For the first time in the history of New Zealand, being a member of a major party really means something. If you a member of Labour, you will have a choice in who your leader is. Can any but a handful of National apparatchiks say the same? It’s time for National’s members to ask whether they’re really members of just money pots. And it’s time for the Labour Ulterior to re-join.
Labour’s membership (not including the affiliates) has dwindled by around 90% since the days when Anderton grew it to 100,000 because there has been no incentive to stay a member. Again and again, the membership was shown that they didn’t really matter and that the leadership would do what it wanted using patronage and power to keep caucus in line. The ultimate insult was last year when the membership were given the impression that their views mattered on who would be the new leader, only for a wafer-thin majority of caucus to ignore them completely.
Yesterday, the membership sent the message that Labour is more than the Leader’s Corridor on the 3rd floor of Parliament House. They made it crystal clear that they were unhappy with being snubbed and would not allow it to happen again.
A rearguard action by the caucus old guard who wanted to keep all the power with caucus failed. Never again will a small number of individuals be able to disregard the party in favour of their personal interests. There will never again be a Douglas-type takeover of the party and never again will an old guard be able to select their own frontman as leader over the wishes of the party. No Labour leader will ever be able to ignore the membership again.
There are thousands upon thousands of Labour people who have left the party – or, rather, been left by the party, but stayed true to it in their hearts over the years. People call them, us, the Labour Ulterior because they are Labour, but beyond its present bounds.
Now, there’s a reason to be a member of Labour. Your voice will matter. You can have a real part in shaping your party. Probably best to sign up quick too. It looks like everyone wants to do the right thing and bring this to a head promptly – as with the previous race, I expect a clean fight between the contenders that will actually be good for the party… and none of the old guard’s amateur Machiavelli tactics this time.
PS. I love the Nat spin that the new rules could mean a new Labour Prime Minister could be turfed out within months after an election. No – it would take 50% of the votes to make that happen, just as previously – except the votes would be members and affiliates as well as caucus. Has a newly elected Labour PM ever been couped? Has anyone even ran against them? No. In reality, the post-election vote will be a victory lap for a new Labour PM – there will be no competition and the vote will be pro forma – just like Obama’s primary campaign this year. Let’s not forget that the Greens’ leaders face an election every year and none of them have ever been spilled. My question is: when will National join the 21st century and have open elections of its leaders?