Brian Edwards Media

Mt Albert Musings

In his column in today’s Sunday Herald Matt McCarten accuses Labour Leader Phil Goff and the Labour Party hierarchy of ‘a stunning display of political cowardice’ for having ‘kneecapped’ list MP Phil Twyford in his bid to be selected as Labour candidate in the Mt Albert by-election.

McCarten’s argument is that Labour bosses were so fearful of a return to Parliament by Judith Tizard that they persuaded Twyford to fall on his sword, possibly with the promise of the Auckland Central nomination in 2011. With the departure of Helen Clark, I no longer have the inside gen on the Labour Party, but McCarten’s thesis at least sounds plausible.

Labour’s handling of this issue, more than ably assisted not merely by the right-wing press and bloggers, but by the media at large, has been less than pretty. Tizard must have been reluctant to open a newspaper, listen to the radio or turn on her television set over the past few weeks, so venomous has the comment been about her.

Meanwhile the media, and seemingly the party hierarchy, appear to have anointed UN diplomat David Shearer as Labour’s candidate for the seat. It’s a strategy that may well backfire. Shearer’s abilities are not in question; he might well make a first class MP. But local electorate organisations don’t like being presented with a fait accompli where candidate selection is concerned and may well rebel.  I’ve had some experience of this myself.

Norman Kirk was firmly opposed to my selection as Labour candidate for Miramar in 1972. I had committed the twin sins of being a television personality and an academic. The party hierarchy were well aware of the boss’s views and there was strong resistance from Head Office to my candidacy. The effect was merely to make the local electorate people more determined and I won the nomination.

[As it turned out, Kirk was right.  The ’72 election produced a Labour landslide, but the candidate for Miramar failed to win the seat.]

Seven votes will decide who wins the Labour nomination for Mount Albert – four from the electorate and three from Head Office. If I were one of those four, I might well be starting to feel somewhat disgruntled around now. Whether it is reality or not, the perception is that that the old boy network is at play here. A close friend and former advisor to Phil Goff, who has been out of the country for three years and does not in any real sense live in the electorate, has jetted home to be dubbed ‘frontrunner’ in the race before even getting off the plane. There are veiled suggestions of carpetbagging. None of this may actually be the case, but it is certainly how it looks. And in politics how things look is everything.

At another level, what Labour now needs more than anything is rejuvenation. Shearer will be new to Parliament certainly, but his age and close association with the Labour establishment do not really suggest an infusion of fresh ideas. And with the announcement that Russel Norman will stand for the Greens, rejuvenation and new ideas have become an urgent priority.

I should declare that Judy and I have both offered 24-year-old Meg Bates our support in her attempt to win the nomination. Meg has been one of Judy’s tutors in Political Studies at Auckland and we have got to know her very well.  If she doesn’t win the nomination, we’ll be delighted to support whoever does.

But get to know Meg and you realise that you may well be looking at a Helen Clark in the making. If she were to win Mount Albert, the very real possibility would  exist that only four MPs will hold the seat in a hundred years.

Now that would be something!



  1. I do not think it is as simple as McCarten presents. Firstly there are a number of good local candidates, at least 5, and all other things being equal a local should be preferred. Meg Bates is one of those. I suspect it is not her time this time but I am sure that she will make Parliament.

    Secondly, you are perfectly right, the selection process is not decreed from on high, local organisations and a floor vote by local members also count. Mount Albert is the strongest electorate organisation in the Country and if it makes it’s collective mind to support someone then they will be the candidate.

    I am aware that some of the thinking is that a well organised Auckland Central ought to be on most occasions a safe Labour seat. With a strong local organisation it can be this. Twyford is the ideal person to energise the local organisation and regain the seat, similar to what David Cunliffe has done in New Lynn.

    The right can paint it to be an anti Judith Tizard thing but to be frank I always thought that the bile thrown at her was not deserved. She may not have been the most astute or dynamic of MPs but the same can be said about 80 % of the current inhabitants of Parliament.

