Cunliffe seen 'absolutely open' to Harre, Harawira proposal to kneecap Davis
"Kelvin Davis is about to get thrown under the bus by his leader. Should be angry as hell"Featured comment
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Less than a day back in politics, Laila Harre is showing she hasn't lost her strategic touch. Yesterday, she focussed on wiping student loans, giving her a point of connection with the large pool of Generation Y non-voters so coveted by Kim Dotcom. Now the newly-crowned Internet Party leader is pushing hard for a pact with Labour over Internet Mana's sole electorate.
Ms Harre and Mr Harawira have both been on RNZ calling on Labour to make a “strategic decision” about Te Tai Tokerau — unsubtle code for high-polling Labour candidate Kelvin Davis to stand aside.
Asked whether Labour should throw the Northland seat, Mr Harre said, "I would be very surprised if Labour wasn't thinking very carefully about the strategic opportunity that this alliance provides, and the opportunity it provides to ensure that Internet Party supporters, who are growing in number, are able to cast a valid vote against the current government."
And Labour leader David Cunliffe will be “absolutely” open to such a deal to ensure Mana leader Hone Harawira holds the Maori seat, political commentator Bryce Edwards says.
A pragmatic Mr Cunliffe is looking for the best options for defeating National, and “Labour’s got a head of staff (Matt McCarten) who’s incredibly strategic but also sympathetic to Mana and Laila Harre,” the Otago University lecturer and Politics Daily commentator tells NBR.
McCarten and Harre were close when both worked for The Alliance. Their connection underlines that Internet Party CEO and recruiter Vikram Kumar made a savvy pick with the ex-Alliance MP.
The Internet Mana Party’s success hinges on Mr Harawira holding Te Tai Tokerau, which would allow other IMP MPs to come in on his coat-tails even if the party gets under 5% of the vote, thereby expanding the overall left wing presence in Parliament.
A TVNZ poll in October found Labour challenger Kelvin Davis with a slim lead.
Mr Davis has challenged Mr Harawira three times in Te Tai Tokerau: in 2008, and twice in 2011 (at the byelection after Mr Harawira defected from the Maori Party, and the general election).
Each time, the former school principal has trimmed Mr Harawira’s lead. At the last election, the Mana leader squeaked in by just over 1000 votes (Mr Davis is currently in Parliament by dint of being first-drop on Labour's list. He replaced Shane Jones after his resignation).
This morning, Mr Davis called the Internet Party a “scam to get votes” and “selfish” and said it had a “whakapapa that’s about 10 minutes long” in Te Tai Tokerau.
The Labour Party had been formed by strong men on the West Coast, he said. He had played rugby until he was 40, and had never gone onto the field with the aim of coming second.
But while Mr Davis is 100% committed to fighting hard in the electorate, and pouring scorn on IMP, Dr Edwards says “Labour will be seriously considering their options.”
“If it will ultimately help to form a Labour-led government, the party is very likely to make a strategic decision to kneecap Kelvin Davis, or pull back on campaigning in Te Tai Tokerau … it will be extraordinary if Labour fights hard.”
It will be a pragmatic decision, Dr Edwards says. Mr Cunliffe cares more about winning the general election than Calvin Davis’s feelings.
“The worst case scenario [for Labour] would be for Internet Mana to get 3 or 4% of the vote but lose its electorate seat,” Dr Edwards says.
“That would be a spectacular own-goal for Labour,” given the 3 or 4% would effectively be a wasted vote for the left.
“It would be electoral suicide for Kelvin Davis to win that seat,” Dr Edwards says.
But couldn’t Labour face a back-lash from middle New Zealand if it’s seen to be doing a deal with the maverick Hone Harawira and accused-pirate Kim Dotcom.
“That’s the huge danger,” Dr Edwards says.
“Cunliffe will be stepping very carefully, but he will be trying to find a way to ensure Te Tai Tokerau will be safe for the Internet Party while not feeding the growing cycnicism about so-called MMP dirty deals.”
Deals upon deals
Dr Edwards notes that Labour already has big MMP strategic decision on its hands, whether to effectively withdraw in Wairiki, too — the electorate held by Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell.
"That's probably more critical. That decision could wipe out the Maori Party."
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