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Leadership Elections: Getting it Right

Written By: - Date published: 4:35 pm, November 28th, 2011 - 37 comments
Categories: labour, phil goff, uk politics - Tags: ,

The media are all telling us Phil Goff will tell us he intends to stand down as leader tomorrow.  It seems John Key has already picked his replacement, despite not actually being a member of the Labour Party (although at one point he did think he led it…).

But in reality, if Goff does intend to quit tomorrow, he should look at what the UK Conservatives did in 2005.

The day after the election (May 8 ) party leader Michael Howard announced his intention to quit… but after there had been a look at the leadership election rules (although they ended up unchanged) and a proper leadership contest, the centrepiece of which would be the party’s next Conference.

The Conference was in early October, so there was 5 months of media interest in the contest, slowly building.  And then the conference was decisive.  David Cameron was an outsider, ranked 3rd in betting.  But an excellent speech meant that in a day he and the previous front-runner had swapped places.

The Conservative leadership rules stated that MPs selected the top 2 contenders, and a postal ballot of all members decided the winner.  After the conference a round of meetings around the country ensued as David Cameron and David Davis (hmm, Davids – still a popular name…) lobbied the members.  Media were allowed in the meetings and more coverage followed, ensuring that when Cameron w0n the final postal ballot, he had a huge public mandate and a profile to match.

Now Labour may not wish to change the rules of their contest, but they could still organise something similar.  Have (media attended) town hall meetings of all leadership contenders around the country.  Let local Labour activists feed back to MPs what they think.  And then have a final big contest at next year’s conference, with a vote on Sunday morning, and the newly elected leader doing the closing speech.

Phil Goff found out that a quick shuffling of the deck and a new leader 3 days after the election doesn’t do them or the party any favours.  Hopefully whenever he hands over the baton it will be in a much more useful way with a polite, well-run and prolonged contest to affirm the next leader.

[Update: Realised I failed to mention what the contest did for the UK Conservative Party! Partly the contest, partly the choosing of the new face of Cameron, but they went from the “Nasty Party” with a toxic brand (far far worse than anything Labour have to counter) to one that the public felt more comfortable voting for again. The memory of Thatcher cannot be erased, so it still wasn’t enough for them to govern alone, but it made them electable again.]

37 comments on “Leadership Elections: Getting it Right ”

  1. johnm 1

    Cameron is no longer popular: now he is feared and hated for the workfare and austerity imposed on everyday Brits while the City of London and tax dodging corporations rake in billions without a shred of social conscience.


  2. Miggle 3

    Offering the opportunity to vote for a new leader is an excellent way to attract new members. Labour in the UK used this to their advantage after the 2010 election. Labour here would be fools not to change their rules.

    • rosy 3.1

      It hasn’t worked for Labour in the UK though. They still didn’t select the best person for the job. The media are having a field day with Miliband.

      • The Voice of Reason 3.1.1

        Miliband isn’t hurting Labour in the polls, though. He may not be the leader come the next election, but in the meantime, these aren’t bad numbers:

        YouGov/Sunday Times results 25th-27th Nov: CON 34%, LAB 43%, LD 11%;

        • Colonial Viper

          Massive long Labour leadership campaign though. US Primary style. Took all the candidates through every electorate, explaining their vision of a future Labour.

          We dont do that here.

        • rosy

          True. but that’s pretty much due to the incredible unpopularity of the Conservatives and Lib Dems, not because Miliband was the right choice. The thing is though, the UK has a longer election cycle so have more time to play with leadership changes and the like – however it pans out. We only have 3 years and the MSM is going to be focused on backstabbing scandals for at least 2 of those years whoever is picked. This is not to say a popular vote is the wrong thing to do. It’s just that it still might not produce a better leader.

      • burt 3.1.2

        There is no foolproof system rosy. But if the party is worth anything then please remember tossing the batten to the next guy and running away didn’t work too well for Labour last time either.

        I agree with bunji actually.

        IMHO Labour either need to consider they are no longer a major party or they need to start acting like one again.

        I think Goff made a good call to make the hard ‘unelectable’ calls at the election. He has spiked the public memory for 2014. Labour can rise to victory in 2014 if they get over their 1930’s policy mindset. Or they can keep that mindset and stay circa 30% hopefully holding a major position in a broadly left-wing coalition.

        Personally I would like to see Labour stay circa 30% of the vote but I would like to see National down there with them. 40% spread across 4-6 strong minor parties would IMHO provide representative govt.

