Voting papers for the Labour Party leadership election have gone out, and I know a lot of people have already voted. Still, I think it’s worth placing on record why I’m backing Nanaia Mahuta.
I know Nanaia reasonably well, having worked with her at a regional level in the Labour Party. The things I like most about her are her level-headedness, the way she can grasp complex problems and find solutions, her ability to connect with everyone, her ability to stay positive and focused and to find a way through. All of these are skills that are desperately needed in the Party right now.
While the focus of many remains on the electability of the caucus leader in the wider public arena, that becomes irrelevant while the Party itself remains divided. The main focus right now should be on healing rifts, dealing to those who refuse to adhere to caucus discipline and who fight their battles via the media rather than within the Party.
The Party needs a leader who is willing to respect the membership and to listen. A leader willing to promote democracy within the Party, and to allow more participation by members so that they are engaged and enthusiastic about what the Party is doing. Nanaia was one of the members who organised the constitutional review which lead to Party members being allowed to vote for the caucus leader. She carried out her duties in that review in an incredibly competent way, travelling the length of the country and gathering some sound proposals from the many, diverse points of view that were put forward.
Once we fix the issues within the Party, once we have activists focused on the opposition rather than each other, then they will support, promote, and where required, defend the leader. Someone who is able to deliver on bringing the Party together around a common vision is also someone who will be seen by the wider voting public as a credible leader. There’s no doubt about it. And there is also no doubt in my mind that Nanaia is the best person to be doing that work. She is well respected in the Party, in her electorate, in her region, and across various sectors of the Party.
Aside from the work she has done within the Party, Nanaia has experience as a member of Cabinet, experience as a long-serving MP who has looked after her constituents and has succeeded in some rather turbulent times. For me, one of the strongest steps she took was to run as an electorate-only candidate in the 2005 election, seeking a mandate from the people, after the Foreshore and Seabed legislation passed by the Labour Government. Throughout that whole unfortunate period, she kept her dignity and her mana, which showed in the election results. And the results since 2005 have shown that even when the Party’s vote has been declining, she has held her own and brought in positive results.
What we don’t see from Nanaia are the news-grabbing headlines, the theatrical performances, the nasty quips, the stunts to gain attention. But I don’t see that as a bad thing at all. It’s time we stopped being side-tracked by all those things, and gave some space to a leader who will talk about the issues in a way that places the spotlight on the issues, not on herself.
In terms of the basics, Nanaia is a great public speaker, a hard worker, a solid performer. She has managed to carry out her responsibilities as a caucus member, as a member of the constitutional review team and as Maori Vice-President while being a mother to two lovely young children. Often the latter isn’t seen as a strength or as experience that matters, in the way that a lot of women’s work is under-valued. But Nanaia is all about whanau and community, and I know she has a lot of support behind her enabling her to do the work that she does.
She’s also one to fight for the vulnerable, strong on protecting workers rights and creating a fairer society. I’ll be giving Nanaia my first preference because I trust her to deliver.
lprent: Someone else didn’t give me a title. Goodie – where are the synonyms.. 😈