Like many on the left, I was disillusioned with the election result. It felt pretty hopeless on election night that despite record levels of poverty, home ownership being out of reach of more New Zealanders than ever before and dirty politics, John Key could romp home to victory.
We need a fundamental re-think about how we organise and communicate as progressives in New Zealand. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I think the Labour Party has an opportunity for a fresh approach to rebuilding the Party with Grant Robertson’s leadership bid – and we should take it!
Here are ten key reasons why I am voting for and supporting Grant Robertson to be our next Prime Minister:
- He has genuine progressive values and an ideological framework for translating those values into policy, strategy and communication. An ideological foundation is a biggie for me, it means he won’t get swept up by new fads and lazy populist policies which depart from our values. This along with his intellect means he can quickly dissect an issue, analyse it, take a position on it and articulate it with intelligence and integrity.
His position in the last contest that Police under his watch would need to apologise to Tuhoe for the raids, his support for the living wage, and his tireless commitment to opposing VSM are some examples of this.
- He has a track record of building formidable campaign machinery throughout a Parliamentary term. An important measure of an effective MP in my book is how strong their Party machinery is. Grant has a huge number of volunteers who put in hours and hours of unpaid work during and between elections. Yes, he’s lucky to be in the Capital with loads of students and a politically engaged electorate – but it is clear that he brings people together, encourages leaders to develop and leads from the front with a massively energetic approach to door-knocking, street corner meetings and community events. Our Party needs this campaign organising approach to rebuild.
- He has an incisive intellect and strategic mind. Across every portfolio that he has been given, he has quickly grasped policy details and been an impressive performer in the House. He quickly mastered standing orders and became a go-to guy for MPs about opposition tactics. He seems likely to be a PM who can quickly take a briefing, ask relevant questions and deliver strong leadership on issues.
- He likes sport, Kiwi music and popular culture. There is more to life than politics.
- I believe that he will unite the caucus and the Party. MPs and Party members have seen him as a team player who shows real discipline – particularly under Cunliffe and Shearer. Cunliffe clearly has some respect for Grant by indicating that he would like him to be Deputy, this will put him in good stead for uniting the Party.
- He is gay. This will be ground-breaking for New Zealand and will make me proud of our small country. New Zealanders love it when New Zealand gets international attention for the right reasons and I think Grant’s sexuality is a cause for celebration – all the more so when he is PM!
- He is genuinely grounded. I am still appalled to think about the credit card transactions of Labour Minister’s which were exposed back in 2010. They showed a love of fine dining, expensive wine and massages at the expense of the taxpayer – totally removed from the reality of most people’s lives. Grant is the least snobby person I have met in politics. It seems to me he is actually more comfortable with life’s battlers than in posh restaurants. This matters – it goes to character and likely ability to build connections with New Zealanders.
- He is principled. Labour will only ever win if we appeal to people’s better angels. We can’t cower to prejudice whether it is threats that homophobic people won’t vote for us or dog whistles about beneficiaries or public servants. We need to take the high road to build a movement that can deliver our values. Grant will not be tempted to take a lazy populist route.
- He can laugh at himself, he is likeable and it shows. I have seen him talk to workers on many picket lines, he listens to them and quickly builds a strong rapport with them.
- His backstory will play well – crass as that sounds. His family clearly suffered tough times with his Dad going to Prison and it is clear from his public speeches that this had a profound impact on him and his attitude to justice. He’s been a high profile campaigner as a student leader, a diplomat at the United Nations in New York and a staffer in PM Helen Clark’s office.
Obviously leadership is only part of the picture and no leader alone rebuilds a movement – that feels like our greatest challenge.