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Gordon Campbell on Labour’s candidacy troubles

Gordon Campbell on Labour’s candidacy troubles

First published on Werewolf

So its official. Greg O’Connor will indeed be Labour’s candidate in Ohariu and – as also signaled well in advance – the Greens will not be standing a candidate in the electorate. At this point, you have to question the validity of the Greens’ excuse – “we need to change the government” - for tagging along. Arguably, by bringing the likes of Greg O’Connor and Willie Jackson on board, Labour is choosing to “broaden its electoral chances” by pandering to the oldest, whitest and angriest part of the electorate. That’s hardly change you can believe in. It looks more like doubling down on the problem, and laying down further problems in future.

Meaning: if they roll over this readily now, what treatment can the Greens expect to receive from Labour if and when Labour finally gets its hands on the levers of power? Is it possible now to conceive of anyone that Labour could put up as a candidate in a marginal electorate that the Greens could reject, on principle? Evidently not. Somehow, its hard to imagine the likes of Rod Donald going out of his way to assist Greg O’Connor into a position where he could hope to wield ministerial power on law and order issues.

These misgivings are being voiced within Labour, by MP Poto Williams, and others. This recent exchange in the comments section on Martyn Bradbury’s The Daily Blog usefully crystallises the arguments about the handpicking of Jackson as a Labour candidate :


No one is saying that gender pay gaps are acceptable. No one is saying that Trans people should be treated any less, no one is saying we don’t have huge work ahead of us with domestic violence and rape culture.

The issue many on the Left had was that elements and factions within Labour thought it was a great idea to blow 30 months of unity the moment Andrew Little attempted to broaden the electoral chances of the Labour Party to replace National.

People who take anti-sexism seriously should attempt to get into power first from where they can start making a real difference to those issues rather than attack the Leadership and risk the last 30months of rebuilding Andrew Little has undertaken. Its not rocket science, James.



So, just to be clear, your argument is to be quiet and let people you think have said and done repugnant things stand beside you without comment, so that you might be able to get a few small policies through when Labour gets into government? Despite the fact that such policies would be directly contradictory? How can you say rape culture is [not] OK when you have an MP who has helped to entrench and further rape culture?

Bomber's message is the one that women on the left have been hearing since time eternal ie, that they should keep quiet, remain patient until victory is assured, and - in the meantime - make sure their concerns and modes of expression don't antagonise the heroes of the proletariat. Besides everything else, this looks like a failure of imagination. Is the Winston Wing of Labour’s support base – those heroic, hand-calloused members of the white working class that Bomber Bradbury and Chris Trotter always bang on about - really so immune to policy arguments pitched any higher than Greg O’Connor’s face on a campaign billboard, or Willie Jackson on the mike?

The infamous Roastbusters interview in 2013 is just one reason among many for rejecting Jackson. His subsequent contention that Grant Robertson’s gayness poses a major political problem is another. In Jackson’s own words:

The main issue, however, for Robertson has nothing to do with his ability to be able to front over policy, which he does well - but everything to do sadly, with him being homosexual…. While things are certainly a lot better than they were when the homosexual law reform bill was passed into Parliament 30 years ago, do people really think that society has become comfortable with homosexuality?

Think for a moment... have we ever had an All Black who declared that he was gay? Or a Warrior player? Heck, we haven’t even had a Silver Fern declare she was gay - although Manurewa MP Louisa Wall who was a former Silver Fern, declared her homosexuality, but years later.

Having Jackson in management or as a colleague also seems problematic, judging by this incident.

Not to mention Jackson’s support for charter schools, and his role – as CEO of the Manakau Urban Maori Authority - in opening two of them.

Yes, Labour certainly does need to improve its party list vote. Willie Jackson wants a high position on the party list. At this point, its hard to see how his candidacy is going to motivate many of Labour’s activists to go out and work their butts off door to door, in order to bring the likes of Jackson onto Labour’s front bench.

Ohariu’s Dunne deal

At this point, any social liberals left in Ohariu face something of a dilemma. Do they vote against Dunne in order to change this government’s dismal policies on health, education, the environment, welfare and the economy - or do they vote tactically for Dunne, to try and prevent O’Connor from becoming this country’s next Minister of Police?