        Realistically Labour can’t be true to it’s core party values and be a major party in today’s political environment. We might find in hindsight that Goff did a pretty bloody good job of selling the dog food he was trying to sell.

        • rosy

          In the main I agree with you Burt. Is no reason at all for Lab on to have a public-style election of a new leader. I’m just noting that the popular choice might not be right either. The better reason for a conference vote is transparency and involvement in the political process – important reasons in their own right – not because it will result in the ‘right’ leader being chosen. That’s all I was pointing out.

        • Ari

          The way the political climate works, I don’t see National down at 30% unless the left is dominating the political landscape. The right tends to consolidate around one or maybe two parties.

  3. Peter 4

    How to win the next election

    1. Find a charismatic leader – Peters and Key
    2. Have lots of money. It would not be surprising if National had more money that the rest combined.
    3. Have no more than three simple messages and repeat them at every opportunity – Greens

    • Shona 4.1

      You forgot National’s most used technique. Old fashioned radio. Have key people in all the radio stations including state owned radio.Have an Orwellian moment of hate message every day offset by continual repitition of our dear leader’s name and his latest inane activity to reinforce the message.

    • Colonial Viper 4.2

      In other words, treat the electorate as brain dead advertising overloaded celebrity inspired morons.

      • Peter 4.2.1

        and it works

      • burt 4.2.2

        CV, let me finish that for you;

        In other words, treat the electorate as brain dead advertising overloaded celebrity inspired morons stealing vast sums of public money if required.

        I bet $1 Winston declared almost as many donations this election as he (originally) did in 2002 & 2005. Very different campaign this time, more subdued than it was in 2008. Funny what no access to the public teat can do isn’t it – and interestingly he’s back stronger than he has been for a long time.

        • Colonial Viper

          Forget stealing vast sums of public money, Key and English are in there handing our silverware out the window.

          • burt

            Then buy some shares and sell them back to the next rampant Muldoon style government that insists on nationalising everything under some ideology that worked some generations ago and buys them back at about twice their face value ! If you do then I’m assuming you will keep the money in NZ ??? If you can then why wouldn’t you? Do you not have confidence in your precious Labour party to buy them back from you later? You have the power to stop some of them falling into overseas hands, as do all NZ people if we are prepared to transparently put our own money behind keeping them NZ owned.

            Actually hang on, if we keep all (status quo) assets and borrow truck loads more and tax people more to pay for the borrowing and tax some more so we can spend more public money then… hey wow it’s all going to work this time…. We won’t descend into recession 2-3 terms later like the last two attempts of the great Labour party revival that worked in the 30’s.

            • felix

              Did you consider that maybe CV thinks it’s stupid for govts to sell assets that we know will have to be bought back at a loss? You do realise we’re going to need our energy infrastructure back, right? I mean you’re not that short-sighted that you haven’t realised that the world is facing a wee bit of an energy problem, right?

              But it’s all good as long as someone can make a buck on the trade, eh burt? Fuck your fellow kiwis over, why not?

              I hope the next “Muldoonist” govt that decides to nationalise our energy infrastructure does it without compensation.

              That’ll be a good lesson for all the greedy fucks who tried to cream a profit for themselves off their fellow kiwis’ assets.

            • Ari

              You’re missing the point. Why should I have to pay to buy something I already own?

              • burt

                Well if you already own the power companies why did you let Labour take such massive profits and force the elderly to turn their heaters off in winter…. You heartless bastard.

                We don’t already own them – sure we paid for them but the gummit own them and they use them to extract ‘taxes’ from us because we have no say in how they are run. That would change if we had individual voting rights as shareholders.

                Ari you normally make a lot of sense in your comments… what happened?

                • lprent

                  Well I suspect you’re talking to the wrong person. Ari seems to support the Greens.

                  And I agree with you, the power generators need to run as non-dividend companies. They need to concentrate capital from ‘profits’ to get the vast investments required for such things as new dams, geothermal, wind farms, tidal farms, and even the odd gas or coal fired backup. When was the last new hydro plant put in?

                  Having the government and shareholders sucking out dividends is why we’re running on the edges of our existing power generation and distribution infrastructure with very little capital investment going to in to handle disasters or growth.

  4. A more local example of this model would be the Green Party elections of Russel Norman and Metiria Turei in separate ballots as co-leaders.

  5. Afewknowthetruth 6

    David Cameron: popular? What a laugh! He’s well on the road to being more hated than Thatcher. And that’s saying something!

