Courting Waitakere Man: Has John Tamihere got Winston Peters’ phone number?

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THE FUTURE of John Key’s government may turn on whether or not John Tamihere joins forces with Winston Peters. Yes, that’s right, the original “Waitakere Man” is seriously considering a tilt against Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, in the West Auckland seat of Waitakere.

 

But, if Tamihere (JT) runs, it won’t be in Labour red. Though the party eventually agreed to accept his 2012 membership application, the word in Labour circles is that a Tamihere candidacy in Waitakere would be approved only over the dead bodies of the party’s women’s and LGBTI sector groups.

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That the very attitudes and values that produce such an allergic reaction among Labour’s social liberals and identity politicians might also be the attitudes and values of the average Waitakere voter, is as neat a summation of Labour’s dilemma as one is likely to find in the topsy-turvy context of contemporary electoral politics.

 

It certainly explains why Paula Bennett continues to hold the Waitakere seat. Oozing BBW sex-appeal in her flashy bling and trashy leopard-skin-print coat, National’s most famous former solo-mum and welfare beneficiary actually looks and sounds like the candidate Labour would once have counted itself extremely lucky to find.

 

Not any more. To the “modern social democracy” of 2013, the Bennetts and Tamiheres of this world have all the appeal of cheap perfume and Brut 33 aftershave.

 

What Labour is forgetting, however, is that “modern social democracy” is very far from being the only game in town. Quite apart from the nasty mixture of fiscal conservatism, neoliberal laissez-faire and suburban vigilantism that National has become under John Key’s leadership, there’s the Green’s chic ecologism and Winston Peters’ socially conservative but economically radical populism.

 

It is to this latter ideological confection that JT is now turning his attention.

 

Social conservatism wedded to economic radicalism is, of course, the most succinct description of the Labour Party that grew out of the Irish Catholic, Welsh Methodist, Scotch Presbyterian, Salvation Army, Ratana and trade-union mediated communities of the New Zealand working-class. And, while the religious overlay of the first three quarters of the Twentieth Century has faded away to almost nothing, its social and moral legacy persists to a degree that is all-too-often under-rated by the denizens of “modern social democracy”.

 

JT, both as a working-class Maori male, and through his dedication to the Waipareira Trust, speaks directly to the working-class communitarian values of familial solidarity, mutual assistance and collective effort with an authenticity that today’s social liberal Labour candidates find it increasingly difficult to carry off with any degree of conviction.

 

Which cannot be said of Winston Peters and his NZ First Party. Social conservatism, blended with a communitarian ethos, which has, over the 20 years of NZ First’s existence, swung violently between a left- and right-wing emphasis, is what Peters’ party is mostly about. It’s why between 1993 and 2013 he has been able to recruit candidates from the subscription lists of both the NZ Political Review andInvestigate magazine.

 

But, if JT is seriously considering NZ First, is NZ First seriously considering JT? That has yet to be established. Peters is notorious for playing his political cards extremely close to his chest. But looking to 2014, why wouldn’t he be interested in a chap like JT?

 

NZ First has never been so popular than in those election years (e.g. 1996) in which Peters gave a more-or-less free rein to his left-wing communitarians. By recruiting JT to the NZ First cause and putting him up in Waitakere against both Paula Bennett and whoever Labour chooses (probably Carmel Sepuloni) Peters could grow the overall NZ First Party Vote by as much as 2-3 percent. On election night that could mean a NZ First tally of 8-10 percent – rather than the 6-8 percent it is currently anticipating.

 

John Key could not be indifferent to the prospect of a NZ First ticket capable of stripping 2-3 percentage points off Labour’s Party Vote. It would, almost certainly, make the formation of a Labour-Green coalition impossible. (To the enormous relief of Big Business and the Right generally!)

 

National would, of course, have to moderate the pace of its right-wing “reforms”. But the prospect of a steady-as-she-goes National-NZ First Coalition might be just what otherwise doubtful National supporters are looking for. National unrestrained (except by Peter Dunne!) is a scary enough proposition to see the former Labour voters in National’s camp packing up and heading home – even if it means putting up with the Greens. But a National Government moderated by NZ First, and a Cabinet which included JT as well as Paula Bennett? Now, that would be something else again.

 

Could JT do it – win Waitakere?

 

In a straightforward three-way, FPP-rules, contest (four-way if the Greens stayed in) a candidate could claim victory with as little as 30-35 percent of the vote. That’s doable for NZ First – especially if you give Waitakere voters the additional incentive of providing the Government’s putative partner with a secure electorate base. It would be even more doable if John Key tipped Waitakere men and women the wink, that a vote for JT could save New Zealand from the “Devil Beast” of a “radical, far-Left”, Labour-Green Coalition.

 

With Paula high up on National’s List, Waitakere could go for a twofer!

 

Certainly something for John Tamihere, Winston Peters and John Key to think about.

15 COMMENTS

  1. “Oozing BBW sex-appeal in her flashy bling and trashy leopard-skin-print coat”

    Seriously mo-bro? You could have probably managed this article without sounding so much like a sleazy leach.

  2. “…that a Tamihere candidacy in Waitakere would be approved only over the dead bodies of the party’s women’s and LGBTI sector groups.”

    At this rate, those are the only people who might still vote for Labour. The only real way for working people to get their party back from the identity politicians is to stay home next year.

  3. I begin by reminding you that back in the day, Norm Kirk won an election with both urban liberals and conservative socialists cheering him all the way.

