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A contest

Written By: - Date published: 1:36 pm, August 23rd, 2013 - 35 comments
Categories: labour, Media - Tags:

There seems to be a desire from political correspondents for a Labour stitch-up.  Vernon Small wonders whether this might cause a revolt from members – and fair enough too, we want our say!

Both the Dom Post and the Herald seem to think it would be ‘better’ for a stitch-up to arranged within caucus – Dom Post suggests Robertson / Cunliffe; John Armstrong suggests Cunliffe / Robertson.

While those two MPs appear the best orators of Labour’s position and vision and either result may not be a bad one as it would hopefully unify the caucus, the process must not be a stitch-up*.

Political reporters seem to have even greater capture in the Thorndon Bubble than MPs.  MPs know that party life goes on outside Wellington (and sometimes even outside urban areas!), and those with electorates know that politics happens there too.  Political correspondents seem to forget that.

Perhaps that’s why John Armstrong sees the party’s activists outside Wellington as ‘kamikaze’ – with their desire to get policies they believe in implemented.  That’s obviously not what politics is about – it’s just the game of who gets to have power.

Toby Manhire (also in the Herald) is a bit further removed – working outside the Thorndon Bubble – and can see the benefits of a contest: the rallying point it is for the party more generally, the far greater legitimacy gained by going to the hustings, the energising of the activists that actually do the work of getting a party elected, the unifying factor of having gone to wider constituency.

Those based in the Beehive see only contenders making each other unelectable.

But Labour is not the US Republican Party, and this is not for the job of Presidential candidate.  Contenders have to go back and work with each other, and won’t want bad blood sustained.  The party, unions and the caucus will punish those who seek to divide rather than unify the party – they know that way leads to continuing time on the opposition benches.

All evidence says that a contest will be beneficial for the party.  The many news cycles of contenders competing to show that they can best articulate the Labour vision and policies will give the party a boost – as it did at the end of 2011 and as it did in a similar contest in 2010 in the UK under very similar rules to the ones faced now.

And a competition to show who can best articulate the Labour vision and policies that will appeal to the electorate is what we need.  2011 there was hype around Shearer, he had the background, his heart was in the right place, he just needed media training…  this time there will be more focus, and the contest will be more simple.  The hope of someone who will be able to do the job in a year isn’t an option.

Contenders will have to show they can sell Labour to the nation now.

Update: Herald reports that nominations close on Monday (August 26), and the election day is effectively September 15 (close of ballots). There will be a 10 day roadshow around the country convincing members.

Update 2: Jacinda joins Parker & Goff (& Prasad & Mallard & …) on the sidelines.

*If Cunliffe / Robertson wanted the sort of stitch-up that after the contest whomever won would have the other as deputy to unite the caucus, that might work of course…

35 comments on “A contest ”

  1. Roflcopter 1

    Out of interest, and raised elsewhere…

    Is it possible for the Unions to advise their individual members to vote for a particular candidate to secure the 40% membership slice, then the Unions to vote the same, securing the 20% Union vote (which would like a double-dip by the Unions), thereby giving the Unions the ability to effectively control who becomes Labour Party Leader?

    • Bunji 1.1


      Well, they can advise their members to do what they like, but a lot of their members won’t be Labour party members (separate subscription to union subscription), just affiliate members, so won’t get to vote in 40% slice. And they can advise those who are all they like, but they won’t necessarily do that – I can advise you and Red Baiter to vote Labour but you probably won’t.

      In fact the Unions will be consulting their members to find out how they should vote, not vice-versa…

      • Roflcopter 1.1.1

        Understood on the difference between union membership vs rank and file… was interested in if members of both could be sufficient in numbers, in securing a majority of the 40%?

        • Bunji

          No, there wouldn’t be close to sufficient numbers.

          And each of the 3 votes is not a bloc – if A gets 55% of union votes and 51% of party votes they don’t get 60% of the vote – and they can still be defeated by B who got 45% union and 49% party if B gets a sufficient majority in caucus.

    • Unionist 1.2

      No. There’s no union block vote, and union leaders won’t be voting. It’ll be rank and file members and delegates who vote, as I understand it, and it’ll be via a postal ballot. If you think union leaders can order their members to vote a certain way you’re dreaming. They can endorse and encourage, but that’s all.

  2. McFlock 2

    My understanding is that the only way to avoid a full election is for there to be only a single candidate for the job.

    If the “stitch-up” occurred, it would require ever member who thought they had a good support base or chance of becoming leader in an election to stand aside for a mutually agreed individual.

    For that to occur, it would require the supposed intractable careerist “troughers” in the alleged “ABC” camp to suddenly change their mind, or for Cunliffe to essentially turn down the leadership if he genuinely has massive support amongst the membership and a little under half of his caucus colleagues.

    Never say never (it’s probable that neither faction is as polarised as some would have us believe), but I think a full election is likely – and good job, too.

