Even wet leftie Vernon Small calls Labour out for by-election bribe


When Vernon Small is against Labour you know they are in terrible trouble.

When Fairfax uses pictures of pigs in the?same article then it is real trouble.

By-elections can be?swine.

National famously made a mess of its campaign in?Northland,?which it?lost to NZ First leader Winston?Peters.

Not only did it give the old tusker a new lease of life, but?one that could mean it will be reliant on him to govern come next year’s election, given his current poll rating.

It also shed a crucial seat putting it that much more at the mercy of its three support parties – ACT, United Future and the Maori Party?- which Peters never tires of calling Kling-ons.

The reasons were complex.

National chose a weak candidate, Labour caved to Peters. And the NZ First leader?sold himself as a protest vote that would allow the disgruntled to poke National in the eye without risking John Key’s prime ministership.

But National also badly misjudged the mood of the struggling region?by promising to upgrade 10 of its one-way bridges.

Voters smelled the unmistakable odour of pork-barrel politics. They asked why the bridges had not been fixed before. The?transparent “generosity” was punished not rewarded.

Pork barrel politics is so unbecoming. It smacks of desperation and desperation is a stinky cologne.

So there?was some irony yesterday when Labour?promised to bring home the bacon for Mt Roskill by fast-tracking a $1.4 billion light rail plan.

Labour leader Andrew Little argued it was not an election bribe, because?he was only promising to bring forward from 2028 a project already on the books. And it would?provide broader benefits to Auckland. The 10 bridges?were very much a Northland thing. But the timing had that familiar?porcine smell.

National’s campaign manager Steven Joyce, who deserves his share of the?blame for the Northland debacle, added to the irony accusing them of taking?”pork barrel politics to a whole new level” – apparently because the cost of the bridges paled beside the $1.4b price tag for light rail.

He also accused them of being “desperate”.

But for both parties there are big issues at stake.

If National pulls off an unlikely win?it can reinstate the old order, prior to Northland, where it would needs but one of its three “Kling-ons” for a majority in the house.

Labour, meanwhile, is looking for a solid win.

It fears a result akin to the Mana by-election in 2010 – a safe seat where on?a low?turnout of 55 per cent Labour nearly made a pig’s ear of it.

Kris Faafoi?eventually saw off Hekia Parata by just?1406 votes.

With one year to run until the general election Labour – and especially Little – will want?to do better than merely?squeaking in on December 3.

Anything less than 5000 votes for Michael Wood is an indictment for Labour and will seriously challenge Andrew Little.


– Fairfax