Friends thought Greg O'Connor was a Nat
By Richard Harman (author)
The more you think about it; the more surprising is Greg O’Connor’s selection as Labour candidate for Ohariu.
O’Connor himself is quite frank about where he comes from and the way people perceive him.
You can’t be a former cop turned President of the Police Association for 20 years without people being a bit surprised you turn up as a Labour candidate.
And O’Connor cheerfully admits that most people he knows thought that if he stood for Parliament, it would be for a centre-right party.
But he believes that it his police background which makes him a natural fit for Labour.
“It comes down to a fair go but how that manifests itself is to make sure that everybody has a decent living wage and a decent house and safety,” he told POLITIK.
“These are the things that are being denied --- yo use it in the police everyday.”
There have been a long line of police who have become MPs.
Currently, Chester Borrows and Mark Mitchell are both ex-police but in recent years so were Ross Meurant, Ian Revell, Mike Sabin and Peter Hilt.
But all are or were National MPs. In recent years no ex-police have stood for Labour.
Not surprisingly, therefore, O'Connor's candidacy has been greeted with some suspicion on "The Standard" blog, the home of Labour's left wing activists.
Their principle charge is that he has advocated arming the police.
He says that this was the result of a widely supported Police Association conference resolution and it was his job to advocate it.
He doesn't shy away from his past and believes that once he explains himself to Labour Party people, they will understand him.
“What I’ve always enjoyed in any public forum is that people realise that there’s more to me than the tip of the iceberg that they have seen,” he says.
“I am middle New Zealand – I want everyone to have a fair go.
“The accident of birth should not be something that determines the rest of your life.
“Being born into disadvantaged circumstances should not the defining part of your life.
“But without good education, health and safety it does.”
Clearly, O'Connor likes to cross lines. One of the first relationships be built at the Police Association was with the Business Round Table.
“Sometimes you can achieve more by convincing those who you would not expect to agree with you.”
He’s certainly not worried by the Labour party’s propensity to debate issues and for those debates to often get quite heated.
"I've read The Standard, and I'd invite those people to see that there is more to me.
“Getting those people on board would not only be good for me but good for New Zealand.
“One of the problems is that it is so easy to talk past each other and the internet has made that much worse.
“Now you are either a Fox TV watcher or a CNN watcher --- I like to watch both because you do see both sides of it that way.”
Like Willie Jackson, O’Connor is a gamble that Labour’s inner circle believes is worth taking to give the party more credibility with middle New Zealand and to challenge NZ First for that vote.
He is going to have a tough task to win Ohariu from Peter Dunne because National are indicating they will do an electoral deal with Dunne and ask their candidate --- presumably, Brett Hudson --- to back off to allow Dunne through.
He may also find he faces a tough contest to get a high enough list ranking to get into Parliament that way.
Labour's list is already filling up with some impressive candidates, and O'Connor is going to need all his persuasive skills to get them to see that he is more than just an ex-cop.
“I’m confident that if I could get all those Standard bloggers in a room – like I did with the Ohariu member yesterday --- they would see that I was actually quite a reasonable person.
“Our views may not be as diverse as they think they are.”
And perhaps he is already convincing them.
The Standard’s “blogmaster” Lynne Prentice wrote: “Like a lawyer, unionists are also advocates for their members. Like it or not, police members tend to be interested in protecting their jobs and their safety in the job. As far as O'Conner is concerned, that means he represents their interests.
“For all that I have disagreed with some of that, I haven’t seen either him or the police association knowingly doing anything that I would consider is over the bounds.”