    • Quite agree that there are a number of good Labour candidates for the seat. Meg is very young and that may weigh against her, but she is also quite an exceptional person and her background makes her an ideal candidate for Mt Albert.

  2. While I’m sure Meg is a lovely person – what is Labour’s fascination with political studies academics, surely someone with a bit more life experience would be a useful addition to the Labour team ?

    • Well, if you want ‘life experience’ you have to have someone probably middle-aged at least. There’s general agreement that the Labour party needs rejuvenation. The word actually means to ‘restore to youth’. (Sorry, my academic background!) The idea that academics all live in ivory towers is also a bit old hat. They’re really no different to the rest of us. Unless, of course, you think that teaching, compared say to panelbeating or being an accountant, doesn’t constitute ‘life experience’. I think there may be a bit of a prejudice here.

  3. When people talk of how academia isn’t considered ‘real life experience’ it irks me too. As if teaching adults doesn’t count. I wonder if the comment would extend to secondary teachers, i would doubt it. Its simple anti-intellectualism, something New Zealanders are extremely well versed in.

  4. Brian
    Congratulations on finding Meg Bates. Looking at her website she looks like another Clark in the making.

  5. There are two factors here that a lot of people are overlooking.
    1. The Tizard matter has really been a blogoshpere thing. If ever proof was needed that blogging has come of age, labours panic over Tizard is proof. Personally Im pretty happy with the effect – its nothing to do with Tizard, but more to do with the fact that the mainstream media has missed the bus when it comes to public attitude influence. Mainstream is now pretty much limited to negative influence (eg: swine flu – its all panic, panic, panic). I think we are going to see a lot more from the blogs – some will be good, but some will be bad – but the thing that is sure is that it will be different.

    2. Academic candidates. The propblem here is that the labour parlimentary party is full of them. When people talk about people with ‘real’ jobs, what they meanis this. Academic people often live their lives in a world of theories and experiments. When a thoery or experiment falls out of favour(theory) or is wrong (experiment) then there are invariably no consequences. In fact its often regarded that a failed experiment is progress. Some of the biggest challenges that Academia face is when an accepted theory goes wrong – the academic just cant accept the result. eg: Labour are still of the opinion that it was the electorate that is at fault over the last election result – not the party.

    Now – some one with a ‘real’ job would have immediately known that when the electorate kicks you out – it is your fault. They know this from the consequences from their life experience. They learned long ago that failed experiments cost them money, time and resources. They know that when you annoy a customer (or voter) that its very hard to get them back. A real job is one where its your money and its your effort thats at risk. In Academia its not your money thats at at risk. Its this aspect that Academia do not understand.

    • Well, you may be right about blogs. But your comments about academics are way off the mark. You’re primarily referring to the science disciplines, including medicine, where a negative result is still a result and contributes to our understanding and knowledge. When the result of reseach in these fields is positive, everyone in what you call ‘the real world’ benefits. Every new medical treatment, every new drug is the result of multiple failures, followed finally by a positive outcome.

      But the fact is that most academics combine research (sometimes obscure and of no evident practical value) with teaching. They are teachers. Every time you consult any professional (lawyer, doctor, architect, accountant, vet, dentist…) you are dealing with someone who was trained by academics. So there’s a direct connection between you and those academics.

      As to being in the real world, academics probably come into contact with more people in the course of their work than you, me of anyone else in ‘the real world’. They’re dealing with tens of thousands of other people over a career. And those contacts are with students, young people with young ideas. It’s hard to think of anything that could keep your mind more refreshed or your feet more firmly on the ground. Whether the same happens in business or trade is open to question.

  6. Brian,
    Let’s not beat around the bush – you are being terribly disingenuous to expect anyone to believe you don’t have inside gen on the Labour Party. Just because Helen Clark has left our shores doesn’t mean that 20 odd years of contacts have left with her. No, you’ll be just as in the know as ever.

