Watkins on Little versus Leggett

Tracey Watkins in Stuff on how party politics appears to be taking over local body elections, and how it could backfire.

The current mayor of Christchurch, Leanne Dalziel, is a former Labour MP and Minister.

Phil Goff is touted as the front runner for mayor of Auckland.

And Labour are promoting a candidate for the Wellington mayoralty, Justin Lester.

Ankle tap or leg up? Why Andrew Little’s assault on Leggett might backfire

As if national politics wasn’t brutal enough, Andrew Little has turned the Wellington mayoral campaign even uglier by verbally attacking a high profile candidate.

Little has drawn a new battle line in the mayoral campaign by claiming one of the front runners, Nick Leggett, is a “right wing” candidate, backed by right wing funding. He also claimed Leggett’s campaign manager was a “leading identity” in the ACT party, which Leggett rejects, as he does the “right wing” label.

None of this would be particularly extraordinary except Leggett is the long time Porirua mayor and a former Labour Party member who only resigned the party when he entered the mayoralty campaign in opposition to its official candidate, Justin Lester.

Little’s assault on Leggett as a right winger is revealing on two counts; it tells us the extent to which party politics is taking over local body elections.

And it is an insight into the resurgence of Labour’s age old battle between the left and right factions of the party.

There are also signs that Little is prepared to try and control what Labour MPs do, depending on who they are – see Little trying to forbid MPs associating.

If Little’s intention in taking on Leggett was to give Lester a leg up it could just as likely backfire. It exposes the extent to which national politics has crept into local body elections, something that may not sit well with all voters.

It also rips the scab open on Labour’s left right divide. And given the party’s brutal history on that front – think back to the Lange, Douglas years – he might regret going there.

There’s a risk of backfire both in the Wellington mayoralty and in national politics for Labour. Looking as split as UK Labour may not work out well for a party trying to rebuild.


Leave a comment


  1. Gezza

     /  10th August 2016

    I confess to my ignorance on this. I’ve never really taken much interest in local government politics – so I’ve never really ‘got’ what difference it makes whether a candidate (or mayor) is member of – or affiliated to – a political party.

    If anybody cares to enlighten me, happy to learn.

    • In NZ it seems that councils have traditionally kept their distance from party politics. To my mind, the perception that wider “national” interests may be drivers of policy within towns and cities has been an anethema to townspeople. Now that councils seem to involve themselves more and more with social issues , there seems to be a move towards politicisation. As home ownership (ratepayers) decreases, I think it will become more polarised.

      • PDB

         /  10th August 2016

        The lack of traction the left has made in becoming the govt has led them to them making more of a play for local govt dominance where it is far easier to win (& requires less funding) considering most people eligible to vote don’t bother to do so in local govt elections.

        Once running the show locally they can then spend ratepayers money at will on their pet projects, hence why Auckland Council for instance is starting to hit the wall. It also gets the Labour & Green party brands into areas they have little chance of gaining a presence during the NZ general elections.

        • Blazer

           /  10th August 2016

          Hey who introduced the Super City gravy train ..Peanuts?This speaks volumes…’ requires less funding’…..money,money,money,buy power,buy people,monetise …everything.


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