    More to the point Cameron was a Bilderberg candidate -‘David Cameron was an outsider’ – and was selected by those who operate the global economic system as a smiling assassin to transfer the nation’s wealth into the hands of bankers and corporations, which he has been extremely successful at, and for which he will be richly rewarded.

    ‘Getting it right’.

    Whom might that be for? Ordinary folk, or global corporations and bankers? (remembering that Goff was (is) pro-corporate control, pro-globalisation etc.)

  6. Rich 7

    I’d agree. But I fear they won’t – they’ll choose the candidate who’s managed to line up enough influential people in caucus with offers of high list placings, spokesman jobs, foreign trips and the like. It’ll be another time-served grey man from amongst the usual suspects.

  7. AnnaLiviaPlurabella 8

    We already have Boag, Hooten, Coddington et al telling us who we should and should not select. Perfectly Understandable. They will naturally slag off the one they consider the biggest threat to the Right: Cunliffe.  Do you want to give the Right dominated Media six months to screw us up?  Get real: the Tories control the Media in GB as they do here. We are NOT Tories adn this analogy does not work.

    • Olwyn 8.1

      I am pissed off with these encroaching Tories, who you would think would have business of their own to mind right now. What’s the bloody PM doing, suggesting LP leaders and speculating on how well liked they are? I suggest Anne Tolley as his replacement when he flees to Hawaii mid-term.

  8. Nick C 9

    David Cameron is awesome

    • Colonial Viper 9.1

      Yes. He’s made shitloads of money for UK corporations by smashing Libya and getting contracts to rebuild it. And supported the jailing of rioters who stole $10 worth of stuff from stores, while giving knighthoods to bankers who stole $100M or more.

      • burt 9.1.1

        Didn’t he also eat a few babies?

        • Colonial Viper

          No. But he did take independence living help away from disabled old people.

          Which is something we also did here in NZ.

          • burt

            So it’s not as affordable as the advertising on the box then. What great socialist nirvana policies are CV?

            Do you perceive that you have a right to live independently with state provided assistance in your twilight years CV? If so, having seen what you have seen, are you stupid enough not to save enough yourself so you can afford that luxury rather than just trust the state to provide because you paid your high taxes?

            • rosy

              Interesting how the people who believe people who don’t save ‘enough’ are also the same people who don’t believe in a living wage.

  9. ianmac 10

    Bluddy good idea Bunji. Best that I have seen. Why should Key and the Media panic Labour into premature action? Take your time Labour and consider Phil staying on. I am sure Key would hate that!

    • burt 10.1

      Party leaders need to be competent when a TV camera is jammed in their face. What better way to test that than to have a degree of media involvement and hype in the selection process. It’s actually feedback for the party insiders more than it’s entertainment for the masses.

      The stark reality is the party needs to elect a leader that holds their own in the MSM & TV. It’s ridiculous to assume that can be done best with minimal media involvement.

      But lets not get anywhere even close to; Who wants to lead the Labour party ? hosted by Chris Trotter on prime time.

  10. Sookie 11

    I think they should go with David Shearer. I like what I’ve seen of him and I don’t particularly like the other two Davids. Sure he’s new and all, but so was Key and it worked out well for him, to our dismay. The Nats wouldn’t be on 48% if all they had was that shower of useless, unphotogenic gits that are currently hiding in Smile n Wave’s charismatic shadow.

  11. Ari 12

    Political elections for party leaders and lists really ought to be considered standard, or perhaps even mandated by law. This isn’t the 1960s anymore.

  12. johnm 13

    This is how “popular” Cameron is:

    “Troops to man airports during ‘general strike’
    Ministers are preparing to use troops at border controls when public sector workers stage a massive strike this week, which will also hit working parents hard.”


    The UK is in social and economic crisis some reasons: 1. North Sea Oil is receding rapidly and all the massive wealth that afforded which wasn’t shared out starting with the infamous Thatcher. 2. Crazy UK has gone down the mad U$$$$ path of privatizing everything in sight and then allowing corporations to dodge billions in taxes. 3. The rich will not share but hoard more and more expecting their wealth to increase year on year relentlessly. 4. UK has seen a massive transfer of wealth from poorer Brits to the rich since the Thatcher scourge and Reagan Alzeimers side kick got in.

    Basically the UK is totally screwed and only has a Dickensian class war left in which more and more repression will be used with surveillance plus rubber bullets when appropriate

    RIP “Well Chappies we did a jolly good job on that didn’t we! The Jollies are still rolling in for us ha ha !”

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