- Date published:
4:43 pm, November 2nd, 2023 - 18 comments
Categories: activism, campaigning, capital gains, chris hipkins, community democracy, democratic participation, election 2023, labour, leadership, Parliament, tax - Tags:
In 2021, I voted against Labour’s conference proposal for midstream leadership change to be determined by Caucus alone, saying that it risked Labour becoming a cadre party. A friend liked what I said, but thought few would understand what I meant. A series of posts will start with why I think the Caucus should not rush to a leadership vote.
The Encylcopedia Britannica defines cadre parties as
“Cadre parties—i.e., parties dominated by politically elite groups of activists ..with largely restricted suffrage.”
I’ll try to test the proposition in a series of posts under a number of headings, starting with the leadership, as it looks like there may be a move to vote on the leader before conducting any Party review of a disastrous election loss.
The 2021 conference vote certainly restricted suffrage for the leadership vote. Moira Coatsworth when President had argued for and won a change to the Constitution to allow for a membership vote for Parliamentary party leadership. It wasn’t one-person-one-vote (OPOV) but had three houses, caucus 40%, members 40%, and unions 20%. That was the system used to elect Andrew Little in 2014, with the union’s 20% his hole card. A few unions put the proposition to their members, but most were decided by committee cadres. His preponderance in the union vote enabled him to squeak home narrowly ahead of Grant Robertson.
Surprisingly to me, Jacinda Ardern spoke in the 2021 debate, held on Zoom, stretching the truth by describing herself as ”just an ordinary member.” So I was totally unsurprised when she resigned as Prime Minister early in 2023. Nor would those close to her in the Caucus have been surprised. I don’t blame her; she had it tougher than most and responded extraordinarily well. I don’t think the resulting change to Chris Hipkins would have been any different in the absence of the amendment, as I doubt it would have been contested. But putting the amendment in 2021 spoke to lack of confidence then, and also explained the smooth transition in 2023. Not that it has worked out well.
There are strong indications that the depleted caucus cadre after the disastrous 2023 Labour vote want to move quickly to endorse Chris Hipkins. So Tova O’Brien reports:
ANALYSIS: Camp Chippy is feeling confidently chipper that their guy has the numbers to retain the leadership of the Labour Party and there’s a desire to call for a vote to cement Chris Hipkins’ dominance as soon as reasonably possible.
This will be in advance of any information provided by the Party’s review of the result. Chris Hipkins doesn’t seem to think that important, as he told Radio New Zealand’s Ingrid Hipkiss he has three years to develop new policies and when reminded said “Oh and there will be a review.” His concession speech sounded like one that should have been given in the campaign, and spoke of embarking on a “new and important task in opposition.” Opposition is only important in the parliamentary joustings, and of interest only to political tragics, MPs and the media. Kiwis want positive policies, not opposition.
Importantly, Hipkins’ speech offered no shred of accountability. A campaigner who promised to devote all his time to the campaign, and then dashed off to Papua New Guinea in the aborted hope of meeting Joe Biden, and to Vilnius to end up having to wait in the corridor to shake hands with Volodymyr Zelensky, seemed to be dancing to other agendas. The fact that he chose to announce no wealth tax ‘while I am leader’ from Vilnius rubbed salt in the wound and lost us votes. The last thing we need now are fixed ideas, or cemented dominance.
After another disastrous Labour defeat in 1990, then President Ruth Dyson launched “Labour Listens.” It was the right idea then, and that is what Labour urgently needs to do now. An organisational review is also important: if 2023’s was the biggest door-knocking campaign in the party’s history, as Hipkins says, there can’t have been much listening relayed from the doorstep. There are tectonic shifts emerging in our politics just as in the world at large.
In my opinion, the Party caucus should not move to vote on the question of leadership continuation until after they have received the review report. There is much to consider, to deliberate on, and to debate.
The Party also needs to conduct its review transparently. We should all be involved in that debate. Present plans apparently are that the view of party members who respond to a questionnaire will be considered by a panel of as yet unknown persons, then reported to the Party Council but not made public.
More cadre behaviour.