Strife hits branch on eve of poll

By Miles Erwin

The tumultuous Princes St, Auckland, branch of the Labour Party has been rocked by claims of drunkenness, harassment and threats of violence ahead of elections this Wednesday.

The stoush has been played out in front of Labour bigwigs, including Prime Minister Helen Clark.

At the centre of the drama is Alex Foulkes, former Scottish Labour activist and son of Right Honourable Lord George Foulkes of Cumnock, who is challenging incumbent David Do for the chairmanship.

Foulkes claims there has been a campaign of "dirty tricks and intimidation" against him.

Internal Princes St emails obtained by the Herald on Sunday accuse Foulkes of drinking and aggression towards branch members and harassing people with early-morning phone calls - allegations he denies. Foulkes was suspended from the email user list, not given access to the branch membership to campaign, and barred from the Auckland University pub Shadows.

The allegations against him are detailed in a complaint to the Labour Council by Do and other members. Foulkes has called in lawyers.

"I have been the subject recently of wild allegations and smears and frankly I am not happy about this," Foulkes wrote in an email.

Foulkes even claims his home is being watched by SIS agents.

The emails have been circulated to Labour stalwarts Judith Tizard and Stuart Nash and gone to Megan Bates, who works in Clark's Sandringham office. The Herald on Sunday understands Clark and her husband Peter Davis are well aware of the shenanigans.

Sources told the Herald on Sunday the root of the problem was Foulkes' strong left-wing leanings. The self-described international socialist is not considered fit for Princes St, once the ideological home of Rogernomics.

But when contacted by the Herald on Sunday Foulkes had little to say.

"I refute the allegations but I would rather discuss them within the Labour Party than in the wider sphere. I'm hopeful I will win the election and we can put it behind us and move on."

And chairman Do was similarly tight-lipped. "This is an internal party issue. It is being resolved at the moment. Both me and Alex have made moves to resolve that."

When asked if he supported Foulkes' decision to run for chairman, Do refused to comment.

The branch is no stranger to controversy.

The former home of Helen Clark, Richard Prebble, Jonathan Hunt and Charles Chauvel, Princes St was founded amidst a coup against Barry Gustafson by John Orbell.

In 1988 fights broke out at a meeting following a string of coups and counter-coups led by current MP Chauvel.

"In a way the branch was conceived in a sort of a coup and progressed through more at various stages. But it's had a powerful influence on Labour," party historian Michael Bassett said.

Bassett said the current antics are nothing new but appear to be taking a personal tone, rather than focusing on ideology as arguments did in the past.

However, he believed there would be political undertones, given Foulkes' proud socialism.

"One's scarcely surprised that the young and the active and these sorts of people, that are a very PC lot, wouldn't put up with that. Nothing surprises me if that's the case."

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