Although I did hope against hope that Matt McCarten might achieve an unexpected victory in the Mana electorate, in truth it was always going to be a steep hill for Matt to climb to overhaul Labour's 6000 majority.

In the end he got a little over 800 votes which left of us all feeling a little flat.

Matt campaigned well, offered a real alternative to the more of the same neoliberal dross on offer from Labour and National, but still ended up trailing the Green's Jan Logie by some 600 votes.

As an independent candidate with limited resources, Matt was always going to have his work cut for him especially with Labour and National pouring not inconsiderable financial and organisational resources into the electorate.

Matt's campaign would certainly of benefited if it had received some of the resources that the CTU bureaucracy channelled into the mediocre Kris Fa'afoi's campaign. All Matt received from the CTU was some cheap insults from the EPMU's Andrew Little.

It didn't help Matt that some of his campaign workers got into some stuff that was unhelpful - and which was pounced on by a media that is unsympathetic to the left at the best of times.

The skirmish with John Key in a Porirua shopping mall should have been avoided. Similarly leaving out election material on the day of the election allowed the Service and Food Workers Union, another Labour Party ally, to promptly fire off a media release and lay a complaint.

I do recall that during his time in NewLabour and the Alliance, McCarten always emphasised the importance of focus and discipline during an election campaign. Perhaps some of his activists need to take on board the lesson that you are not any less committed to the cause if you simply avoid situations that will not play out well on the six o'clock news bulletins.

Speaking of the media, a special mention must be made of TV3's Patrick Gower. Last seem blaming the workers and the unions for The Hobbit debacle , his distaste for McCarten was particularly evident. He didn't miss an opportunity to paint an unflattering picture of Matt's campaign.

Bearing all of the above in mind, it should also be said that Matt still managed to pull in over 800 votes in the space of three weeks in an electorate, if the extremely low turnout is anything to go by, is rightfully cynical and disillusioned with mainstream parliamentary politics.

But this was a campaign that was never just about votes.

It was also about inserting a genuine left wing voice into the campaign and not allowing Labour, by default. to masquerade as a left wing party.

This is a party that no longer resides in the left wing current and it is a party that has lost the right to speak on behalf of ordinary people.

Labour were left in the uncomfortable position of arguing that a vote for Matt would 'split' the left wing vote while, at the same, pushing a candidate that was offering nothing but more of the neoliberal-inspired policies that we are all painfully familiar with.

The rank hypoctisy was there for all to see and now Labour's 6000 majority has shrunk to just over a 1000.

As political science lecturer Bryce Edwards has observed:

Matt McCarten’s very existence has always been deeply embarrassing for Labour – he embodies everything that the Labour Party lacks: a working class orientation, socialist principles, campaign competency, and leftwing charisma. More than that, he’s a reminder for many Labour MPs and activists that they’re not actually involved in a leftwing, working class party.

Perhaps the principle achievement of Matt's campaign is that exposed Labour as the right wing party that it really is and walked the first steps in building a new left wing alternative in this country.

Ye, it has been tried before with varying degrees of success, but building a new broad party to the left of Labour is an essential step towards the rebirth of a serious anti-capitalist worker’s movement.


  1. "Similarly leaving out election material on the day of the election allowed the Service and Food Workers Union, another Labour Party ally, to promptly fire off a media release and lay a complaint. Thanks for all you're help, Robert Reid."

    I was under the impression that Reid was with the NDU these days - if so what exactly was his involvement in all of this?

    More generally, like you I was disappointed by Matt's result. However I tend to think the low score was the result of the fact that there just doesn't seem to be a big audience for class-based politics in NZ at the moment (though I wish it were otherwise and was fervently hoping that the Mana campaign would prove me wrong!).

    Given the lack of class consciousness among the NZ voting public any attempt to form a new left-wing political party is going to face a hard task gaining traction. Workers are disillusioned with Labour but this is expressed in the form of individual cynicism and apathy/electoral abstention, rather than radicalisation.

    As I say, I really would like to be proved wrong on this but sadly the results of the Mana by-election tend to reinforce rather than contradict my pessimistic view.

  2. Comment on Reid was an error. Corrected. I blame the subeditor myself.

    I take on board your comments which open up a big area of discussion.

    I'd just say that while class-based politics might have declined both here and other western democracies it does mean it is absent. Immediate interests have to defended and an alternative promoted.

    I guess I'm saying that we can't just hope for a working class upsurge and the near spontaneous appearance of a broad left alternative.

    But, undoubtedly, rebuilding working class combativity and organisation will not be easy.

  3. Matt employed multiple people to work fulltime for his campaign, so while he may not have had as much money as the Nat or Lab candidates, it appears certain he spent far more than the Greens did, so to suggest his campaign was underfunded is a fair bit of a stretch.

    Speaking of which, where did the money come from for this? If it came from Unite, that's a really poor use of money that came from low-paid workers' dues from all around the country.

    Also Steve, your call for a new anti-capitalist party (which I don't agree with, but that's besides the point) is not the same thing as calling for Matt to start a new party - Matt isn't an anti-capitalist by any stretch of the imagination, simply a social-democrat in an era where social democracy is dead.

  4. I haven't said we need a new and explicitly anti-capitalist party but rather a broad left party of a new type that doesn't reference itself to the social democratic tradition. See last paragraph of post.

    I agree that Matt is not anti-capitalist - and I have never said that anyway. But he is explicitly left wing and has remained consistently so throughout the years - while other left social democrats have sold out to the right wing politics of the Labour Party. Fair point about him being a traditional social democrat in an age where the social democratic project has collapsed.

    Certainly Matt's politics have never been about careerism. If that was the case I'm sure, given his undoubted abilities, he would of found himself a nice comfortable job in the Labour Party somewhere.


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