Joe Hendren

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Update on Hawkins and why a by-election would be good for Labour

In my last post I looked at how Labour leader Phil Goff was handling the fallout from Chris Carter's brain explosion, and the reaction of Labour MP George Hawkins to being mentioned in Carter's missive.

Carter claimed Hawkins was to face a challenge from within the party for the candidacy of Manurewa, the seat Hawkins has held since 1990. I said that Hawkins reaction demonstrated the same 'sense of entitlement' that Goff (justifiably) criticised Carter for in relation to large travel bills.

Hawkins has now announced an intention to stand for a local board in the October Auckland local body elections. He says he will withdraw his nomination for his parliamentary seat if he is elected, meaning that he will not stand at the next election. But if he is not elected to the local board he will stand for parliament again.

The least charitable interpretation of this would be to claim Hawkins is attempting to discourage a potential challenger to his seat, as nominations close on the 1 September. The most charitable interpretation was that standing down from parliament for the local board was always Hawkins intention, and Carter chose to put an uncharitable spin his intention for effect.

Yet in either case Hawkins still gives the impression of wanting to hang on for dear life, which looks like a sense of entitlement to me. I still hope the challenge happens.

The more I think about it, the more I think a by-election in a seat like Manurewa or Te Atatu would be entirely in Labour's interests. Take this for a scenario.

Hawkins resigns from his seat, and challenges Carter to do the same thing. Labour regain the initative, and Hawkins gains a graceful exit in the arms of a grateful party.

Explain to the public that while by-elections are expensive, at the end of the day democracy and the right of the people to have a say is worth more. This would tie in with a strong message about the lack of democracy in the Super City too. Highlight how National Maungakiekie MP Sam Lotu-liga oped to stay on the council after being elected an MP, and avoided a by-election for the political convenience of his CityRat mates.

At the beginning of the by-election campaign/s Labour annouce they will use every public meeting to tell people about the National party's attempts to bring back the Employment Contracts Act in drag, and every pamphlet delivered for the by-election will also be accompanied by a leaflet explaining the negative effects of the proposed employment law changes on 'every wage and salary earner'. Strong soundbites against '90 days' echo through news bulletins for three weeks.

Labour would be bound to win Manurewa with an ok candidate and Te Atatu with a strong candidate, which would help build momentum and exposure and make it more difficult for the Nats to control the news agenda. There is not likely to be any harm in the Greens running good candidates in either seat, for the same reasons.

So Chris Carter is going on two months 'sick leave'? Is this to waste just enough time so the 'election is too close for by-election' excuse can be trotted out? Please Chris, you may not care for Goff, but please resign from parliament immediately for the sake of the party you claim to care about. The public want you gone.

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