The Red Cossacks are gearing up for war in 2016 – desperately trying to move on from their massacre at the last local council elections in 2013 (after suffering more than just the ‘one night stand’ treatment from their civil union partner, the Greens).
Mark Peck and Paul Eagle were Labour’s only successful candidates in 2013, with Eastern Ward incumbent the late Leonie Gill beaten by the Green’s Sarah Free. Over at the Malvina Major Home for Retired Politicians (aka the Regional Council) Oriental Bay multi-millionaire and V8 SUV owner Sue Kedgeley did over “I’ve run so many times but only got on once” Daran Ponter.
Of course there were Labour members who didn’t want to be on Labour’s ticket, and who can blame them. First up, Helene Ritchie who tells anyone who’ll listen that she masterminded the construction of the Cable Car in 1899. Why pay to see Tuatara in Zealandia when you can experience Wellington’s own living fossil in the council chambers. Plus the continuity candidate ‘Celia Mk 2’ Mayor-aspirant, Justin Wade-Lester. The Deputy Head Boy will tell you he’s Labour because he grew up in a state house somewhere down south, although he keeps it quiet because he knows no one in the Northern Ward would have voted for him if they’d known he was a Labour member.
It’s obvious to anyone remotely interested in the Labour Party’s local efforts that all is not well in the red corner. Insiders tell us that rather than deselecting Peck (the pint-sized, reformed ex Invercargill MP) the Party is headed for a contested selection in the Lambton Ward with many disappointed with his total lack of visibility and dismayed at his unwillingness to pay his staff a living wage.
Labour’s supposed left allies in the Greens haven’t been impressed with Peck either. His ward colleague, Iona Pannett is regularly seen out at nearly everything – whereas the extent of Peck’s engagement seems to be in taking his wife to the World of Wearable Art; at the council table he alternates between checking Facebook and snoozing during council meetings – perking up every few hours to annoy the Green caucus by making his usual demand for a ‘line-by-line analysis’.
Young Labour have apparently had enough with 24-year-old VUW architecture student Angus Hodgson set to challenge Peck, although why someone would want to jump straight out of university into Peck’s admittedly small shoes beats us.
In stark contrast, Labour’s Southern Ward councillor ranks as the city’s best. Paul Eagle holds a firm grip on the seat and is fiercely protective of anyone who suggests that campgrounds, cycleways or Pandas might be suitable additions to the fabric of the Ward without asking him first.
But Eagle also got taken for a ride at the last election when he was sucked into helping the Greens. Eagle put up co-branded billboards and gave David Lee a leg up to the Council table. As soon as Lee got sniff of Pannett’s incense and was comfy in his organic hemp seat – he ditched Eagle.
It remains to be seen whether Labour will now look to stand a strong candidate against Lee, but any chance of a co-branded ticket next year is a very long-shot.
The handling of the cycleway issue by the Green/Lester/Peck bloc has also seen Eagle at war with his colleagues whichhas resulted in a tense and toxic atmosphere around the Council table. It’s widely suspected that Celia Wade-Succession Plan appointed Wade-Lester as her cycleway hachet man as part of her strategy to hand over the Mayoral chains to the Deputy Head Boy – but also further dividing the Labour-aligned councillors, entrenching the Greens as the main left force.
Labour’s local election selection is rumoured to start next month, giving the party certainty over its 2016 Council ticket. Wade-Lester is putting his hand up to run as Labour’s Mayoral candidate next year, but early selection would leave him in a tricky position. He famously wants to be Labour Prime Minister by the age of 50, but he’s never stood under Labour’s colours and his refusal to represent the party in Ōhāriu at the last general election means there’s a black mark against his name. Now he’s frantically building connections with the local party, and glad-handing Andrew Little.
Labour does have a few wise heads left, and we understand enthusiasm for Lester’s candidacy is limited – and he won’t be a popular candidate if he does get the nod (that sounds familiar, doesn’t it, Peck?). The Deputy Head Boy is hoping to shoehorn Royal Society scientist Peter Gilbert into Northern Ward, solely to destroy the Ritchiesaurus. Ritchie is understood to be fuming at the news that her fellow ‘Independent Labour’ colleague, Wade-Lester, is so blatantly trying to dump her – Helene, all we can say is join the queue of aggrieved women.
Moreover Wade-Lester’s fantasy of blowing $54 million on bringing pandas to Wellington has been comprehensively ridiculed by his party leader Andrew Little who asked the PM whether ‘state house children will get free entry to the pandas so that they can finally get to see what a warm, safe, dry home looks like?’
A year out from the election, once again Labour is a bit of a mess – outplayed at every turn by the Green machine, and eating away at itself internally.