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Questions on Labour leadership selection reform

Written By: - Date published: 9:31 am, July 12th, 2012 - 13 comments
Categories: labour - Tags:

Seeing coverage of the apparently unhurried steps towards Labour party members having a say in future leadership bids made me want to stop and ask some questions about whether they are telling the full story:

1) Will members have the same say as MPs? And who were the “Senior members” said there was some concern that giving too much weight to the membership vote over the caucus vote? Isn’t the point that MPs are accountable to the
membership? If you think of the caucus as being like the employees and the membership is the Board, then employees don’t get to choose the CEO – in a grown up world you work with who you need to. And if the membership choose
someone presumably they are doing it for a good reason? Could it be that there are some MPs who think there is something to fear from that extra level of accountability to the party grassroots?

2) Will the proportion of the leadership vote assigned to affiliates be shrunk by those within caucus who distrust the union movement? Once again what do MPs fear? This is the Labour party, grounded in the Labour relations movement isn’t it?

3) What will happen to the automatic 2013 vote (year ahead of an election)? Surely this would be the perfect opportunity for the membership and affiliates to illustrate their support for the leader for whom they will be volunteering their time to help elect in 2014? And given that this whole undertaking is designed to empower the party membership then why would you try and sidestep the rules before the ink is dry?

4) How is the winnder in each category determined? Winner takes all? Proportional? We all recognise how the ‘first past the post’ approach establishes bias in the system – that’s why we have MMP!

5) Finally, while I applaud caucus and the party for bringing this to the table they can’t afford to do it in a way that is less than meaningful. Besides, what are caucus afraid of? If all is going well who would want to challenge and open themselves to the sort of scrutiny that brings – especially as they would have to justify their decision to the membership, and the wider public, if things are out in the open. Having chosen to open this topic caucus cannot afford to sell the members short. Who is the winner if the party tears itself apart over this? Short term it may be those within the caucus who are resistant to change, but the long term answer would be National, as they’d retain the Treasury benches for some time to come.

13 comments on “Questions on Labour leadership selection reform”

  1. Socialist Paddy 1

    I posted this in open mike but it is just as relevant for this post.

    The Herald editorial this morning appears to be saying that Trade Union influence on the Labour Party ought to be minimized and that the MPs should be given the most power in determining who should be the party’s leader. All the more reason for the Labour Party to do the opposite.  

    I don’t know why the MPs should have so much say.  They ought to be the servants of the party and not its masters.

    The Trade Union movement provide the heart and soul of the party and should be given a significant say.

    Editorial is at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10819003

  2. Over the old guard 2

    Matthew Hooton chose the current Labour leader. Now Trevor “senior sources” Mallard is trolling again on other Labour MPs who say the party should stand for Labour principles.

    No wonder the Hooton Goff Mallard group hate David Cunliffe. Cunliffe is no nact apologist.

    No wonder everyone is becoming green.

    The party is hijacked by conservatives. AGAIN!

    • Olwyn 2.1

      “The party is hijacked by conservatives. AGAIN!”

      It is hard to escape that impression, since nothing, apart from some of Cunliffe’s speeches, is offered to counter that impression. It is not hard, however, to see the problems Labour faces: for one, the working class is rapidly either turning into the beneficiary class or hopping on planes to Australia. For another, the unions, while they have recently achieved some great things under difficult circumstances, no longer have the force to really scare the powers that be. For yet another, the Greens have taken quite a large chunk out of the educated liberal vote. At the moment, parliamentary Labour seems to be trying to accommodate itself to that situation rather than challenge it, but do not want to lose remaining members. Shut down Cunliffe, break with the unions and ignore the members, and you stand exposed. Genuinely listen to any of them and you must take up the challenge. Parliamentary Labour, in its present form, does not seem to want to take up the challenge. It has set itself a hard act to maintain until an election in which no promises are made, so none will be broken.

      • Populuxe1 2.1.1

        Case in point, I distinctly remember Cunliffe being critical Free Trade Agreements in the recent past, and now he’s gone quiet. Labour has turned into Tory-Lite, which is why I abandoned it to it’s own devices.

  3. leftleftleft 3

    WTF? What were regional conferences for? All conferences passed remits for democracy. Who are these secret MPs who are gagging the membership? Where is a hyperlink to NZLP constitution?

