Today the candidates are off to the spiritual home of the Labour Party, Blackball on the West Coast.
It was here in 1908 that the local Miners Union struck for better wages and conditions. This was the first strike since the passing of the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act in 1890. It marked a more militant attitude by the Trade Union movement to securing improved wages and conditions for their members.
It was sparked by the firing of Pat Hickey and six others after Hickey refused to finish his pie after his 15 minute crib time was up. At the end of the strike the employers gave in, reinstated the sacked workers, and improved everyone’s conditions.
This event had a significant impact on the trade union movement and was a massive blow to the arbitration system. The various local miners’ unions joined with other unions formed the “Red Feds” or the National Federation of Labour. Direct negotiations with employers caused considerable improvements to workers’ wages and work conditions and started a series of events that led to the Labour Party being formed in 1916.
The past weekend saw three meetings, a second opinion poll and the announcement by four unions that they are supporting David Cunliffe. The opinion poll had David Cunliffe well ahead of the other two contenders. He was picked by 39% of voters as being the most likely to defeat John Key in next year’s general election. Jones was second on 18% and Robertson was third on 15%.
The media still appear to be struggling to understand the nature of the contest. Audrey Young said in the Herald this morning:
Despite the popular support for Mr Cunliffe, Mr Robertson still has by far the greatest support in caucus, thought to be at least 17 votes out of 34; with 10 for Mr Cunliffe and five for Mr Jones.
Caucus votes are worth more than other votes cast, with 34 MPs making up 40 per cent of the vote; the support of 17 MPs would give Mr Robertson almost 30 per cent of the total allowable vote.
She does not appear to understand that the vote is a preferential vote. Robertson has, on these figures, 20% of the total vote and with the distribution of preferences the caucus could, again on these figures, be tied up. Earlier suggestions that Robertson had overwhelming support in caucus appear to be incorrect.
Last night’s meeting in Dunedin has received an interesting write up from the ODT with the author suggesting that Robertson was the local sentimental favourite but Cunliffe performed best at the podium. It was also suggested that Cunliffe was the winner of the popular vote despite local MP Clare Curran announcing her support for Grant Robertson and that [Cunliffe] had delivered the quote of the day:
Labour has underestimated John Key. I won’t. I have his number and he knows it.
Finally to repeat the service announcement people entitled to attend the meetings include members, former members and new members who sign up at the door.
Media can attend but for the preliminaries and the speeches only.
If you are going you should get to the meeting early as there will be a vetting process and this could take some time. People should bring their membership cards or ortherwise photo ID so that they can be identified. Photos and social media can be taken and used during the open part of the meeting.
And a reminder that current members and those who have been financial members of the Party sometime between January 1 2011 and August 22 2013 but have not yet paid their membership for 2013 can renew their membership and vote, so long as they have done so before 12.00am on Friday 6 September. New members will not be able to vote.
If you were a member or have joined up again but have not received your papers you can chase this up by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally for your vote to count you will have to list all candidates in preference. The second preferences of the third ranked candidate will then be distributed amongst the other candidates. There is an online voting option that works well and I recommend this.
And just in case anyone is not aware of this I am a supporter of David Cunliffe and a member of his LEC.