There’s a degree of speculation about whether a deal is being put together to find a single ticket for the Labour leadership, but I don’t think that’s likely at all.
As far as I can see too many people close to and in Labour (all parts of it) – Phil Goff, Mike Williams, David Parker, Moira Coatsworth, Brian Edwards, Shane Jones, and many more on and off the record – are talking about how democratic the process is and how important it is to the health of the party.
Add to that the expectations from party members and affiliates that they will get a say in the new leadership, and the fact that getting that say would give the winner the strongest mandate any new Labour leader has had in a long time, and the idea of a deal starts to look even more remote.
There’s also the mechanics of it. While the leader is voted for by the wider party, or confirmed by the party in the case of a no-contest result, the deputy is still chosen by the caucus. Which means anyone taking a deal in which they were to be deputy would have to be certain that the majority of the caucus was signed up to it. By my reckoning David Shearer would have stepped down a lot earlier if the caucus had had that much focus.
Add to that the fact there is a huge amount of danger in a deal for any MP that was involved in it. Despite the tealeaf readings of some pundits, the push for democratic change from the membership and the affiliates was not about wanting one leader over another but about having the right to help make that decision. A single ticket deal would risk a significant blow-back from members and affiliates who could, quite rightly, feel that they had been cheated out of a democratic right regardless of who took the leadership. Sure there could be a show of unity from the factions at the top, but whether that would bring much needed unity throughout the party is questionable. And all of the party needs to be pointing in the same direction as we come into election year.
I think that anyone that has the political chops to have got to a position of being a contender will recognise just how significant that danger is both to the health of the Labour movement, and to their own ongoing ambitions and steer clear of a deal that cuts out the process. After all they have just been through 20 months of disunity and disgruntlement and will really, really not be wanting any more. On the other hand a deal in which it is agreed that the winner reaches out to the loser after the contest might be a suitable compromise.
Of course nobody can force MPs to stand so there could be a no-contest result, but I think that it presents a much bigger risk to all involved than a race would. And I think that everyone who is directly involved realises that.