The by-election in Mt Albert caused by David Shearer’s resignation from Parliament takes place on 25 February.
This is the first possible electoral test for the National Party under Bill English, but they have bottled-out of standing rather than risk another drubbing after the party’s poor performance in Mt Roskill. Given that National won a plurality in the party vote in Mt Albert in 2014, National are not showing any confidence under their new leadership.
Labour have selected the list MP Jacinda Ardern as their candidate for this shoo-in. This must be queried. It is a typical example of Labour’s elitist and careerist practice of parachuting-in a “name” rather than select a grassroots local activist. Ardern has been Labour’s candidate for Auckland Central where she has whittled down Nikki Kaye’s majority to 717 in 2011 and 600 in 2014. Auckland Central is the most marginal electorate in the country, so why has Ardern abandoned it for greener pastures instead of persevering and giving Labour the best chance of winning back the seat it held almost continuously from 1919 to 2005?
There are 13 hopefuls in this by-election, including a first outing for a candidate from Gareth Morgan’s The Opportunities Party. The main interest, however, is that Labour is being challenged from the left by two revolutionary socialist candidates. Joe Carolan is standing under the banner ‘Socialist – People Before Profit’ and Patrick Brown is standing for the Communist League. It is unfortunate that the far left has not managed to unite behind one candidate and that the divided campaign and split vote will reduce the impact that might have been.
With no danger of division letting in National, we in the ISO call for the strongest possible vote for Joe Carolan or Patrick Brown. Joe Carolan’s claims for preference rest on his activism and his established record in the electorate. In 2014 he stood here for Mana. Patrick Brown also has a track record in Auckland elections, but not in this electorate. He stood for the Communist League in the 2010 local elections in the Maungakiekie-Tamaki ward and for Auckland Mayor in 2016.
Since a National-led government was elected in 2008 we have seen the wealthy become even more unbelievably wealthy, while our pay has stagnated, redundancies have hit and available work become increasingly temporary. We have extreme inequality with poverty all around us, people living in cars, and most of us, even those of us on average incomes, struggle to get by. Houses go up in price almost daily, rents are skyrocketing, and bills are ever mounting. Yet the truth is that none of the existing parliamentary parties, including Labour, can deliver fundamental change. They are limited in what they can offer because they are beholden to the needs of business; capitalism that puts profit before people.
If socialists have anything to do with it, this constant attack on living standards will not continue unchallenged. We want to see a working-class fightback and the development of a socialist movement that can put forward an alternative to society being run by the wealthy in the interests of the wealthy.
Joe Carolan is an organiser in the Unite Union. He has helped to achieve what many around the world did not think could be done: organising temporary, high-turnover workers, such as in the fast food industry. Organised in Unite these workers have won gains for themselves. One of the highpoints of the union’s history has been the defeat of zero-hours contracts last year. This victory has inspired the union movement around the world.
The by-election is an opportunity to put forward socialist goals, but to achieve them it will take a mass movement of thousands of us joining together to organise in our workplaces and our communities. The aim of the ISO is to help build a mass revolutionary socialist party rooted in the working class. As steps towards this aim we appeal to our readers to get active, get organised, and, if in Auckland, agitate for votes for Joe Carolan or Patrick Brown in Mount Albert.