    • Bunji 2.1

      I wouldn’t say a stitch-up was likely (although as you say the Labour caucus probably isn’t as divided as made out), but keen to a) make sure it doesn’t happen, and b) point out the media’s errors in logic.

    • bad12 2.2

      Yes Mac, good read of the political landscape, i too see the alleged ABC camp and the Beltway Troughers as more a construct of those who didn’t get the leader they desired last time round,

      Heaven forbid someone other than David Cunliffe wins the leadership vote, i can well imagine the comments here will be unreadable for month’s after,

      i can well understand the Post author’s desire for the democratic election of the Leader to go ahead simply as a matter of being deeply interested in seeing democracy in action,

      Lolz, in sympathy of those who also want to have this leadership question decided by democratic vote i have stopped saying i see the best result for Labour is to put forward a Cunliffe/Robertson ticket, obviously that would nullify having to conduct the vote,

      My hope tho is still for the winner of this contest to offer the other challenger the Deputy position, my opinion, for what it’s worth is that this will at least shut the media up about supposed divisions within the Labour Caucus,(if not heal any that are present), and Labour would have it’s two best performers in the House and in front of the media on the front bench…

      • Anne 2.2.1

        An interesting perspective from Chris Trotter and well worth the read:

        Crossing the fault line, making the case for a Cunliffe/Robertson unity ticket

        • karol

          It may seem the sensible outcome to Trotter. But he’s just another commentator trying to by-pass the democratic involvement of the membership.

          Alienating a membership that is excited about being involved in the election process is the least desirable outcome, IMO.

          Give the membership a choice, and let them decide.

          • gobsmacked

            Exactly, Karol.

            The new leader will be more easily undermined if s/he is not elected. Even if it is Cunliffe.

            If there’s a stitch-up, it will only be because Robertson fears the result. That’s a very bad reason.

        • Sosoo

          Look, if only one person ends up standing, then that’s an end of it, and there could be a very good reason for that to happen: if the other candidates believe that they cannot win and wish to make peace with the winner.

          • karol

            The suggestion seems to be that Cunliffe and Robertson don’t go head to head in a contest, but do a deal that one of them stands as leader and the other becomes his deputy. That’s a stitch up, not just the result of only one candidate wanting to stand.

            • Sosoo

              You seem to have a problem with basic logic. There’s no point standing if you don’t think you can win. If Robertson thinks he can win, then it’s reasonable to try, but if he doesn’t (and if he doesn’t then no one sane should) then he shouldn’t waste everyone’s time on an exercise in pure vanity.

              The way the vote is set up, it cannot be a stitch up except in the case where the loser would care more about other things than being leader, and that isn’t the case here. If someone really wants to be leader and has a chance, then they can’t be bought off even with all the tea in China. If they give up, it’s good evidence that a vote would have been a formality.

              What you are asking for is a Potemkin campaign from a guaranteed loser; just to make people feel better about the result. That’s not fair on anyone. No one should be compelled to stand for the sake of process.

              • Raine

                Totally agree. I’ll vote if I have to but would prefer Roberton and Co would just realise they’re not going to win and save time and money by handing the reigns to David. (There’s no chance in hell David will bow out imo)

                I guess the trouble will come from those in the membership who can’t grasp the simple logic of it and they’ll spit the dummy. The media will have a field day with it too. Shame really.

            • Populuxe1

              (1) Trotter is only offering a fairly logical opinion, not trying to engineer a coup in the Labour Party.
              (2) Any election for leader with these candidates will have about as much democratic validity as the ones Saddam Hussein used to have.
              (3) This is precisely the wrong moment for Labour to divide itself when the country has an arsehole in the driver’s seat that needs to be gotten rid of.

          • gobsmacked

            As I pointed out below, if one person (i.e. Robertson) withdraws to avoid getting beaten in a democratic contest, that won’t be “making peace”, that will be a withdrawal and a temporary truce … which is quite different, and not good for stability at all.

            Gower and co will be asking them if they’re challenging within a matter of weeks. They need to be shown to lose, not say “I didn’t want to play”.

  3. Te Reo Putake 3

    Great post, Bunji. I had the chance to speak with an MP this morning and it was clear he understood the points you make about using the roadshow and election to galvanise the membership. In effect, Labour would be starting campaign 2014 right now. However, it appears there is a feeling in caucus that if there is a single candidate, and that candidate is David Cunliffe, then the members will grudgingly accept that there is no need for the full election process.

    For mine, I hope Andrew Little gets the deputy spot. Despite the sneering of some, he’s an effective, hard working guy and a proven leader of working kiwis. He has the potential to bring grumpy blue collar votes back from NZ First, without having to be a dick in public to do it.

    • Tiger Mountain 3.1

      Lot of work went into the new electoral procedure so a ‘done deal’ as suggested by some right and several left commentators so far, would deny the chance to try it out and let the members and affiliates feel their power whatever the result. Hopefully a Cunliffe/Little result though.

