Labour has decided to stand Kelvin Davis in the Te Tai Tokerau by-election. I wish they hadn’t. First, Davis strikes me as quality and you don’t tarnish quality by making it lose in front of a national audience. Look what happened to Melissa Lee, former National rising star. And Davis will lose, let’s be honest.
Hone Harawira beat Davis by winning over twice as many votes in 2008. Since then, Harawira’s profile has risen hugely and he has become a hero to a good many. Davis hasn’t made that impact. I don’t see some new, unknown, Maori Party candidate making enough of an impact to close that gap. If anything the anti-Hone vote will be split.
Sure, Labour can deploy the organisational structure of not only TTT but the co-located general electorates and Tamaki Makaurau but Harawira is the incumbent and he has stayed true to his people through-out.
Yes, Labour’s ability to get out the vote is fearsome but getting out the vote is much harder in Maori electorates even at a general election, let alone against a new party in a by-election. Who will Labour know to get out? In reality, a Labour get out the vote effort designed to get out all potential Labour voters, ie anyone left of centre (excepting people who have said they are a member of a different party in door to door canvassing, I guess). I don’t know how they can possibly know which TTT enrolled votes to target for a GOTV effort when there’s no socio-economic divide to go on and no canvassing data that would incorporate the Mana Party, and good odds that a Labour supporter backed Harawira as the candidate last time anyway.
Second, it’s a waste of resources. OK, you get to do a(nother) live test of your GOTV system but it’s not a typical one, so probably not very instructive and while by-elections are a good opportunity to excite the activists it also uses up their limited time that could be better used this close to an election.
Third, I want Harawira to win.
Now, don’t let that invalidate the rest of what I’ve said. I want Harawira to win for the wider Left’s sake. Harawira has a constituency. It is made up of Left people. What is better: for those people to be unrepresented, maybe not bothering to vote or maybe in the Greens or Labour trying to drag them to an extreme that they don’t want to go to, or for them to have their own party in Parliament, adding to the Left’s combined voice and there to deal with when agreement can be found, which is most of the time in reality? There is a place for the Mana Party and it works in Labour and the Green’s favour, just as ACT works in National’s favour. It would be a shame to see that wasted.
That’s why I hope that, behind the drama of the Harawira vs Davis vs ? fight the strategists from the parties of the Left will be keeping lines of communication open. We don’t agree on everything but we basically agree on most stuff, and we’ve got a nasty common enemy to fight.