ImperatorFish: The Labour Leadership Indecision

Written By: - Date published: 3:43 pm, December 12th, 2011 - 10 comments
Categories: david cunliffe, david shearer, labour - Tags:

Scott at Imperator Fish has kindly given us permission to syndicate posts from his blog – the original of this post is here


The Labour Leadership Indecision

So I went along to the Labour Party leadership debate/discussion today in order to make up my mind.

It didn’t work. I’m still an undecided non-voter.

The issue for me is one of presentation. I am convinced that both Shearer and Cunliffe are, by and large, politically in about the same place. I don’t see the leadership campaign as a left versus right battle, and the issues they spoke about during the meeting made it abundantly clear to me that they want the same things and want to take the party in much the same direction.

So it comes down to this: is the best leader going to be the superb communicator who can cast a spell over an audience during a speech and who has a grasp of policy detail? Or will he be the guy who is less polished but has spent his life living Labour’s values?

To connect with the disaffected voters who turned from Labour in their thousands do we need a great orator who can savage the government in the House, or do we need someone with a compelling life-story who provides a stark contrast to the money-trader who made millions on the financial markets?

Cunliffe’s almost Obama-like style of oratory will have appealed to many in the audience today. There were even the hoots and cheers from his supporters that you would expect from a US Presidential campaign. Shearer, by contrast, was down-to-earth, and for some will have presented as an agreeable alternative to the hype and noise of Cunliffe and his supporters. Shearer exudes a genuine humility that some say will make him a potent force against the Flash Harry currently in charge of the country. Others, however, think someone with a bit more “mongrel” is needed to match John Key.

Well I don’t get to vote, which is probably a good thing. I don’t see how anyone can be totally convinced one way or the other about who is the best candidate. Each man is a gamble, because he has obvious strengths and weaknesses. Neither man is the complete package, but then who in a leadership role ever is?

A quick comment on the deputy leadership contest. I have not heard Nanaia Mahuta speak before, but she impressed. Grant Robertson was also a compelling speaker, and he is unquestionably a future star. I’m not sure if either is ready for the role yet, but in the case of Mahuta that’s because I haven’t seen enough of her.

Putting aside the question of who the right candidate is, what strikes me about the leadership contest is how the party has opened up and listened to criticism. At the meeting there wasn’t too much blaming of the usual suspects (e.g. the media, public stupidity, others on the left, etc etc), and all of the leadership candidates seem to understand that the party has failed to explain to the public why they should give Labour their vote. It feels like any lingering complacency from the Clark years is disappearing.

Finally, a prediction. I don’t have any inside knowledge, and I haven’t heard any whispers from within the caucus. But while I can’t personally choose between the two Davids, I suspect Shearer will win it by a couple of votes. Note: this is not a confident prediction, so don’t hold it against me if the other David wins.

10 comments on “ImperatorFish: The Labour Leadership Indecision”

  1. As an LP outsider on the far left I don’t find Imperator Fish adds anything to this debate. If he thinks its about presentation then IF is a idiot. All form and no substance. I understand that Cunliffe is the only one to call for all Labour members to vote for the leader next time round. If I was a member I would make that single fact the deciding factor if he didnt already have enough going for him such as pairing up with Nanai and actually being able to articulate concrete policy in a way that I know where Labour stands. As for the Shearer backstory, I’m glad that he dodged bullets though I know from the days of sneaking into the matinees while on leave from sports afternoons that by definition heroes dodge bullets.

  2. Undecider 2

    I must admit I went into the meeting down in Christchurch as a Shearer supporter. I walked out undecided. We’re really spoilt for choice. I am swaying between Cunliffes communication skills and Shearers down-to-earth Key contrast character. Although Cunliffe talked about a great vision, Shearer talked about listening and challenging, aswell as using real life examples.

    I have hopes that if Shearer gets in Cunliffe would be willing to put hurt feelings aside and be his deputy. Shearer needs a sharp onto it economic advisor during the coming years who can debrief him.

  3. dancerwaitakere 3

    Cunliffe and Mahuta have clearly won every meeting, it is obvious to most that attended, they’re ready and there is an overwhelming and clear demand from party membership for them to lead the party.

    I hope that the MP’s that we, the membership who put the MPs in their positions, are listened to.

  4. Salsy 4

    For me I too started out 100% pro Cunliffe. However, after some thinking and reading I began to worry that so many of us are focussing on who can beat Key, not who has the skills to pull the country together in a time of immense uncertainty. We have looming, potential catasrophic climate change, peak oil and the social changes this will bring. I dont see this as all arriving tomorrow, but some of it will well be on the wind by 2014. Whatever happens should be for the good of New Zealand, not just a response to Nationals current corporate brand, or a life support for old Labour egos.

    • neoleftie 4.1

      That salsy is echoed by more and more people i talk too..we need a left movement that unites the many, that can connect to the many and provide real and meaningful solutions to the ever pressing needs of the many. We need a leader to bring forward change and help…too many people are struggling and many many more will join their ranks over the next three years.
      We need a good leader to bring unity and strength to the party, to its members and bring forward real and meaningful challenge to the incumbent tory machine that is embedded in ur society.

    • dancerwaitakere 4.2

      The reality is that Helen Clark united the party because she COULD win and DID win.

      Cunliffe CAN and WILL beat Key, these ‘unpopular with the caucus’ whispers will be gone once people realise that they will be sitting on the Government benches once more. It worked a treat with Helen.

  5. hush minx 5

    I agree dancerwaitakere – Helen Clark led her greatest critics to achieve what I would suggest are their career highlights. Cunliffe can do the same, esp with a motivated deputy beside him, and an invigorated party which has a voice.

    • dancerwaitakere 5.1

      Absolutely hush minx!

      • seeker 5.1.1

        hush minx 8.26pm and dance waitakere- 818pm- agree totally and love the endorsing words of Paul Saarbo below. Hope I can sleep peacefully now so I am ready for the outcome tomorrow.
        May have to be strong enough to change allegiance. Hope I don’t have to.

  6. Paul Saarbo 6

    I worked with David Cunliffe in 1997 when he was working for BCG (an assignment for Fletcher Paper). I have no doubt that he has the intellect to get this country moving in the right direction. He needs to be given a chance to be NZ’s Prime Minister, John Key simply doesn’t compare.

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