Duncan Garner: Three Labour MPs say 'stuff the party - I want to win my seat!'

15/07/2014

Three Labour MPs have broken ranks in recent weeks – quite loudly and very publicly.

They are interested in one thing: self-preservation. They want to win their seats and they’ve given up relying on their party. They are clearly concerned Labour will poll poorly on election night, so they’ve decided to run their own campaigns – away from head office and away from the leader.

These MPs have either chosen not to be on the list or they have a low-list spot. They are vulnerable. It’s all or nothing for them.

They must win their seats to return to Parliament; this sort of pressure usually focuses an MP’s mind. They want to be back in Parliament and they want the $150k salary.

I’m talking about West Coast-Tasman MP, Damien O’Connor, Hutt South MP, Trevor Mallard and list MP and Te Tai Tokerau candidate, Kelvin Davis.

Take Davis: yesterday he engaged Labour in its biggest u-turn in years. He told me he supported the Puhoi-Wellsford road project that his party has openly mocked and criticised.

Labour MPs call it the holiday highway; David Cunliffe has campaigned against it. Labour, until yesterday, was going to can the project upon taking office. Who knows where they stand now!

Davis told me people in the north tell him they want the controversial project and so does he.

Further south in Wellington, Trevor Mallard is openly campaigning for the return of the moa – against the wishes of his party and the leadership. It’s a desperate cry for attention: Mallard needs visibility and the moa got him the headlines.

And further south again, Damien O’Connor voted with the Government 10 days ago to allow storm-damaged native trees to be harvested in protected forests.

These three blokes are the outliers in the Labour Caucus. And they are blokes too; they need to make some noise to be heard. They clearly have issues with the tame approach within their caucus.

They want to stand out and stand for something that their electorates want (not sure that Hutt South really wants the moa back, though!).

O’Connor and Davis certainly look in touch with middle New Zealand, their electorates and their issues. They have given the one-fingered salute to their struggling party and put self-preservation first.

Who can blame them?

Duncan Garner hosts RadioLIVE Drive. Tune in weekdays from 3pm for the best political analysis and news as it happens

source: data archive