This morning's Herald reports on an apparent dirty tricks campaign against Act candidate John Banks; check this out:
Allegations of a dirty tricks campaign against ACT's Epsom candidate John Banks are rife and the blame is being laid at Labour's feet.
Pamphlets are circling highlighting past comments made by Mr Banks, including anti-homosexuality and racist ideas.
Right-wing bloggers say it's all part of nasty campaign tactics by Labour.
But Mr Banks, who's trailing behind the National candidate, isn't letting it bother him.
"I've been around public life for 33 years and 14 elections, nothing much upsets me."
Labour's Phil Goff denies any knowledge of the allegations.
"I don't know anything about that at all, the Act Party is suffering in Epsom not because of any dirty tricks campaign but because people believe that ACT has nothing to offer New Zealand."
Once again the Herald is just getting around to reporting a story that has been in the blogosphere since Friday. Whaleoil had the scoop then.
But there's a real irony to this; Labour is trying to pigeon-hole John Banks on the basis of comments he made as far back as the late 1970's. Does that then make other MPs' comments of similar or slightly more recent vintage fair game?
Yes; this may end up as something of an own goal for Labour, and especially for it's leader and his deputy. Because if they're going to make a fuss of comments that John Banks made in the late 1970's, ought we not take an interest in policy decisions made by politicians in the mid-to-late 1980's for example?
Alert readers may remember a lengthy post we did back in June on the vexed subject of asset sales. In it, we listed the 17 assets sold by a Labour government between 1987 and 1990, for a total sum of $9.49 billion dollars (in 1980's value). This was not partial privatisation; these were wholesale sell-offs, often at significantly less than commercial prices. Phil Goff was a member of the Cabinet that voted for these sales; every single one of them. Even had he opposed them on a personal level, he is bound by the concept of collective Cabinet responsibility. And he was joined at the Cabinet table after the 1987 election by Annette King.
Now the 1980's have long passed, and we know only too well that Phil Goff has recanted his former adherence to the economic direction of Sir Roger Douglas. But if the Labour Party is going to try and hold John Banks accountable for comments he made over 30 years ago, Phil Goff and Annette King must be prepared to be held accountable for decisions made at the Cabinet table ten years later. We know that it's an issue that Labour is acutely sensitive about; it was a dig at Phil Goff's past record on asset sales that lead to us becoming persona non grata at Red Alert just a month ago.
Labour cannot have it both ways. And given that Labour's key electoral plank this year is its opposition to partial privatisation of state assets, you cannot help but wonder which strategic mastermind left the door open for people's past statements and decisions to be put under the microscope.