Written By: - Date published: 1:19 pm, February 26th, 2015 - 64 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, david shearer, john key, labour, Politics, polls, Unions - Tags: andrew little, Labour Party, leadership
Its 100 days since the NZ Labour Party elected Andrew Little as its leader. What an inspired decision that has turned out to be! Little has galvanised the party, united the caucus and given John Key some serious opposition for the first time since Helen Clark stood down. It hasn’t all been plain sailing, and the last week has had some very awkward moments, but Little looks odds on to end this corrupt, venal Government’s charmed run. It’s interesting how he has done it.
Not by shouting. There’s been no Angry Andy, no table thumping, no stereotypical union leader rousing the rabble.
Not by trying to out lie Key; there’s no point, even if Little was inclined that way, because Dunnokeyo is the master at dissembling, diverting and disregarding the truth.
Not by pretending there aren’t problems in Labour either. Little saw that an election result in the 20’s was a sign of dysfunction. When campaigning for the leadership, he promised to fix the machine and he has steadily achieved a turnaround in poll results with a simple formula: unity in caucus, a shared vision in the party and rebuilding the party finances and organisation.
Andrew Little leads the caucus by asserting moral authority. He isn’t a bully or a briber, he listens to those around him and offers the opportunity for each MP and staff member to use their talents for the collective good. Have you wondered why there haven’t been the usual leaks and distractions from disenchanted Labour MP’s? It’s because they are trusted by their leader, it’s because they have been given the chance to shine and because they can see that in 3 years (or less, hopefully) they can be Ministers in a reforming, progressive Government. He’s promoted on merit and given those with leadership roles a year or so to prove themselves. There’s likely to be a reshuffle late in the year, but on present form, there’s not many changes that need making.
Little has engaged with former leaders, showing faith in former David Shearer by giving him an important spot in the spy oversight committee and unintentionally endearing himself to middle New Zealand when Green party leader Metiria Turei over-reacted to that appointment. Not that Labour won’t need support from the Greens in some form when we take the reins of Government at the next election, but Little’s primary responsibility is to lift Labour’s vote. And he has certainly done that.
So what is it about Andrew Little that makes this sea change possible? Part of it is personality. Despite the jibes, he’s a warm and witty man. He’s good company and, yes, he’s a good bloke to have a beer with. He listens to those around him, values what they have to say and is more than capable of changing his mind if reasonable alternatives are put to him.
However, he’s also firm in his beliefs. He’s strong and direct and speaks his mind. John Key is not going to forget “Cut the crap” in a hurry. In fact, Key was so rattled by that phrase that he tried to top it with the lame “Get some guts” and failed miserably. We’ve seen no Angry Andy, but plenty of Crankey John. The comparison between the mumbled bullshit of an increasingly tired looking PM and the direct, clear vision of the opposition leader couldn’t be more stark. Without Key performing, National are destined for a long, long time in opposition. They are attached to Key’s success like a bald man is to a bad wig; having been seen with it, it’s embarrassing when seen without it.
And Key is an accident waiting to happen. His habit of telling porkies, even when he doesn’t really have to, is going to catch up with him sooner rather than later. The Sabin affair and his role in covering up for a man he should have known was not MP material may yet prove his undoing. Hubris hurts us all eventually.
Another thing in Little’s favour is that he is an ethical person. Despite digging, the dirty right can’t find anything to pin on him. The media bill beatup was weak and his swift and correct response to Carmel Sepuloni’s situation is a marked contrast from the ‘nothing to see here’ snow jobs we’ve come to expect from Key.
Unsurprisingly for a lawyer and union negotiator, Andrew Little is a polished persuader. When leading the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, he convinced the regionalised and factionalised branches he inherited to unite around a common vision. He modernised the union and turned the conservative Engineers Union into the EPMU, New Zealand’s most forward thinking advocate for working people. Labour’s focus on jobs flows naturally from Little’s former working life. He knows the issues that resonate with Kiwis and he recognises that hip pocket values win votes.
Clearly, he has taken that reforming zeal into caucus. He has inspired unity and discipline where none has been seen for years. Little will lead Labour to their best election result since the Clark years. And he will win that election for the party and for the good of New Zealand.
The first 100 days have passed and we can look forward to many, many more good days on the left. Well done Labour, well done Andrew!