Under MMP it’s the party vote that counts.
That’s the one which determines how may seats a party gets and ultimately which parties are in government.
That’s the message parties try to give to voters and it’s the one their MPs are supposed to give too.
But Duncan Garner has noticed that at least three Labour MPs are giving a very good indication that they’re a lot more interested in staying in parliament than helping their party get into government.
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.
Mallard either turned down the list spot he was offered or chose not to go on it. O’Connor and Davis will need Labour to get more support than it’s had in recent polls to get a list seat.
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.
The rest of Labour don’t understand how important this road is to the people of Northland and how insulting it is to them to refer to it as a holiday highway.
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.
That this is the best idea he can come up with to get attention speaks volumes about him and the elvel of desperation to which he’s sunk.
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.
That supposedly showed his strength but it also showed he’s incapable of getting his party to see sense.
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?
Their colleagues and the volunteers in the party who are still working to stem the slipping in support which threatens to turn into a landslide will blame them.
If they can’t persuade all their MPs it’s the party vote that counts, how can they hope to persuade voters?