Written By: - Date published: 8:48 am, February 19th, 2015 - 106 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, by-election, greens, labour, nz first, political alternatives, Politics, uncategorized, winston peters - Tags: by-election, northland, winston peters
Sometime in the next few days, Winston Peters will announce whether or not he will stand in the Northland by-election. If he does go for it Labour and the Greens should get in behind the New Zealand First leader by not putting up their own candidates, endorsing him for the seat and even actively campaigning for a Winston win.
I don’t underestimate the difficulty of winning a safe Tory seat, and regular TS commenter Tiger Mountain gives an excellent summary of the issues around that here, but the swirl of scandal around resigned MP Mike Sabin will certainly effect the outcome. Even more so if evidence comes out that the National Party leadership knowingly supported Sabin as a candidate while he was subject to a police investigation.
This doesn’t just affect John Key’s credibility. According to some on the right, the likely replacement is Northland Tory grandee Grant McCallum. McCallum is a dairy farmer and a member of National’s Board of Directors. It is possible that he was unaware of the rumours about Sabin, but if he did know, he was well placed to ask questions about Sabin’s suitability as a candidate and MP. If it comes out prior to the by-election that the local leadership knew of Sabin’s difficulties and chose to look the other way, that could have a significant effect on the result. Certainly, the local Nats still seem to be backing Sabin all the way.
Strategically, the Greens and Labour can send a strong message about a future Government if they not only stand aside for Winston, but stand behind him. Both parties should campaign for a Winston win. The immediate goal, reducing Key’s majority, can possibly be achieved with good multi-party organisation, Winston’s cheek and charm, and whatever we learn about the Sabin affair between now and polling day. But the bigger goal, showing the opposition is united and ready to govern, will definitely be in play from day one of the campaign.
Of course, that three party unity has been strained in the last couple of days, with the botching of the appointment of a opposition MP to the parliamentary spy oversight committee. While I seriously doubt it was a deliberate snub to NZ First and the Greens, it was handled poorly by Labour leader Andrew Little. And it’s not much compensation that John Key also failed to consult as the law requires.
Little needs a circuit breaker and a chance to strengthen the ties of the three party bloc that can replace National and their franchises as New Zealand’s Government. The Northland by-election can be an opportunity to show that Labour, the Greens and NZ First can cooperate, can build a strategic alliance, and can work together for positive change. Winston winning Northland would be a bonus. Proving that there is a credible alternative ready to win the next general election would be the real victory.