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!
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…