Friday, 9 November 2007

Unionists fight over heavyweight Labour seat

The Popular and competent Labour MP for Dunedin South, David Benson-Pope, now faces four challengers keen to win the Labour Party nomination for the seat next election.

Local PR woman Clare Curran was the first name to surface earlier this month, although she was reluctant to officially put her name in the hat until the EPMU announced they were putting up their president, Don Pryde, to get the competition going.

High profile but failed Dunedin mayoral campaigner Olivier Lequeux was next to announce his aspirations for the safe red seat, while Dunedin union organiser Keith McFadyen was the fourth to add his name to the list.

Dunedin South is a very important electorate to the Labour Party, responsible for around 5% of the party's total membership, and significantly more in terms of financial backing.

Blogger Clint Heine (via Insolent Prick) has some very interesting details about Labour Dunedin South's healthy property portfolio... including Benson-Pope's own electorate office in South Dunedin (which is rented by Parliamentary Services by way of the unsuspecting taxpayer). The local electorate also makes generous donations and "loans" to the national Labour Party organisation.

David Benson-Pope now faces a tough battle to retain the Labour nomination, after a series of embarrassing sagas (Tennis-gate, Nightie-gate, Panty-gate).

He was forced to resign from Cabinet after revelations of political meddling into staff matters at the Environment Ministry (leading to the sacking of Madeleine Setchell). Even his Popular and competent Prime Minister has refused to publicly back his plans to stand again.

Benson-Pope has been a Dunedin electorate MP since 1999, after a short stint on the City Council. He became Labour's Senior Whip (no pun intended ;-) in 2002, and then gained a raft of portfolios in 2004 including Associate Minister of Education.

More recently, he was appointed Minister of Social Development (including responsibility for the 'Child, Youth & Family' department) following Labour's return to the Government benches in 2005.

The MP told the Otago Daily Times this week it was simply "democracy at work" and he is "delighted so many people are prepared to serve the electorate". Good news for Dunedin South voters too then? ;-)

** Update: DBP seems to have changed his mind, and is now a bit grumpy about the five-way race for Labour Dunedin South, claiming "a small group of people have taken their eye off the ball". However, he's ruled out the option of standing as an Independent candidate if he isn't selected by the Labour Party...

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