    And this shows itself in your work with the nominee Meg Bates where your support appears to go beyond simply providing media training to using your blog to undermine some of the other candidates, particularly the very able David Shearer. Your blog has the desperate air of John Key on TV3 last night who it seems, felt compelled to comment on the strong showing of this nominee. Fearful, one might even suggest.

    And to bolster your support of Ms Bates and further undermine any nominee over 25 yrs of age, you selectively define rejuvenation. But another definition of this word is to restore vitality. Just as experience doesn’t necessarily exclude youth, rejuvenation doesn’t necessarily have to focus on it either.

    The Party needs to restore vitality and this, coupled with broad experience especially in relating to the powerful as well as the disempowered, appears to be on offer from Mr Shearer, in spades. Add to that his ability to show commitment in the face of adversity, stickability and being able to see a cause through to completion, and you have a strong nominee, one that John Key should be worried about.

    Don’t let support for a nice candidate blind you to the abilities on offer from the present line up.

    • Can’t say I care much for your tone, Kev. And if you really don’t want to ‘beat around the bush’, why not just call me a liar and be done with it, instead of this ‘terribly disingenuous’ bullshit. I said I have no inside gen on the Labour Party and I have no inside gen on the Labour Party. End of story.

      For the record, I’ve no doubt David Shearer would make an excellent MP and would be an asset to the party. The same could almost certainly be said of several other potential candidates. But I prefer Meg, not least because I think Labour would be better off with a bright young woman than with another middle-aged man. And I quite like the idea that she was born and bred in Mt Albert and has been involved in Labour politics there for as long as anyone can remember.

      But in the end I’m just a commentator expressing a view. It’s not my electorate and I’m not a member of the Labour Party – or any party. Hardly worth getting your knickers in a twist about!

  7. Could you be any more precious Kev?

  8. Hello again Brian and thanks for not holding back!

    you’re at it again, being disingenuous or maybe humble, I don’t know, but you are not JUST a commentator, but maybe one of the most well known commentators on the left.

    You also know the power of words and “middle-aged man” is loaded yet again against one of the candidates. However that candidate has shown his metal and that he can stand up to fierce opponents, a strength we hope to see in Parliament. Obviously Key is concerned enough to try to knee-cap him even before the selection is made.

    By contrast, the person you prefer has, as far as can be ascertained, no experience of the cut and thrust required in politics today and it has to be asked, when the going gets tough, how will she react under pressure?

    ps, the underpants situation appears to be fine here…must be at your end.

  9. Yes, Red Horse, I can if you want me to be!

  10. Re: “And in politics how things look is everything.”

    Just a small thought… I finally saw Phil(in), on tele erecting signs the other night and he wasn’t, repeat wasn’t wearing a shirt&tie.

    Being a cynic I then noted that the weather possibly had more to do with his choice of attire than the practicalities of a morning of physical “labour” with the people.

  11. Actually Brian, I’m not.

    However I did wonder why the use of loaded language. It’s fine to support or prefer someone without using loaded terms to slight the other.

    Personally I think Meg is a fine candidate albeit one in need of experience. She needs more than the ability in front of the camera which can come across as superficial.

    Perhaps, as Helen Clark said in her valedictory, it would be better (character building) to stand in a seat you’d have trouble winning than to go for a safe seat. She potentially has a long career in parliament and could do with some toughening up to so as to be able to last the race and really make the difference. Frankly she’s not ready.

  12. Quite right Kev. We shouldn’t let anyone near parliament unitl they’re burnt-out, embittered has-beens.
    Anything more and we’d run the risk of seeing real change. Thank goodness these decisions aren’t made on the basis of talent.

  13. Hi Brian, sorry I’ve only just come across this now. I agree with your assessment and as someone who was at the Q and A last weekend it was clear that Bates was not only the best performer, but she seemed to be the only one who knew what she ws talking about and was able to connect with the audience. Her answers were sound and well informed.
    Kevin I don’t know what you are on about. Shearer has definitely had plenty of experience at losing elections, a quality you seem to value so highly. But his answers were hopeless. What’s worse, someone I spoke to there said Shearer reminded him of Richard Northey, only less interesting.

