The rumour mill has been buzzing since a couple of commentators here let slip that Matt McCarten was making a run in the Mana by-election. The word is that the campaign will be used to launch a new Left Party with McCarten, Hone Harawira, Sue Bradford and others.
I’m putting a lot of credence in the rumours, because they’ve come at us from different sources and I think the party has a viable business case.
Hone is clearly sick of the sell-out Maori Party leadership. The latest insult, taking him off the foreshore and seabed select committee, may well have been the last straw. Hone’s seat is safe, he got over twice the vote of his main rival, Labour’s Kelvin Davis (a rising star, btw), in Te Tai Tokerau last election. Maori Party MPs are elected on their personal mana more than party, and Hone would have no trouble seeing off whoever Tariana Turia puts up against him.
Matt’s campaign skills make it an exciting possibility. In the Mana debates, he has not only easily bested Kris Fa’afoi and Hekia Parata he has made them look like fakes parroting head office lines (I’d still vote Fa’afoi though, given we have no idea how close Parata is behind him). Matt knows he isn’t in with a shot of winning in Mana but he is using it as a platform to put the issues that would be central to his new party on to the national scene. He can argue forcefully and clearly for the working class without the baggage a major party brings with it.
And it is a foolish person who underestimates Sue Bradford. She has easily been the most successful backbench List MP in history. Along with passing other private members’ bills, she succeeded in getting nearly the whole Parliament to vote to outlaw the use of violence against children was an incredible feat that will have a subtle but significant impact on this country for decades.
With the Progressives winding up and no sign of an Alliance resurgence, there is a gap for a true Left party that emphasises economic/working class issues more than the Greens, who, lets face it, draw most of their support from well-heeled urban liberals. I don’t think there’s a risk of a new party knocking the Greens below 5%, their base is solid, but they may lose some who are dissatisfied with the Norman-ites’ style.
The difficulty for such a party will only be in the crowded political marketplace it is entering. If its core tenants will be a rejection of neoliberalism, privatisation, and sale of important assets to foreign interests then it will calling for the same things as the Greens, Labour, and New Zealand First. But with a safe seat, it doesn’t have to secure too many votes to have an impact in the next Parliament.
This party and NZF on the rise again will make a fascinating campaign: ACT and National defending the failed neoliberal project, four centre to Left parties rejecting it, and Turia and Dunne sniffing the wind.
PS. From the strongly rumoured to the purely speculative, what chance do you reckon of a reactionary party led by Paul Henry and Michael Laws having a crack at the carcass of ACT’s support and the hardright support National dog-whistles in opposition and tries to ignore in power?