    What has changed since then is the introduction of neo-liberal economics, about which I shall make two assumptions. (1) That those holding to neo-liberal agenda are for the most part reluctant to declare themselves and argue their corner. (2) That the core aim of the neo-liberal agenda is to funnel wealth upwards and outwards, and quash any obstacles that stand in the way. You cannot wholly adhere to this agenda and at the same represent a large part of the Labour constituency, whose rights and conditions are the kind obstacles that neo-liberals seek to quash.

    Those within the Labour party who accepted the neo-liberal agenda initially hid behind the skirts of liberalism, and some gains were made in that area while losses were being made in other areas; the legalisation of homosexuality and the rejection of nuclear ships in our points were standout gains at a time when assets were being sold and workers’ conditions eroded.

    Then, after Helen Clark lost an election, the neo-liberals sought a new hiding place, inside the toolbox of the Waitakere man. The last round of leadership speculation very likely arose from tensions within that relationship, either because of the polls or because the actual Waitakere men have woken up to their differing agendas.

    We cannot escape neo-liberalism so long as it remains dominant, but we can defend New Zealanders against its excesses. If the neo-liberals of the Labour party could be muzzled, the other groups I am sure could work together toward that end. However, too many people love Carmel Sepuloni to readily allow John Tamihere to stand for Labour in Waitakere.

    • Then, after Helen Clark lost an election, the neo-liberals sought a new hiding place, inside the toolbox of the Waitakere man. The last round of leadership speculation very likely arose from tensions within that relationship, either because of the polls or because the actual Waitakere men have woken up to their differing agendas.

      Yeah right.

      Labour is supposed to represent the interests of working people and the economically marginalised. It now defers those interests in favour of the interests of the liberal middle class time after time. It’s no surprise that people look elsewhere or stay at home.

    • The typo’s I’ve neglected! That was meant to be the “legalisation” of homosexuality” and “nuclear ships in our ports.” Sorry guys.

  4. Of the two Tamiheres, I prefer David. As for this: “Oozing BBW sex-appeal in her flashy bling and trashy leopard-skin-print coat, National’s most famous former solo-mum and welfare beneficiary actually looks and sounds like the candidate Labour would once have counted itself extremely lucky to find,” words fail me. Maybe Douglas and Prebble would have counted themselves lucky to find her, but as for sounding like a Labour candidate? Jesus wept.

  5. as I read more, I’m wondering whether you actually got out that much:

    “Winston Peters’ socially conservative but economically radical populism.”

    Peters was never ACTUALLY that socially conservative – it was more a kind of “I’m so straight/homophobic” perception he portrayed, but ever willing to frequent Courtenay Place bars and come across as socially liberal.
    No no no Chris! Where were you hiding?

    You’ve got a bloody good handle on what Labour should, and USED to be, but sometimes I wonder. You don’t happen to be a lapsed Catholic do you?

  6. Tamihere stood for the Mayor of Waitakere City and lost. If he stands for NZ First, he’ll probably just split the anti-Bennett vote.

    Carmen Sepuloni came very close to unseating Bennett last time.

    It seems to me the current leadership of parliamentary Labour is both “neoliberal” and “masculine”-dominated.

    The original Labour Party was largely white heterosexual, male dominated, but that was back then – it’s not a reason to return to something tat limited its democratic reach.

    And it’s time to ditch the “identity politics” label . It’s disparaging and misleading, and makes it sound like a nice-to-have.. It was used by social conservatives in a backlash against feminist, black, LGBTI, etc gains. The politics developed in a challenge to oppression and disadvantage – just as working class politics did. Such movements aimed/aim to extend democratic process for all,

    More accurate terms terms would be – politics of (to end) oppression, politics of disadvantage, politics of privilege.

  7. ” That the very attitudes and values that produce such an allergic reaction among Labour’s social liberals and identity politicians might also be the attitudes and values of the average Waitakere voter, is as neat a summation of Labour’s dilemma as one is likely to find in the topsy-turvy context of contemporary electoral politics.

    It certainly explains why Paula Bennett continues to hold the Waitakere seat.”

    No it doesn’t. The reason that Bennett holds Waitakere instead of Sepuloni is because the GP stood a candidate in that electorate, and GP voters gave their electorate vote to Steve Tollestrup. Mana can take some responsibility too for standing Bradford. If you count the left vote as a block and the GP and Mana didn’t stand, then Bennet would have lost by 2,000 votes instead of winning by 9.

    Now I’m sure you are aware of all that Chris, which then begs the question of why you would choose to run the Waitakere Man myth at this time.

    • weka: the question of why you would choose to run the Waitakere Man myth at this time.

      The “Waitakere Man” label is an interesting one – isn’t that politics via an identity label? Why is that not called “identity politics”?

      And as someone who has lived for over a decade in the old Waitakere City area, I struggle to understand the relevance of this label.

      • I agree Karol. I’m tempted to call Waitakere Man a very obvious example of identity politics, except with other so called identity politics you have actual people from those groups organising around the politics. Maybe I move in the wrong circles, but every time I hear about WM, it’s from people commenting largely from the outside of the group it’s meant to be talking about.

  8. Hmmm, can we not redraw the electorate borders and cut up that “Waitakere Bushman” corner, so it will be little bits of it as part of other electorates, basically thus neutering that distant relative and modern version of “Neanderthal Man”?

    Now that would be a solution, and we would not have to even entertain such thoughts about one Tamihere getting voted in this way, as Chris is bringing up here, nor would we need to entertain any frightening thoughts of that leopard skin clad female version of the same breed of human species getting voted in through an electorate again.

    All in all, if things remain as they are, it does not look good for Labour, and Winston seems to again have all the trumps up his sleeves, and is laughing.

    Who actually cares about the future of this country, I dare to ask, with all these personality speculations and individual political strategies and schemes???

Comments are closed.