Greens snuggle up to Labour in Ohariu
All things considered, Greens MP Gareth Hughes would be happy to see Labour’s Charles Chauvel win the Ohariu electorate seat from United Future leader Peter Dunne.
‘‘I think Charles is a great guy, and a good MP. I’ve been in touch with him, saying I’m not contesting the candidate vote.
‘‘I’ve been inviting him to events that I’ve been hosting in the electorate. We’ve got a good relationship.’’
Of late, Hughes has been getting ‘‘lots’’ of emails urging him to drop out of the electorate race altogether. Hughes won’t go that far, but will be telling people to cast only their party vote for the Greens.
Such deals – and they’re happening on both sides of the political divide – are turning Ohariu into a fascinating marginal seat at the November election.
Dunne has a 1000-vote majority which would dissolve if even half the people who voted for Hughes last time switched to Chauvel.
Similarly, National advised its supporters last time to vote for Dunne. Even so, 10,000 voters in 2008 still supported National candidate Katrina Shanks.
There is no sign yet whether National will endorse Dunne again.
Right now, Hughes points out laconically, the IPredict betting website rates Dunne as having a 50/50 chance of being re-elected.
Does Hughes find it hard to ask people for the party vote while tell- ing them that he’s not interested in being their local representative?
‘‘The way I look at it, this is a true MMP position I’m taking. I want to represent issues in Parliament, national issues. I don’t want to just focus on geographic issues.
‘‘Some people do a good job of that.
‘‘So I’m going out there asking for the party vote so that I can represent people across the country on transport issues, digital issues, housing issues.’’
Right. That could be taken to mean he’s got more important things to worry about than doing the donkey work for his constituents. No, no, he insists. ‘‘It’s not more important, it’s different. It’s a benefit of our electoral system that both electorate and national issues get represented in Parliament.’’
On average, the Ohariu electorate is white, wealthy and reasonably young.
That’s not quite how Hughes sees it.
Wealthy suburbs like Khandallah, he points out, co-exist with Newlands. Johnsonville enjoys good public transport, while Newlands has almost none.
When not criticising the alleged folly of the Transmission Gully project, Hughes is an advocate for a light rail system that would no longer drop commuters at the railway station at the edge of town, but would carry them through the CBD, and beyond.
‘‘It might seem counter-intuitive to campaign for a light rail link in a different electorate. But the main beneficiaries would be the people of Ohariu.’’
Come November, Hughes expects Dunne will be campaigning again as the moderating brake on a National Government.
‘‘Yet as a single member, I don’t think he has much influence. As Revenue Minister, he’s delivered the Government’s tax policies. I haven’t seen him speak against government policy.’’
So the image of Mr Reasonable or Mr Sensible may not have much substance?
‘‘No. I think people in the electorate are getting sick of him, because it is essentially Mr Bland, and Mr Whichever Way the Wind Blows.’’
Gordon Campbell is an experienced political journalist and columnist who has written for The Listener and Scoop.