August 27, 2012
Labour in trouble over marriage bill
The recent outburst from Mangere MP Su'a William Sio over Manurewa MP Louisa Wall's same-sex marriage bill shows that all is not well in the Labour Party camp.
Just when Labour was starting to make inroads into the National Party's majority this major disagreement has erupted within the ranks.
And while disagreements are not always bad for political parties it is bad when that disagreement is paraded for all the public to see.
Ms Wall's bill has caused so much unrest that Mr Sio obviously found it necessary to go public with his concerns.
And his concerns are valid from his constituency's position.
The majority of Mr Sio's constituents are Pacific Islanders and he says most of them would be against Ms Wall's bill.
So it's only right that he voices their opposition.
But his decision to make that opposition public has damaged his party in the polls.
It seems strange that Mr Sio would go public as he's always impressed as a solid hard-working and no-mistake MP.
So I think it can be safely assumed that rather than this being a mistake it was a calculated and deliberate move by him to put a stake in the ground, firstly for his constituents in Mangere and secondly for himself and a number of his colleagues in Labour who believe that the party has lost the plot in terms of where its priorities should be at the moment.
Mr Sio says that Labour should focus on the weak economy and issues that resonate with most Kiwis.
He says that putting up a bill like the same-sex marriage bill will not recapture the estimated 30,000 votes that have been lost.
And I don't think he's too far off the mark.
No matter what the merits are of Ms Wall's bill, the most important challenge for Labour is to win back the thousands of disillusioned voters, particularly the ones in South Auckland, who believe that Labour has become obsessed with social legislation.
For example, Labour's prostitution bill has been nothing but a nightmare for Papatoetoe residents.
Add to that the civil union legislation and the anti-smacking laws and you get an understanding of where Mr Sio is coming from.
Advancing the rights for homosexuals to marry each other is not the issue that will recapture Labour their previous support.
I'm surprised that their leader David Shearer allowed the bill to go forward into the ballot.
Causes, no matter how just, sometimes have to wait in politics because the damage can be irreparable.
Certainly Helen Clark thought that when she killed off Maori aspirations with her cancelling of the Closing the Gaps programme.
David Shearer should take her lead and put his gay activist's aspirations on hold if he wants to keep and grow his voter support.