The elephant in the room that I’ve so far avoided blogging about is the ongoing Labour leadership contest; due to be resolved in five days time at the caucus meeting on Tuesday.
I have decided who my preferred candidate is, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. But for the time being at least, I don’t think I will be publicly declaring that. If you want to engage in a debate on the merits of the various candidates, I’d recommend you comment on their candidate blogs at Red Alert.
As you’ll probably know, it’s a process that is decided by a secret ballot of the caucus – the 34 MPs.
In a pretty bold break with tradition the caucus have decided to do things slightly differently this time. While the vote will still rest with the MPs, the candidates have been engaging in a more open campaign than we’ve ever seen. They have been on TV debates, spoken about their merits, blogged, and they have also begun a series of meetings with party members around the country. In my opinion this is the biggest step forward. The idea being that the candidates speak, the members are then afforded an opportunity to ask questions, and then the members are welcome to provide other caucus members with feedback.
Some have quietly complained that they do not get a direct vote in the leadership. This is a valid criticism and one that must be taken seriously by the new leadership team, and the party, during its upcoming review.
I went to the Palmerston North meeting on Tuesday and the Wellington meeting last night. They both went very well. They’ve attracted large crowds of members, many of whom have renewed their memberships just to gain entry and others who haven’t been to a party meeting in many years. It goes to show that an open process can really inspire people to get involved.
Imagine how many more members we would have at the door if they were allowed a vote on the leadership?
I congratulate the caucus and the party for the way they have conducted this process, but I hope they see it as a stepping-stone on the way to something bigger and better. I’ll be having more of a think about what the process could look like in the future. I look forward to hearing any thoughts you have.
As an aside – on the whole this contest has been positive. This is exactly what we need. The National Party will spend the next three years trying to cut our new leader down, we don’t need to give them a head start. Because of this I was pretty disappointed to see one of the candidates attacking another in the Herald this morning.