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A reason to belong

Written By: - Date published: 7:48 am, November 18th, 2012 - 29 comments
Categories: democratic participation, labour - Tags:

For the first time in the history of New Zealand, being a member of a major party really means something. If you a member of Labour, you will have a choice in who your leader is. Can any but a handful of National apparatchiks say the same? It’s time for National’s members to ask whether they’re really members of just money pots. And it’s time for the Labour Ulterior to re-join.

Labour’s membership (not including the affiliates) has dwindled by around 90% since the days when Anderton grew it to 100,000 because there has been no incentive to stay a member. Again and again, the membership was shown that they didn’t really matter and that the leadership would do what it wanted using patronage and power to keep caucus in line. The ultimate insult was last year when the membership were given the impression that their views mattered on who would be the new leader, only for a wafer-thin majority of caucus to ignore them completely.

Yesterday, the membership sent the message that Labour is more than the Leader’s Corridor on the 3rd floor of Parliament House. They made it crystal clear that they were unhappy with being snubbed and would not allow it to happen again.

A rearguard action by the caucus old guard who wanted to keep all the power with caucus failed. Never again will a small number of individuals be able to disregard the party in favour of their personal interests. There will never again be a Douglas-type takeover of the party and never again will an old guard be able to select their own frontman as leader over the wishes of the party. No Labour leader will ever be able to ignore the membership again.

There are thousands upon thousands of Labour people who have left the party – or, rather, been left by the party, but stayed true to it in their hearts over the years. People call them, us, the Labour Ulterior because they are Labour, but beyond its present bounds.

Now, there’s a reason to be a member of Labour. Your voice will matter. You can have a real part in shaping your party. Probably best to sign up quick too. It looks like everyone wants to do the right thing and bring this to a head promptly – as with the previous race, I expect a clean fight between the contenders that will actually be good for the party… and none of the old guard’s amateur Machiavelli tactics this time.

PS. I love the Nat spin that the new rules could mean a new Labour Prime Minister could be turfed out within months after an election. No – it would take 50% of the votes to make that happen, just as previously – except the votes would be members and affiliates as well as caucus. Has a newly elected Labour PM ever been couped? Has anyone even ran against them? No. In reality, the post-election vote will be a victory lap for a new Labour PM – there will be no competition and the vote will be pro forma – just like Obama’s primary campaign this year. Let’s not forget that the Greens’ leaders face an election every year and none of them have ever been spilled. My question is: when will National join the 21st century and have open elections of its leaders?


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29 comments on “A reason to belong”

  1. Having a disaffected 40% rump in caucus directly after an election is unlikely. And having the members vote against the winner is ludicrous.

    But of course we are talking Nats here. Have you looked at their economics policies. Somehow they seem to think that increasing the unemployed increases the tax take.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      Somehow they seem to think that increasing the unemployed and decreasing taxes especially on the rich increases the tax take.

      FIFY

  2. Gruntie 2

    John Armstrong in the Herald this morning reckons Shearer needs to call a ‘snap election’ ( my term) on his leadership – otherwise he is a lame duck until Feb 2013 – any chance of that?

    • Zero chance, as long as there is no election he still has credible deniability that he has his caucus’ and his party’s support.

    • lprent 2.2

      Could do one in caucus. This will be a ‘normal’ 50% vote. However it does nothing about the Feburary 2013 vote happening.

      I’d suspect that a forcing a vote now will simply get a 100% and it will essentially be meaningless. A membership vote is likely to be feasible until the new year.

  3. Cactus Kate 3

    Keep going chaps.
    Well done on winning the crazy situation that allows the money-men in the Unions + members to outweigh the caucus. Is making wonderful viewing.

    • lprent 3.1

      You are uncomfortable with bottom up democracy with members involved? Please tell us why?

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        At a guess I’d say it was because she’s a typical authoritarian. Authoritarians don’t like democracy as it gets in the way of them doing anything they want no matter how it affects others.

    • Ha Kate.  The party dreams of having money men in the unions.  Things would be so much easier …

    • Jackal 3.3

      All that lickspittle isn’t healthy for you Catcus. Oh no! Labour is going to be more unionized. Even if this was true, why would giving the Unions (who represent a huge amount of voters) more say in Labours democratic process be a bad thing?

      How terrible it must be for you to have people who actually care about the workers in places of power Catcus. I mean obviously Nationals Union/workers/beneficiary bashing agenda is working out well for the rich eh! Pity about the economy and society though.

      How’s the latest right wing attack on the Maritime and Meatworkers Unions going btw? Talk about the little tory that cried wolf. All those screams of financial corruption have been proven entirely feckless so far. In fact Hide et al are looking decidedly pathetic!

      You are right though… Labours constitutional changes have been well covered by both the right and left. In fact it’s created more interest than anything National has managed, which will translate into support for Labour.

      • felix 3.3.1

        It’s hard for tories like Kate to form a coherent argument around this because they think “union” is a dirty word and the people they’re trying to convince don’t, but it’s bloody funny watching them try.

        Whatever you do, please please please don’t throw me in that terrible awful briar patch…

      • Ae ,
        She must liken the unions to “The most powerfull force in the Universe” ….
        Her beloved Gnat’s of course ……
        Their scary aye Kate? ((-|

    • Phil 3.4

      Hi cactus.
      Thanks for your comment, just inspired me to re up my membership after a number of years out.
      Sincerely, thanks.

    • And yet another wannabee Labour leader is stymied …. how precious!

    • mike e 3.6

      I suppose you’d expect that from a party founded by unions!
      Just as you’d expect the business round table to have an undue influence over the right wing parties paticularly Act poling at less than 1% .IrOnic that 1% ters vote for 1% party!

  4. Todd Ross 4

    How can you possibly reconcile you’re first & last paragraphs?

    • lprent 4.1

      Perhaps you should elucidate what your difficulty is? I’m sure it can be fixed.

      In other words ask your question. Open-ended questions are rather boring and are typically viewed as being symptoms of an ACToid lurching out of the shadows like some kind of zombie,

  5. I’m sure that the many who left labour will flock back and become paid up members again,
    i am one of those and in my corner of nz i will be encouraging others. 🙂

  6. Raymond A Francis 7

    Personally I think all parties should have this level of democracy (imposed by law if necessary) and asked for it under the MMP review

    The only downside is a party leader having to hand out lollies to caucus members to keep them onside
    Look out for the largest Cabinets in NZ history, ala Miss Clark

  7. Raymond A Francis 8

    Thanks Eddie (I don’t follow Nat party stuff) but you make my point exactly, how much trouble do either PM Key or did Miss Clark have with stirring caucus members

  8. George D 9

    Worth pointing out again that the Greens have far higher levels of internal democracy than this, with a binding annual membership vote on the leadership among many other measures. You can debate whether they’re yet a ‘major party’…

    Yes, there are costs to pay in what democracy demands of a party. But that legitimacy and connection with the membership strengthen the party immeasurably. While still some distance from this, I congratulate Labour and see only good coming from these changes.

    I’m interested to hear how these might work when Labour is in power; the members could change the PM in the event of leadership discontent, no?

  9. geoff 10

    I think the right wing be quietly shitting themselves about this.

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