Could it be 7 by-elections?

Matthew Hooton wrote in the NBR today (I had to creep up to the dairy at Bucklands Beach and bag a copy of NBR since my impoverishment at the hand of Fidelity Life) about the possibility of no less than six by-elections but he missed out Christchurch East, where it is widely thought that “Patsy” Dalziel is off overseas shortly.

Mana MP Winnie Laban’s Labour colleagues owe her a big bouquet of teuila, heilala and tagimoucia – first to congratulate her for being appointed assistant vice-chancellor (Pasifika) at Victoria University but second because of the opportunity she’s created to take the fight to National on strong Labour ground.

Labour’s top strategists understand that byelections on home turf can only help improve the party’s odds of success for 2011, which have slowly been creeping upward since Phil Goff finally manned up to deal to Chris Carter.

Yes, byelections can be unpredictable – but if you’re an opposition, struggling against a popular incumbent, unpredictability is a godsend.

Nothing else gives an opposition such profile to highlight a government’s faults, discover a few more, and urge voters to send a message to Wellington – all without anyone worrying their votes might actually change the government.

Right now Matthew Hooton is spot on. Multiple by-elections give Phil Goff the much needed bolster with which to secure a breach in the government’s defences and at the same time strengthen caucus into a true Phil Goff led labour Party rather than him having to put up with the cast offs of Helen Clark.

Ironically Phil Goff paved the way with his inspired rigging of the selection in Mt Albert and parachuting in David Shearer. It worked then and it should work now as Labour looks to expend $500k per by-election of public monies in order to rejuvenate caucus before the election.

Matthew Hooton’s suggested by-elections now include Manukau East where good mate of George Hawkins is past his use-by date.

Labour has an even broader opportunity. In Andrew Little – also boss of the powerful Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, the country’s largest – Labour has as its president The Great Negotiator.

If Mr Little puts Labour’s 2011 effort ahead of his own post-election leadership ambitions, it is not beyond him to engineer at least three other byelections, all in safe Labour seats, for the same day as Mana.

It’s an opportunity for national publicity – all on Labour themes – that it simply can’t afford to forgo.

In West Auckland, Mr Little could arrange for Mr Carter’s disciplinary action to be dropped in exchange for him resigning as MP for Te Atatu.

In Christchurch, Jim Anderton could be asked to step aside from Wigram, ahead of his election as mayor of Christchurch.

Likewise, in South Auckland, George Hawkins could leave early from Manurewa to concentrate on local politics.

Ditto perhaps Ross Robertson in Manukau East.

Or Pete Hodgson in Dunedin North.

Pete Hodgson is way past sensible to stay on, he is still suffering from Key Derangement Syndrome and has taken to posting outrageous lies on Red Alert or silly polls. He clearly is no longer the great and trusted strategist and he has also stated that he won’t be returning next election. Phil Goff may as well ask the old duffer to shuffle off too.

Coincidentally today I banged in to old Labour stalwart and historian Dr. Michael Bassett and so I took the opportunity to grab his take on the Labour Party today. He provided me with an insight that I had previously not noticed, that of the influence of the “Ex-Presidents Club”that loyally got Helen Clark to the position she held. The “Ex-Presidents Club” is still largely intact, now only missing Margaret Wilson. Jim Anderton, Maryan Street and Ruth Dyson are all in parliament and all in the past were heavily involved in stacking LECs and floor votes in favour of Clarkists. It was Bassett’s contention that little has changed amongst this group especially Street and Dyson, indeed there are very strong ru8mour that Street and Dyson see them selves as the “dream team” leadership option within Labour and that they are sitting there actively tripping up Phil Goff as he seeks to distance his party from the apparatchiks of the Clark years. Dyson was involved in a failed attempt to get Chris Carter selected when the vote was 4 v 3 against selecting him. It was Michael Bassett that nixed her schemes to amend the Labour Party constitution in order to get Carter in earlier.

Phil Goff must grasp the nettle and use this opportunity to remake the Labour Party and to refresh caucus and take the fight to National in ways that they have not even contemplated in the master plan of trying to secure a second term.

It is game on for next year for sure.


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