  14. Not fair, Falefono! Ok Meg was head and shoulders above the other speakers, but to compare David Shearer to Richard Northey is just cruel. He was disappointing, yes, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and putting it down to jet lag.

  15. Where are you at Alia? Are you one a journo from TV1 or 3? You’re makijng things up! The candidates are good and none are embittered has beens.

    And Falefone, David Shearer has gone down the road Helen Clark recommends…stand in an unwinable seat and learn from it. You really know little about what happened in Whangarei do you? He might have lost but Labour performed better there with him standing than they had ever done before. He’s also shown stickability. He’s not stood for something and then quit half way thru his term. Do some background checking before you start rabbiting on.

    Yes Sarah, I agree re the jetlag and believe we’ve yet to see the best.

  16. Hope so, Kev, because if he can’t do the business tomorrow it’ll be a big embarrassment for head office. I can’t work out why Goff didn’t wait until 2011 and then give him a safe list seat.

    By the way, I still think Meg is our girl!

  17. Hello guys….
    reading the comments above leaves me smiling and shaking my head. Reality check time for you Brian.
    There is no way in the world Labour will retain this seat. For one look at the Polls for another look at Helen Clarks performance as leader and the recent election result. Her hubby Peter said She was stunned by the size of the rejection vote and took 3 weeks to get over it.Party machinations, carpetbagger candidates,etc will have nothing to do with the Mt Albert by election result on the day. The outcome will be the net result of Helens last terms performance.
    check out my website

    • Dream on, Stan. Labour will hold Mt. Albert. And, by the way, Peter did not say Helen took 3 weeks to get over Labour’s defeat.

  18. Stan,
    your a complete idiot!

  19. Hullo BE,
    look back in the herald, interview with Peter….
    Dream on, Stan. Labour will hold Mt. Albert. And, by the way, Peter did not say Helen took 3 weeks to get over Labour’s defeat.
    Her hubby Peter said She was stunned by the size of the rejection vote and took 3 weeks to get over it.
    By the way…. Brian Edwards also said on Radio NZ
    last year that he would quit NZ if Labour lost the elections.
    Hulloo Brian…Are you going to honour this PROMISE?
    I dont think so!. Now Steve who is the real idiot?
    Labour will lose Mt Albert.
    Go check out my website
    It has more foot traffic than Linda Prentice has at the standard.

    • Hullo Stan. I did not say I would leave New Zealand if Labour lost the election. I told Jim Mora that New Zealand had become such a punishing society that for the first time in 45 years I felt like leaving. Had a look at your cartoons, Stan. Ugh!

  20. Wee Brian,
    Bob Harvey had a laugh at some of them!
    Thought yo guys used to dress up Helen whilst H2
    used to give you a hard time!

  21. Brian,
    Lots of other people liked the cartoons as after the bogsite “whale oil” which incidentally has the highest readership in NZ this was one of the most popular and certainly one of many opinion shapers prior to the last election. Like the current Labour party,Brian you dont seem to grasp what the average mainstream NZ voter is thinking.For my money probably one of the few real assets Labour has at present is Annette King.
    Its always OK to muse….but “ant rooting” is futile.
    Hey at least Bob Harvey has a sense of humour!

  22. Thanks for indulging me Brian.
    Let me add I think your blog site is very good.
    I will also add that I find Peter Davis a real gentleman when it comes to exchanging opposing political views, same with Annette King. But there still some old labour lags like lynne Prentice at the Standard who are locked in the wharfie union mentality. By the way, Hows Biz?
    Also, I bet you are delighted that Simpson has gone. Bob used to tell me of the drama’s she used to give you guys.
    very best

    • No problem, Stan. Actually I got on pretty well with H2. Could be tough but a great sense of humour.

  23. 23

    I agree that David Shearer is every bit as good as Richard Northey