On the Labour leadership

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.

7 thoughts on “On the Labour leadership”

  1. Agree the roadshow has been great and a sign that members want and will turn up when they get meaningful engagement. I attended the meeting in a hot hall in Hamilton last Monday. I walked in with my support leaning toward DS, by the end I left convinced that the other is the only sensible choice for now.

    1. Like you Patrick, I wasn’t going to say who I support. I didn’t tell the Waikato Times either when I left the hall. But think the writing is very clear on the wall now.

  2. Hi Patrick,
    Thanks for these insights. I enjoy reading them.
    I’m living in New York at the moment and the top story in the news and has been for the last month or so is which republican will challenge Obama for presidency next year. It is interesting contrasting this process with the Labour Leadership appointment. These guys go at it for months dishing out all the dirt they can on one another. Maybe they need to have it far enough ahead of the election so voters forget about the eventual winner’s pitfalls. There are a lot of contrasts the most obvious being that the quest for Labour Party Leadership will be a much cleaner fight – If David C’s criticism of David S in today’s herald is the worst of it I don’t think we need to be worried. But when I heard about the roadshow I immediately made the connection with republican candidates traversing the USA to win support.
    I think this is a brave decision that Labour have made. On the one had it is an excellent opportunity to reconnect with the New Zealanders they represent and build confidence in the party. The leadership is being sought by two very intelligent men, I imagine that anyone in attendance leaves with their faith restored in the future of the Labour party. But it also allows people to form their own informed opinion as to who should lead Labour and perhaps it is because NZ is small that many of those people feel they have a right to have a say. And if caucus’s vote does not swing the way they want it, there could be trouble.
    America doesn’t need to worry about that so much. There is much less accountability due to size and besides that if you’re a republican, you vote republican – it doesn’t matter who’s running the race.

    1. Cheers Anna – good to hear from you!

      The muck racking aspect of the contest is an interesting thing. I’m not really sure I buy the “voters have short memories” theory.

      We saw it last year in the WCC election with a candidate who had been damned a year out by a local paper – the voters sure seemed to remember that.

      Looking further afield the best example I can think of was the way that the Chappaquiddick incident hung around Ted Kennedy’s neck for decades after the fact. He almost shook it off to beat Carter in the primaries for the 1980 election, but even after that, it was one of the key reasons he decided not to stand either earlier or in 84.

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