    • AnnaLiviaPluraBella 3.1

      Shearer promised a genuine role for the membership in the Leader selection Process.  I’m sure he did not mean that the Caucus would have a veto over the wishes of the membership. 
      So here does the tone of the stories over the past two days in the Herald and Dominion Post come from?  Shearer needs to refute what the MSM is writing.   The membership and labour voters stayed at home because they felt the party was not listening to them.  Shearer said he was listening. 
      Shearer can deliver real influence to the membership: the corollary is (a) the Caucus having a veto on when a leadership selection may be actioned and (b) the Caucus having a veto over the Memberships preference. 
      This is the litmus test

      • Bunji 3.1.1

        Shearer can’t come out and refute what the MSM is saying because a) the decision hasn’t been made yet, and b) it’s not his decision.

        The NZ Council (ie representatives of the party) will make a recommendation after the weekend, for voting on by members at the Conference in November. There will be amendments to that recommendation. If it were to include a caucus bloc vote, that would almost certainly be amended and put to the vote.

        A real membership say in the vote on leadership will be added, and it will be added by members.

        The trigger for a membership vote may just be a caucus vote of no confidence though (or a leader standing down) – it’ll be interesting to see how that turns out. Having members able to force a vote risks a destabilising campaign of signature collection…

        • BillODrees 3.1.1.1

          Bunji, a good clear answer. You are obviously well informed. Do you know who briefed the newspapers that the Caucus is baulking at allowing the Membership’s preference to potentially over-ride the Caucus preference?  Methinks the Conference in November will be interesting. 

  4. IrishBill 4

    I’m interested in the third point made here. It strikes me that having the party, affiliates and caucus all vote on the leader every year would be destabilising and a logistical nightmare. However I also think that removing that vote of confidence altogether would significantly reduce the accountability of the leadership.

    Perhaps the traditional first caucus of the year confidence vote could remain as a vote of caucus confidence which, if lost, would trigger a full leadership election including membership and affiliates.

    That said, I’ll be interested to see what the method for challenging a leader will look like. Will the ability to push a leadership vote continue to require 60% of the caucus or will it require some majority of caucus/party/affiliates to force a vote?

  5. Sam Hall 5

    DAVID CUNLIFFE
    DAVID CUNLIFFE
    DAVID CUNLIFFE

  6. Caucus and affiliates should have the same say as members. One person one vote is for all elections, not just (small-n) national ones.

    • fender 6.1

      +1

      Would most likely result in a boost to membership numbers also. Come on Labour dont be scared of democracy!

  7. red blooded 7

    Let’s step back just a bit from current issues and think about party structures and logistics. It’s simply not possible for all members to know the skills, weaknesses, trues priorities, working capacity, leadership qualities, personal management skills, level of drive and strength of commitment of the various leadership contenders as well as their colleagues (the caucus) do. It’s also true that relationships (while they shouldn’t be the deciding factor) are actually important in how effectively a leader can relate to their team, inspire, see potential in others, assign responsibilities effectively, create a feeling of harmony and shared purpose…etc.

    I served for many years on the national executive of my union. The president was always elected by the general membership (who had almost no chance of knowing the real qualities of the various candidates and tended to vote for those who looked safe and whose names were recognised). Some of the presidents were true leaders, some were filling a seat and creating a hole in the fabric of the union because they were too divisive, had trouble taking advice, vacillated too much and couldn’t make decisions, or failed to see others’ strengths and make the most of them. I wish that the executive had had some more significant input into the selection of the president.

    I think it’s fine for members to rank a set of candidates for the position (presumably through their regional or affiliate structures), but that caucus also needs to have that chance and that their input should be weighted to at least equal that of the general membership. Perhaps there should be an elected group of senior party members who should manage the process and who should (either individually or as a group) have the casting vote if there was no clear winner once the membership input and caucus vote were balanced together. And while I support the idea of an annual vote of confidence at the conference, it should be only in exceptional circumstances that a change is made in the leadership team if they have served less than at least 2 years. Just think about how the media interprets it when a Party looks skittish about leadership issues. Plus, leaders develop their skills, people learn to work together and the media can take a while to begin to see the strengths of a leadership team.

    I also liked the fact that the process last year threw up pairings/teams rather than just individual vying for positions.

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