[Opinion] Michael Wood: What Can We See From Labour’s Newest MP?

It was a night of absolute euphoria for the left when Michael Wood won Mt Roskill. As Andrew and Michael entered the tennis club, tremendous cheers of ‘Woody!’ filled the room. The party knew he had won and that he had won big. He’s already pledging to start work and preparation to enter parliament right now, and all across the country, the left are filled with a mix of relief and euphoria after a bad week of polls and the defection of Labour right member, Nick Leggett. But with Michael now the new face of Mt Roskill, what can we expect from him?

Michael, throughout the campaign, has spoken about the role Phil Goff played in mentoring him as a politician, and to an extent, has mirrored him in some of his approaches to the electorate. One of Goff’s key strengths as an MP was his commitment to the community. He was approachable, the kind of guy you could have coffee and chat with. He was a good listener and actively sought to look after the constituents when they needed help. Michael’s campaign, which was heavily community oriented, reflects this idea, and he does share this quality with Phil. He knows the issues being faced, he has connections within the community and, as shown in public meetings and when campaigning out on the streets, he takes the time to speak to the community and listen. He knows fully well that this job isn’t contained to the chamber of parliament, the electorate itself and ensuring its voice is heard is as equally important.

Despite this, Michael, in terms of internal politics, is quite a different cut of cloth compared to Phil. Goff, who first entered parliament in 1981, was in favour of the deregulatory policies of the Lange, Palmer, Moore government, which arguably cost him his seat in 1990, although he had been returned in 1993 after his National Party opponent had shifted between several parties after the Ruthanasia policies. He was a man of the party right, in favour of the TPP, although is in favour of some left wing policies including the living wage, which he announced would be paid to Auckland Council workers in his new budget. Michael, however, is a man of the party left, like Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway. He opposes the TPP resolutely, has a strong background with the unions and spoke in support of Bernie Sanders at a public meeting, although stating he would have voted for Hillary Clinton in last month’s presidential election. His election could be argued as a move to a more progressive platform, with new social democrat blood entering the fray of parliament to replace an older brigade of the past.

It could be easy to write Michael as simply a younger and shorter Phil Goff, but I feel this is an unfair assessment of him. Examining him closer, while we can see a man who can continue the work Phil did in the community, Wood will be a much more distinct character in the caucus, bringing a new progressive voice and flair to parliament when he is sworn in.

Liam Bateman, Capital HardTalk

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