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Lefter 11 ~ don’t lose Mt Albert!

March 29, 2009 by emweb

Mt Albert is a marginal seat because Labour may let the seat slip from its grasp. You would think the Labour stronghold of Mt Albert is anything but marginal. It has been Helen Clark’s seat for years and even though Labour completely collapsed in the last election, Helen Clark held the seat with a strong majority and seems to have maintained the affections of the electorate.

Great. But if Labour screws this up and lets National get it, Labour’s collapse will be perceived as even more profound.

It annoyed the crap out of me that Labour fought that last election so badly. Letting National call all the shots just made the conservatives look stronger. Labour was complacent and ineffective in its approach. It was blindingly obvious there was a fight to be had – blindingly obvious to all but those running Labour’s campaign, anyway. In effect.

Since Labour only just squeaked in at the 2005 election, the party should have realised the impact on any subsequent poll. Refusing to campaign on the considerable achievements of the Labour government over its tenure was, to my mind, plain stupid. Warm fuzzies were called for, the steady hand on the tiller, the fireside chat approach. Instead we got a cynical Cullen carping from the sidelines and party-wide floundering with the recession clearly looming.

Labour pandered to National’s calling of the shots once again. National’s stupid call for ‘change’ and appeal to personal greed cleverly catering directly to the more facile political sensibilities (or complete lack thereof) of New Zealanders.

So now we have a bizarre situation where Labour seems unsure how to play out a campaign for the plum seat of Mt Albert because of the Judith Tizard problem. That being, she let a safe seat slip from her grasp largely because she was widely perceived as ineffectual. Worse, she let her place be taken by a put-up job from National; Nicki Kaye is hardly a real politician.

But if Phil Twyford runs for the Mt Albert seat, Tizard could be in again, this time on the list, which would please no one but her.

This raises several issues: if Phil Goff stepped up and told Tizard where to get off, and let the poor woman retire with any dignity she has left, Phil Twyford should run for Mt Albert – and Labour should pull out all the stops to win it.

But why should Phil Twyford run for Mt Albert?

Because he lives there. It’s already his electorate and he wishes to represent his people. This is both admirable and understandable.

Twyford has a stellar record and he should be supported within the party. Instead, it seems some hidebound Labourites could see him as a threat, but it’s time all that small-mindedness was ruthlessly dispensed with. Twyford taking, effectively, Helen Clark’s mantle in Mt Albert would be a clear message to the country that Labour isn’t finished, that there’s new blood and that Labour does, in fact, have a bigger vision. (Does it?)

Anyone politicking away for themselves within Labour now – you’re doing the wrong thing. New Zealand needs Labour back. We need a strong Labour. We need a Labour Party profound in its own values.

Helen Clark is another factor in all this. She may be a friend of Tizard’s but Clark knows perfectly well what should be done in this case. Clark has been keeping her head down and has now scored a great job she is perfect for. Excellent. I’m happy for her and I think she has the potential to do great good.

But it’s almost palpable that National can hardly wait till Clark is out of the country. They’re right to be impatient. She seems to be the only prominent figure inside Labour with a clear vision. So I wish she’d deploy it before she disappears.

My message to you, Ms Clark, is: you’ve had a break. Now do the right thing for the party you led so well. Advise the right people. Set up a Labour win in Mt Albert. Get the Tizard problem dealt with – even if it means Goff gets told to pull his blinkers off.

Hard decisions have to be made. For God’s sake, someone has to make them. It’s time to move on.

If you don’t sort this out, you are onto the final series of nails in the coffin. Put those damn hammers away! If Labour falls any further apart … we’re screwed.

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