What will Labour do in Te Tai Tokerau?

Labour’s candidate in the seat of Te Tai Tokerau is Kelvin Davis. He was briefly a list MP between 2008 and 2011, before disappearing in Labour’s 2011 election wipeout thanks to his low list placing. Now, of course, with Shane Jones exiting stage right, Mr Davis will take up the soon-to-be-vacant list position.

Mr Davis has undoubtedly learned that one cannot trust the vagaries of a list position if one wants to be certain of a future in national politics. He will want to win Te Tai Tokerau. And he’s been making a good fist of it, cutting Hone Harawira’s majority from over 6,000 in 2008 to just 1,165 in 2011. It would require a swing to Labour of just over 6%, but that’s entirely possible if either Harawira’s personal vote takes a hit due to his flirtations with Kim Dotcom or if the Maori party gives the nod to its voters to support Davis (the Maori party candidate in 2011, Waihoroi Shortland got 3,114 votes).

The question is, will Labour want him to win?

The problem for Labour is whether the Left bloc can get hold of enough votes to consign National to the opposition benches. Last election, the Mana party received 1.08% of the vote. It’s currently sitting on just 0.5% in this blog’s Poll of Polls, but the party will have taken heart from the last Roy Morgan and TV3 Reid Research polls, which had Mana at 1.0% and 1.1% respectively. If the “Mana Dotcom” alliance takes place and the Internet Party can drag in another 1% (not impossible, given that the last Roy Morgan poll had the Internet Party on 1%), then Labour have a conundrum. Do they try and take back Te Tai Tokerau, thereby tipping Harawira and the Mana party out of parliament, and risk falling short of a governing majority due to the increase in the wasted vote?

Mr Davis’ campaign manager, Kaye Taylor, certainly hasn’t been going easy on Hone Harawira, going by this reporting in the NZ Herald:

But Davis’ campaign manager Kaye Taylor says they won’t be rolling over to let Harawira into Parliament, more Mana Party MPs on his coat-tails, and the Internet Party candidates trailing behind them. “Look at Hone’s history,” she exclaims. “He’s had the visit to the great leader Nelson Mandela’s funeral and walked with Aborigines in Australia. But that’s not who votes him in. In past elections we played the nice opposition and haven’t said anything about his past record. Now enough is enough. We need someone who can do the hard yards.”

If such attacks continue, we’ll know that Labour see Harawira (and either his Mana Party or a Mana / Internet Party alliance) as too much of a potential liability. If Mr Davis and Ms Taylor start playing nice, we’ll know that Labour is worried that they’ll need Harawira and whatever other misfits he’s able to drag in to Parliament with him. And if Davis gets given the order to go easy, Labour had better have made sure that he’s been given a good list position…

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