Ultimately, they’ll probably vote for O’Connor, but with gritted teeth. And quite possibly, they’ll watch these conservatives in the Labour caucus (that they’ve just helped to elect) then come down hard on the Greens, and frustrate any chance of genuine reform. Put it this way. What hope would you pin on a centre-left government whose electoral success has come to hinge – supposedly – on getting the likes of O’Connor and Jackson across the line?

Somehow, Labour’s head office has managed to make Peter Dunne look like a principled underdog. That’s quite some feat. And in case this sounds like an overstatement of the downsides of Labour’s pick for Ohariu, a few of O’Connor’s prior positions, back when he was president of the Police Association, are worth recalling.

In 2012, when the Auditor General had found only mixed progress had been made by Police in implementing the recommendations contained in the 2007 Commission of Inquiry (triggered by the Louise Nicholas rape case) O’Connor defended the Police, and described the report as “something of a ritual humiliation for the Police.”

In the past, O’Connor has also argued – going back at least to 2010 - for the need to arm the Police. At least he is consistent on this point. Just over two years ago, O’Connor wrote an op ed for the NZ Herald headlined “Time To Get Real And Arm Our Police” that concluded with this:

The sad reality is we will see many more deaths at the hands of run-of-the-mill armed offenders. It won't be long before one of those deaths occurs because police at the scene couldn't take action to save a life, because they weren't armed. It is time to overcome our squeamishness and arm police.

There’s more. Tragically and avoidably, high speed Police pursuits regularly result in unnecessary deaths, as reported by Brian Rudman in an article that cited the saner, safer high speed chase policies being followed by Police in Australia. Rudman’s article brought this hostile response from O’Connor only seven months ago:

We have inadvertently given bad drivers the green light to flee at speed. Mr Rudman’s solution will entail police never attempting to pull such drivers over in the first place, and just policing law-abiding drivers who it is calculated will not flee.

In recent days, O’Connor has claimed that taking such positions was just part of his old job of promoting the attitudes and interests of his rank and file Police members. That’s disturbing on several counts. For starters, it validates the misgivings many people have voiced about the DNA of Police culture when it comes to the handling of sexual violence complaints in this country. Moreover, if O’Connor can be exonerated because hey, he was only doing what his old job demanded of him…then I guess that lets National MPs Chris Bishop and Todd Barclay off the hook for their past lobbying on behalf of the tobacco industry. Yet Labour has regularly made a big deal about those links.

Like O’Connor though, it seems that Bishop and Barclay were just doing their job. Guns for hire. Or, in O’Connor’s case, hired to get guns. Maybe all MPs, once elected, need to be baptised in a ceremony at the Parliamentary pool, and ritually cleansed of the sins of their past lives.

Out like Flynn

So Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn – the guy who had the cosiest links to Putin’s Russia – has been asked by Trump to resign, under pressure on all sides for lying to (a) the American people and (b) his boss. Only the latter is a sackable offence in Washington, and we can safely assume that Trump’s new Attorney-General Jeff Sessions won't be prosecuting Flynn for committing a criminal offence under the Logan Act.

Presumably, not prosecuting Flynn will be the quid pro quo for Flynn keeping his mouth shut about whether he’d been merely acting under orders from Trump, when Flynn made contact with the Russian ambassador to re-assure Putin that the US sanctions on Russia would be lifted once the new administration had settled into the White House.

A few days ago, the New York Times ran an utterly hair-raising story about the reigning chaos at the National Security Council. (Read for instance, the bit where Defence Secretary James Mattis speculates about how to provoke a military conflict with Iran.) The article ended on what now looks suddenly like a poignantly prophetic note:

At the all-hands meeting, Mr. Flynn talked about the importance of a balanced work life, taking care of family, and using the time at the council to gain experience that would help staff members in other parts of the government. At one point, the crowd was asked for a show of hands of how many expected to be working at the White House in a year.

Mr. Flynn turned to [his deputy] Ms. McFarland and, in what seemed to be a self-deprecating joke, said, “I wonder if we’ll be here a year from now?”

Paid the Cost

Still, at least Michael Flynn can sashay out of the NSC doing the James Brown glide, to this classic track. He paid the cost, to be the boss. Even if the boss gig at the NSC lasted only 25 days, all up.

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