By Reihana Mohideen
According to a December 6 New Zealand National Business Review poll, the alternative parties Alliance led by the NewLabour Party is now ahead of both the old Labour Party and the conservative National Party in the polls. The Alliance is polling 37%, (a 6% increase in popularity compared to a similar poll conducted in mid-November), the Labour Party 35% and the Nationals 27%.
Alliance candidate Bruce Jesson, who contested the by-election for the Panmure seat in the Auckland Regional Council, swept in with 38% of the vote, beating the Labour Party's candidate Bob Tizard, who polled 24%, and the National Party-backed Citizens Rate Payers Association, which polled 19%. The Greens, who stood a separate candidate despite the moves towards uniting the alternative parties in an Alliance, polled 16%.
Bob Tizard held the national seat covering Panmure for almost 30 years and was also a deputy prime minister for the Labour government in the early '70s. Bruce Jesson, who had never contested the seat before, is a leading journalist and a well-known political commentator. He is also a contributor to Australian Society and an international correspondent for Green Left Weekly.
Because council elections in New Zealand are conducted by postal ballot the Panmure campaign required a very high level of organisation. The NewLabour Party had hundreds of members and supporters who door-knocked some 75% of all the homes in the electorate.
The campaign was run on a shoestring budget, with the help of small donations and fundraising activities such as market stalls and parties in NewLabour Party members homes. Some 75% of the members of the NewLabour Party are beneficiaries.
The Alliance victory is a major blow for the Labour Party. The Panmure campaign received national publicity and is somewhat of a test case for the old Labour Party, which threw the whole Auckland branch Labour machine into the campaign and hoped that a high profile candidate would marginalise the Alliance.
According to the NewLabour Party president Matt McCarten, the Alliance is leading in the popularity polls among young people between 18 and 24 years of age, pensioners and other low income earners. "We are also starting to make inroads into middle class New Zealand", McCarten said.
The Alliance between NewLabour, the Greens, the Democrats and the Maori movement Mana Motuhake was formally launched on December 1. Despite some differences among the Greens on whether to join the Alliance or not, due to popular pressure "they have been locked into it", McCarten said.
Matt McCarten will be attending the Democratic Socialist Party national conference, to be held in Sydney from January 2 to 6, 1992. He ature talk on the state of New Zealand politics.