact the strand of the left that is drawn to the non-Labour left identifies itself by its opposition to the dominant political trends; they define themselves by what they are against, which is why they are best described as the Reactionary Left.)

Labour must be clear about this: Labour's job is to advocate and organise for Labour. For Labour values. Labour principles. When they do that, they’re capable of getting 50%, not because they’re being ‘National-lite’ but because Labour principles are popular; opportunity no matter where you come from, fairness, social justice, active management of the economy to create jobs and distribute wealth.

If Labour’s not at 40-50% it’s because people either don’t think we can deliver on those principles, or they think we’re not prioritising them.

Labour is different to the non-Labour left. It is not a 'watered down' version of the left, and its principles in some ways conflict with the principles of Internet-Mana, as with those of the Greens and NZ First. 

If Hone Harawira, the Mana-Internet Party, NZ First, Greens or anyone else want to be in parliament, they need to advocate for themselves. They need to win in their own right, not as the recipients of largesse or dirty deals with other parties. (There is definitely a case for lowering the threshold for parties to get into parliament, so our parliament is more representative. But the lack of that provision doesn’t justify keeping the ‘coat-tailing’ clause.)

That is how MMP is meant to work. In the old days, each of the two big parties had to contort themselves to accommodate all their side in a single tent. Now if you want to be in the tent you have to win your own place.

Kelvin Davis laid out Labour principles when he spoke about his priorities on returning to parliament: Jobs for Northland, promotion of te reo, opportunity for all through education, and fury at men raping women. 

To ask that Labour should set his candidacy aside to help Hone Harawira is to express a lack of confidence in Labour values. It asks Labour people to believe there are principles that are more authentic and a higher priority for Labour than its own.

Just as importantly, Labour must not appease the practitioners of the politics of abuse. I've blogged already this year that the tolerant, open and compassionate left must stand up to vilification and abuse when it is practised by sections of the left. One of those times is apparent in Christ Trotter's comment telling Kelvin Davis to "STFU".

"There is an anger in Davis that calls into question his suitability for any kind of public office." He calls him an "angry representative" and twice uses the phrase "barely concealed aggression." All this is extrapolated from Kelvin's statement that he is proud of his kids for being 'respectful'.

To depict a strong, appealing Labour man like Kelvin Davis as the angry Maori is to use the language of the racial dog whistle. 

Many Maori will be watching now, waiting to see if the "STFU" politics will be appeased or accommodated. If it is, there will be a huge backlash in other Maori seats.

On Q+A on the weekend I said Labour should come out publicly this week, renewing its call for parliament to pass anti-coat-tailing legislation. The tactical confusion on the left was illustrated by commenters on The Standard who said I should have mentioned this is already party policy (although David Cunliffe was equivocal in his interview about whether it is still a priority), while Martyn Bradbury said an attempt to amend the law now would foment a civil war. That’s like saying if Labour backs its own policies and gets behind its own candidate, it’ll be war on the left. That's just wrong.

The way for Labour to win government is to reject the strategy that governments lose election, opposition don’t win them. Go after the aspiring working class and the struggling middle, and win those votes back for Labour.

And they need to stop trying to win by coming second. Labour is capable of being the most popular party in New Zealand because its values are more popular. That’s something to embrace.

Comments (7)

by Ewan Morris on June 03, 2014
Ewan Morris

Christ Trotter's comment

He's not the messiah, he's just a very naughty boy

by Andrew R on June 03, 2014
Andrew R

I am surprised about how loaded and deluded your portrayal of  Labour (all good and progressive) v other left parties (reactionary, etc) is.

Under MMP  you should be thinking of left and right blocs, not  that Labour might get over 50% of the votes. Sure differentiate between members of the bloc, but don't slag them off.


by Tim Watkin on June 03, 2014
Tim Watkin

Thing is Josie, Labour doesn't have to ask Davis to step aside or even shut up.

Simply by putting Davis high on the list (something I'm sure you'd endorse) it allows TTT voters to see that they can get two MPs with their two votes and voila, Hone wins the seat and Davis gets the list again. Davis, as good a man as he is, has lost multiple times to Harawira and his northern organisation and mana (small 'm'). Now with more time to organise and more money, it just got harder for him, so I suspect it's all academic.

by Alex Coleman on June 03, 2014
Alex Coleman

I don't think anyone is saying Davis shouldn't stand, but what is being said is that how he runs, matters. There is no point in attacking Mana using the same language National does.

Instead of talking about how he will run on Labour values, he shold just do so instead of all this nonsense. And instead of just talking about what those values are, Labour needs to show people what those values mean in terms of policies. The way you list them in this post, they could easily be applied to National. Differentiating itself from those on its left is important for Labour, but it's even more important to differentiate from National. Labour will have to work with those on it's left. They should all write that on their bathroom mirrors and not remove it till sept 21.


I'll repeat that because it's really important. Labour will have to work with the Greens and probably Mana. It's breathtakingly obvious that they don't want to. That has to change, because swing voters don't want to vote for a disfunctional cabinet.


That is why those tweets from Hipkins et al were poorly done. Immediately they were asked by journos if they would rule out working with Mana. (and there was little they could say in reply, because: They will have to work together). That's what happens when you call them sellouts and betrayers of MMP and all the rest of it. If they are so corrupt, why on earth would you work with them, and why should voters trust such a government?


The real test will come when Labour's list is finalised. The voters will decide, but if Labour, (again), put Kelvin far enough down that it is seen as saying he has to win TTT back to get into parliament, (Mana hold it remember, it's not Labour's to give away), don't be surprised if TTT interpret it somewhat differently.



by Rich on June 03, 2014

I think Labour lost Te Tai Tokerau (along with Hone) when they decided to confiscate the foreshore and seabed from Maori. The MaoriNats lost TTT (along with Hone) when they decided to maintain the confiscation but give the Bill (re-)enacting it a nice title in Te Reo.

At least Kim Dotcom doesn't want to confiscate any Maori land.


by Ken on June 03, 2014

Why is Labour so very unstrategic? You'd think they didn't want to change the govt this year. As Tim says, they don't need to do anything in TTT, just place Kelvin Davis high on the list. Fighting with Mana.Com there is just silly.

Another example. The Greens Gareth Hughes isn't standing in Ohariu this year, so Peter Dunne is more vulnerable than ever. Labour's response? Stand a nobody, guaranteeing Dunne another term and National a partner. At least Paddy Gower can't complain Labour and the Greens are doing any dirty deals.

by stuart munro on June 04, 2014
stuart munro

The problem is Josie, Labour has done a catastrophically poor job of advocating for 'labour principles'. Housing is a good litmus for this because home ownership is as robust an indicator of middle class status as you can get. It's great that Labour wants to build 10 000 houses, address foreign ownership and LVRs. But they have contributed to the worst demographic shift in NZ in the last hundred years, the decline of home ownership from 80% or more, to south of 50%. That's a big chunk of people left-radicalised by the failure of political representation. The party of Savage would not be promising 10 000 but a restoration of the status quo ante.

And if Labour took this bold step, as Mana might, should the public be grateful? Well no. That merely restores what we had going in. People vote left for a better future, not for these tragically diminished expectations marketed by the neo-lib rump. Yes, Labour has a proud history - but their political ancestors would not be proud of them.

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