by Don Franks
On March 28th, year 193AD, Roman Emperor Pertinax was assassinated by Praetorian Guards. Who then put the throne up for sale, won by the highest bidder, one Didius Julianus.
Northland’s March 28 by-election is shaping up to a similar level of horse trading.
The by-election was prompted by the resignation of Northland MP Mike Sabin, who’d won the seat for National with a majority of more than 9,000 at the September general election.
The ballot paper for the by-election shows eleven candidates, but all eyes are on just one of them – NZ First’s Winston Peters.
This is because on current polling Peters is in a strong position to take the seat off National, thus removing their majority in the House.
Such a removal of National’s majority is seen as a plus for the Parliamentary opposition. It puts National in a difficult position, having to negotiate across the House for every Bill.
Over-reverence for parliament among New Zealand leftists means a dig at National is worth almost any compromise. Even unprincipled compromise.
In some unexpected quarters, support for Winston Peters is strong. Even among unionists and other progressives. Even some veterans of the revolutionary socialist movement have expressed enthusiasm for Peters.
Some of this enthusiasm is down to Peters’ long standing criticism of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
A typical example is the NZ First press release of Thursday, June 14, 2012:
“New Zealand First is calling on the Government to put on hold the TPPA and ask New Zealanders what they think about handing over our sovereignty to foreign-owned companies.
“If National just blunders ahead and signs up to the agreement it will throw our whole law making process into turmoil.
“This – like the sale of our state-owned assets – is yet another move by John Key to put our country into the hands of his big business chums from overseas,” says Mr Peters.
Populist ranting against nasty foreign companies who might jeopardise “our” sovereignty and “our law making process” is very old stuff. Old empty stuff, political hot air with absolutely nothing in it for the working class. Practical workers’ solidarity has zero space for “our sovereignty” or “our laws”.
Yet nationalist ranting still continues to resonate in some quarters. As does Winston Peters’ crude and appalling anti-Asian racism, unmatched by any other New Zealand politician for over a generation.
“There is a significant percentage of Asians in Auckland. That’s my view. If you don’t like it, vote for another party and let race relations go into chaos.” – Peters, in 2005.
“We have now reached the point where you can wander down Queen Street in Auckland and wonder if you are still in New Zealand or some other country.” – Peters announcing “flying squads” to search for potentially risky immigrants.
“The government’s lax immigration laws are changing the face of our country forever. At this rate, it won’t take long for New Zealand to be unrecognisable.” – In a statement headlined “New Zealand — The Last Asian Colony”.
“We are being dragged into the status of an Asian colony and it is time that New Zealanders were placed first in their own country.” – In July 2004, following a government decision to increase the number of new migrants in the coming year.
The composer of those unattractive thoughts may well be Northland’s next parliamentary representative, especially as the Labour party has just rushed to his aid.
Labour Party leader Andrew Little told TVNZ’s Q&A that Labour will not pull its candidate, Willow-Jean Prime, from the by-election contest, despite a Colmar Brunton poll showing Mr Peters would win easily if she was not in the running. However, he called for left voters to be “realistic” with their candidate choice.
Ms Prime is a good candidate, Little said, but left-leaning Northlanders can decide how to use their vote effectively.
“I’ve got a duty to back her but in the end I want Northlanders to exercise their choice.”
Didius Julianus, the winner of Rome’s March 28th election lasted just nine weeks. He was then ousted and sentenced to death by his successor, Septimus Severus.
The winner of Northland’s election will probably last longer than that. But he is about as likely as Didius to benefit the workers of Northland.