Former Labour leader David Cunliffe’s loyalists appear to have thrown their weight behind Andrew Little in the Labour leadership race, including promoting unofficial meetings for him and fellow contender Nanaia Mahuta.
Posts this week on the ‘‘Labour New Lynn’’ Facebook page, which has restricted access, included information favourable to Little and said ‘‘Hi Team, keep up the campaigning for Andrew Little for Labour leader’’.
It also invited Aucklanders to a restaurant to meet Little and Mahuta and promoted the ‘‘Phone bank for Andrew’’ being run at the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) offices in Auckland.
Cunliffe, who is MP for New Lynn, and the EPMU’s executive have officially endorsed Little for the leadership.
But New Lynn electorate (LEC) chairwoman Clare Hargrave said that while everyone was discussing the options the electorate had not taken a formal decision to support a candidate.
Labour New Lynn, which carries the logo ‘‘Andrew Little 1’’, was connected to the electorate but was not used for official correspondence.
Meanwhile, an invitation to an ‘‘informal social catch-up’’ with Little and Mahuta was this week circulated by Richman Wee, the chairman of the Anderson’s Bay-Peninsula branch in Dunedin South. The branch has in the past been at loggerheads with local MP Clare Curran, who backs Grant Robertson.
It is seen as strongly pro-Cunliffe, and Curran had claimed it was resurrected to undermine her re-election, though branch officials denied that.
Wee’s email said contact addresses ‘‘were provided to me last month by David Cunliffe’s campaign team when I had agreed to be a point of contact’’.
It said of the four nominees David Parker and Robertson had strong ties with Dunedin, but the other two may not be as well-known in the city.
Wee stressed he was issuing the invitations as a general member of the party.
He included a flyer from Mahuta and a message from Little.
Labour general secretary Tim Barnett said electorates could recommend a candidate if they wanted to.
‘‘But they have to go through a proper process of a meeting in order to do that. They can’t just make a decision based on a couple of people’s view.’’
There was no bar to inviting less than the full slate of four candidates to meetings.
‘‘It’s probably something we could look at next time, but there’s a very fine between trying to ensure that party bodies have a chance to let their views be known and that they offer equal opportunity of access to everyone.’’
But he said members would have the chance to hear all the candidates at the 14 official hustings meetings being held around the country ahead of a final decision on a leader to be announced on November 18.
Robertson said volunteers had organised informal meetings for him to have ‘‘a proper chin wag’’ with members.
He would have welcomed an invitation to the Dunedin and New Lynn meetings, but he referred questions about whether it was within the rules to Barnett.
‘‘I think it’s important, if it’s an LEC particularly, that they take the opportunity if they are going to invite two people that they invite four people.’’
New Lynn had not approached him about a meeting.
Like Little, Robertson said he was running a phone bank staffed by volunteers.
- The Dominion Post
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