Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Pulling out all the stops in Mana

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Kris Faafoi. Photo / Supplied
Kris Faafoi. Photo / Supplied

There's a whole lot love in Mana this week. The locals couldn't move without being accosted by Labour and National MPs wanting to kiss children.

If someone didn't have kids with them, parliamentarians were happy enough to kiss their butts.

On Friday the electorate lovefest became rapture with a politician and his or her office staff on every corner waving red or blue placards at the traffic.

I counted 20 MPs in just three hours.

The locals loved it. Never had they felt so wanted.

I didn't have the heart to tell them that after Saturday they'll never see their new lovers again.

Modestly, I take the most of the credit for making the National and Labour politicos take the voters of Mana seriously.

I'm writing this column on the morning of the election day before we have any idea of the results of the election, but I'm assuming Labour's Kris Faafoi, pictured left, will triumph over National's Hekia Parata.

Before I entered the race three weeks ago it was an apolitical yawn fest where the conventional wisdom was that Labour's Faafoi would sleepwalk to victory and National's Parata would, according to John Key, "be competitive".

Their materials consisted of what wonderful individuals they were, without a mention of policy or what they believed. Neither party could get anyone enthusiastic about the election.

All hell broke loose when I put my name forward.

The Labour Party leadership went apoplectic.

I smacked them back by telling them if they could lose a safe seat to some late-entry left-wing independent unknown in the electorate seat with few resources then they should look in the mirror.

After Labour had calmed down they realised having a competitive race helped them.

My entry helped mobilise their base inside the electorate and nationally.

Labour now has the biggest machine on the ground I have ever seen.

I reckon I should send them an invoice.

Faafoi is a novice politician but grew in stature as the campaign rolled on and he'll do a good job as an MP.

The National Party went hysterically joyful at the idea of me in the race.

They did initially get a bounce, but the thought of them winning panicked the non-National vote and Labour was able to scare many wavering voters into their corner in the last week. That hurt the Greens and me.

Strategically, it would have been better for the Nats if they had played down expectations so that Labour's vote stayed at home.

Their supporters could then quietly come under the radar and poach the seat.

The campaign was on fire in the last few days so that didn't happen.

But there's no doubt Parata is a class candidate, and she will go to the top of National one day.

Faafoi will always be under threat from her.

The Greens candidate Jan Logie was a good sport about my late entry and we had several volunteers happily working on both of our campaigns.

If she's not high on the Greens' list next election I'll be disappointed and surprised.

Whatever happens I may have to console myself that our three polices are very popular in Mana.

I focused on three things dear to my union: increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour; making job creation the goal of economic policy; and replacing GST with a 1 per cent financial transaction tax.

We focused on running the policies as a petition and knocked 12,000 homes.

Happily, half of the people signed the petition.

If they had then voted for me, I'd be the next MP for Mana by the time you read this!

Of course that was never going to happen.

Getting over 5 per cent and hopefully closer to 10 per cent of the vote gets me skiting rights.

Regardless, by running I think I gave the people of Mana a real policy choice.

I hope my message to Labour got through- that they can't take their supporters for granted and must stand for something that isn't National-lite.

If it did, then taking three weeks being a carpetbagger in Mana was worth it.

- Herald on Sunday

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