New Zealand: The battle for Mana -- a new left votes

November 11, 2010 -- Matt McCarten’s Mana by-election campaign has taken up the issue of housing, identifying many empty state houses in the electorate, while families are homeless. Four campaigners were arrested after they took over an empty house.

By Joe Carolan

November 17, 2010 -- Socialist Aotearoa -- As the battle of Mana [the November 20, 2010, Mana by-election campaign] draws to an end, a real victory has already been won. For the last month, the serious left in Aotearoa has united in struggle and put in the mahi, fighting on issues that concern working people and that embarass the party apparatchiks from Labour and National.

What the final tally will be for Matt McCarten's insurgent campaign, only Saturday, November 20 can tell. But the new left has fought hard for every vote it gets, whether high in the hills of Tawa or in the heart of Cannon's Creek. Even those undecided about voting for Matt have supported his radical program for full employment, higher incomes and tax justice. As he said himself, "If the people of Mana voted for what they wanted- we'd win by a landslide."

Another real victory that has been won is one for democracy itself. Rather than explain why their party does not support radical change, the Labour Party has been pushing the line that a vote for Matt splits the left. And they are noticably nervous about this; they are drafting in hundreds of volunteers, activists and union organisers for the last few days, and their more uncouth supporters are beginning to lose their tempers. And there's a real reason why.

Among the staunch working class, there's a realisation that Labour Party leaders Phil Goff ain't gonna win the national election in 2011. Labour is too soft, and is bereft of any tangible policies that make a difference to the working class. Labour Party Mana candidate Kris Faafoi was imposed on the local organisation from Goff's office, and has barely been in the party for a year. Many workers see through the cynical tokenism from Labour HQ.

The days of the left being a one-party state are over, whether in the unions or in the political field. We're going to need a real resistance movement when the National Party wins in 2011.

As Labour stays firmly in the political centre, it needs to learn one lesson.

We're not splitting the left vote -- we are the left vote

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Thu, 11/18/2010 - 18:35


3:54 PM Thursday Nov 18, 2010
Police speak to a Matt McCarten candidate supporter Rima Taraia who was attempting to yell down Prime Minister John Key as he visited the North City shopping mall, Porirua. Photo / NZPA
Police speak to a Matt McCarten candidate supporter Rima Taraia who was attempting to yell down Prime Minister John Key as he visited the North City shopping mall, Porirua. Photo / NZPA

Prime Minister John Key was mobbed in Porirua today as he campaigned for National in the Mana by-election.

A group of about 10 supporters of independent unionist candidate Matt McCarten crowded around Mr Key when he arrived at North City Plaza, and they were joined by Labour Party activists backing Kris Faafoi.

Mr Key couldn't hear the people he was trying to talk to over screams and chants, and one determined woman activist repeatedly got in his face as he tried to meet voters.

Rima Taraia persisted in demanding that Mr Key speak to her and demanded his attention. Security officers several times pushed her away from Mr Key but she wasn't removed from the scene.

The crowd around Mr Key chanted "John Key what's the score, one law for the rich and one for the poor".

Another woman, Caroline Harvey, said she was a qualified social worker but had no job and was living in a caravan in Cannons Creek.


By Matt McCarten, November 20, 2010…

There's a whole lot love in Mana this week. The locals couldn't move without being accosted by Labour and National MPs wanting to kiss children.

If someone didn't have kids with them, parliamentarians were happy enough to kiss their butts.

On Friday the electorate lovefest became rapture with a politician and his or her office staff on every corner waving red or blue placards at the traffic.

I counted 20 MPs in just three hours.

The locals loved it. Never had they felt so wanted.

I didn't have the heart to tell them that after Saturday they'll never see their new lovers again.

Modestly, I take the most of the credit for making the National and Labour politicos take the voters of Mana seriously.

I'm writing this column on the morning of the election day before we have any idea of the results of the election, but I'm assuming Labour's Kris Faafoi, pictured left, will triumph over National's Hekia Parata.

Before I entered the race three weeks ago it was an apolitical yawn fest where the conventional wisdom was that Labour's Faafoi would sleepwalk to victory and National's Parata would, according to John Key, "be competitive".

Their materials consisted of what wonderful individuals they were, without a mention of policy or what they believed. Neither party could get anyone enthusiastic about the election.

All hell broke loose when I put my name forward.

The Labour Party leadership went apoplectic.

I smacked them back by telling them if they could lose a safe seat to some late-entry left-wing independent unknown in the electorate seat with few resources then they should look in the mirror.

After Labour had calmed down they realised having a competitive race helped them.

My entry helped mobilise their base inside the electorate and nationally.

Labour now has the biggest machine on the ground I have ever seen.

I reckon I should send them an invoice.

Faafoi is a novice politician but grew in stature as the campaign rolled on and he'll do a good job as an MP.

The National Party went hysterically joyful at the idea of me in the race.

They did initially get a bounce, but the thought of them winning panicked the non-National vote and Labour was able to scare many wavering voters into their corner in the last week. That hurt the Greens and me.

Strategically, it would have been better for the Nats if they had played down expectations so that Labour's vote stayed at home.

Their supporters could then quietly come under the radar and poach the seat.

The campaign was on fire in the last few days so that didn't happen.

But there's no doubt Parata is a class candidate, and she will go to the top of National one day.

Faafoi will always be under threat from her.

The Greens candidate Jan Logie was a good sport about my late entry and we had several volunteers happily working on both of our campaigns.

If she's not high on the Greens' list next election I'll be disappointed and surprised.

Whatever happens I may have to console myself that our three polices are very popular in Mana.

I focused on three things dear to my union: increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour; making job creation the goal of economic policy; and replacing GST with a 1 per cent financial transaction tax.

We focused on running the policies as a petition and knocked 12,000 homes.

Happily, half of the people signed the petition.

If they had then voted for me, I'd be the next MP for Mana by the time you read this!

Of course that was never going to happen.

Getting over 5 per cent and hopefully closer to 10 per cent of the vote gets me skiting rights.

Regardless, by running I think I gave the people of Mana a real policy choice.

I hope my message to Labour got through- that they can't take their supporters for granted and must stand for something that isn't National-lite.

If it did, then taking three weeks being a carpetbagger in Mana was worth it.