      Get real dear readers, Rogernomes never sleep, unity is not on their agenda apart from fleeting shifting insincere alliances, so little need for appeasement exists. Go whole hog. Chances like this are rare. Bombers unsolicited first hundred days advice is worth a look and in fact attaching to all MPs and LEC doors with a six inch nail.


    • Sosoo 3.2

      That’s a reasonable comment. Robertson, Little, or even Ardern would make a credible deputy. I just don’t think any of them are ready to lead.

  4. Tracey 4

    What is a LEC?

    Labour Executive Committee?

    • Bunji 4.1

      Labour Electoral Committee – basic building block of Labour – one in each constituency (well, almost every one…)

    • Jenny Kirk 4.2

      Tracey : the LEC ? : Each electorate has a number of Labour Party members. Depending on those numbers and/or desire, the Labour Party arranges to have a number of branches throughout the electorate who vote for delegates for a central electorate committee (ie Labour Electorate Committee). Each branch has to have at least 10 paid-up members.
      Alternatively, if there are insufficient members wanting to form branches (as happens up here in the north, Whangarei) then a central electorate committee is formed for the whole electorate.
      Whangarei for example has just one Labour Electorate Committee for the whole electorate.

      I’m not sure why you’re asking this question but if its anything to do with selection of Leader, then my understanding is that each individual Labour Party paid-up member will be sent a postal vote – and their decision is in no way influenced by the LEC. Its a personal vote.

  5. gobsmacked 5

    Another very good reason for a contest is that it stops the non-leaders from muttering (to themselves, to Paddy Gower, to whoever) … “It could have been me.”

    I am sure that Ms Jolie would have picked me over Mr Pitt had she been given the chance. But we never met so alas, there was no contest. If only there had been, eh?

    We don’t want any MPs (to pick a name at random, Grant Robertson) suggesting that they could have had the leader’s job if only they’d actually wanted it. So let them try and fail. Numbers are cold and clinical and can’t be hidden from (“Too bad, you only got 30%, suck it up and shut up”).

    Better to have a deputy who lost to his boss than a deputy who installed his boss. Ask David Shearer.

  6. aerobubble 6

    Sure Labour want someone as old or younger than Key and not necessarily the same sex, and most certainly skills in getting warring parties to the table are *not* a good, in fact placating is the last attribute Labour needs in its leader.

  7. Wayne 7

    While I probably should not comment on what is a matter for Labour, I can see why a “unity ticket” has great appeal.

    It is less about having an election and more about pulling two factions together. For instance Grant Robertson might conclude he has a less than 50/50 chance of winning, but is determined to be Deputy with a real voice. In that case it makes sense for him and his team to do deal with David Cunliffe. It gives him much greater power than otherwise would be the case, if he had just lost an election to DC.

    It is also a unified package for the Caucus, and the party, without any hint of division. The working arrangements of the team are worked out as part of the package.

    Other parties have done this before, to their great advantage. And it is not hard to work out who I am talking about.

    • Te Reo Putake 7.1

      Nicely put, Wayne. Robertson can put a high price on acceptance of a Cunliffe leadership. That’s something none of the other contenders can do. The post result reshuffle will be interesting 😉

    • gobsmacked 7.2

      With all due respect Wayne, I think you are making a false comparison (with Key/English 2006?).

      It is meaningless now for Labour MPs to talk of a “unified package for the Caucus, and the party, without any hint of division”. The language of unity has been devalued. That is the sad legacy of ABC clique, and Shearer.

      If Mallard, Hipkins etc say “We support new leader Cunliffe because he’s the best guy”, everyone will laugh. If they say “We support him because he has got overwhelming support, demonstrated by an election“, then the pledge of support is to the party, not to their latest best buddy.

      This is hugely important. The new leader is NOT beholden to the people who got it so wrong with their last choice. And he must be seen not to be beholden to them.

      The leadership is not theirs to bestow. They need to understand that, becasue it’s pretty clear some still don’t.

  8. Rhinocrates 8

    “unity ticket”

    That was Mumblefuck’s mistake, his fundamental flaw. As a pointy-hair boss of a bureaucrat, he thought that anyone with talent was a threat and had to be put in their place, but in a representative system, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is essential. Helen Clark knew that with Michael Cullen and made the best use of him so that he became her strongest ally and the key to Labour’s success. Mumblefuck and his cronies meanwhile were petty and jealous and didn’t realise that they needed everyone with talent pulling together.

    I do realise that if David Cunliffe is to succeed, he will need to make the best use of Beltway Grant.

    On the other hand, Beltway Grant is, I fear, too thick to realise that he needs his “enemies” to fight the real enemy.

  9. tracey 9

    Thanks bunji and jenny.

    it came up on another thread so thought id ask in a thread on process etc

  10. Takere 10

    Shane Jones is the man. Radiolive this morning he said some truths, like, need to get kiwi’s to understand that we need to get the $50m dollar Gorilla Key, off NZ’s back! Jonesee is labours only chance of tapping into the 880,000 kiwis that want to vote for someone like him. Working class not the latte set and the chardonnay lot that have hi-jacked the party!

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