Unintended consequences has been a concept on my mind recently - some thoughts on the recent by-election in Northland.
The election of Winston Peters in Northland will have unintended negative consequences for the left I think. The left as a whole and the individual parts of the left and I'll start with Labour.
As I've mentioned before I think the way Labour went about the Northland by-election was a mistake. The number of times I heard Labour people say - we can't win, we won't win, this un winnable - was depressing. Whether it was true or not is beyond the point - don't forget the big man key said Winston could and would never win - yet he did.
Okay let's assume that Labour could and never would win - what to do? Yes one option is to help Winston win with the view that giving National a 'bloody nose' is valuable because it will erode the win-meme attached to Key and Joyce and lead the way to a victory for Labour next election - that is certainly the line being used and now that Winston has won it will be interesting to see this meme develop. At this stage Key and Joyce are just pretending that they never lost and that it doesn't matter. Key is spinning it, "well I got it wrong and didn't expect Labour to capitulate and send their people to Winston" and Joyce is going, "yep you win some and lose some, that's politics..." I think their spin will work - it certainly has worked up to now with the almost continuous lying from Key and the almost continuous support he still receives. Time will tell on this one but it by no means certain that the winkeymeme is over or even really dented.
Labour missed a big opportunity to go hard, push Little out there and their candidate, push their policies, push their alternative Government meme - but they decided not to. Sure Prime will get a nice list placing and in 2.5 years is much more likely to get into Parliament. But Little and Labour have snapped a couple of arrows in their quiver - the moral high-ground over deals in Epsom around ACT and the Dunne electorate too. Everytime they go down that 'moral' road, Northland will be chucked in their face - even if it wasn't a deal and not really comparable to what National does - I just don't think the movable voter will care about those details. So Labour are going to have to do more of this 'strategic' dealing and i just can't see it going well for them - mainly because I do think they have more morals than National and as we've seen with Northland - it is difficult to front up and say it like it is especially when innuendo and nudge nudge are easier to do.
Andrew Little will need to be careful with Winston - their can be only one leader of the opposition and although Labour have the numbers, Winston has the ego, experience and wind in his sails after this win. He will get offended very quickly and dish out some smartarse remarks likely to get up Little's nose. The 2 of them are not going to get on I think - sure they'll pretend for a while but before too long the truth will out and that truth is that they are political rivals in a very direct way. Winston's age may be bought in but I would be careful about that because everyone's getting older. I'm calling that Winston will end up disliking Little as much as he does Key and that will be significant if the negotiations need to happen in 2.5 years.
Labour have let a wolf into the henhouse - National have received their bloody nose but they will heal. Labour may not heal from the win of Winston.