I’ve been meaning to respond to this post by Bill for a few days. This is the bit that I really disagree with: “there is a defining factor that ought to be considered…vulnerability to attack” (which isn’t from the post itself but from the front page description of it). The whole premise of the post is that a leader should be picked on the basis of who is the smallest target.
His description of the problem is accurate enough:
Whoever is leader, is going to [be] subjected to, and have to contend with, an endless barrage of innuendo and attempted smears from Slater, Farrar and/or others. These attacks will inevitably be picked up and amplified by major newspapers and TV outlets. The hope, as always, will be that any negative image of who-ever is leader gets traction in the mind of the general public and becomes projected onto the party as a whole.
But I object to the notion that any leadership decision should be based on this. For a start, it effectively allows the attackers from the right to determine who leaders from the left should be. It’s pretty much giving power to them and admitting defeat for the left to have any strategy or any ability to back their leaders against such attacks.
That bothers me a lot, because I think there has been too much implementation of policy or refusal to implement policy based on fear of the other side. The biggest example in my mind is the Foreshore and Seabed legislation back in 2005, when the Labour Party effectively allowed the opposition to dictate Labour policy. I believe that harmed the Party more than if they had held their ground and allowed the process through the courts continue. They lost a lot of support from the Maori electorate, as well as from many on the left who saw them as no longer willing to defend basic Labour values and principles.
Politics from a position of fear is never going to be successful. Politics based on conviction and the ability to put forward a sound argument is a much better strategy. It would be heaps better to pick a leader that has skills needed for the job (eg ability to build relationships and connect with people, strong debating & public speaking skills, etc), and simultaneously develop strategy to deal with potential attacks.
And in the meantime, simply ignore what right-wing commentators, bloggers and politicians are saying. The number of times I’ve seen comments along the lines of “well if [right-wing person] is supporting [left-wing candidate], then they are clearly not worth supporting”. Just ignore them, it’s noise and it makes no sense to respond let alone to pay attention when selecting a leader. Judge the candidate on their own actions, beliefs, ability.
Then there is the fact that selection of a leader based on potential attack points reduces the pool of people able to be elected. It’s a good way to keep anyone with any kind of minority identity out of the position, on the basis that they are open to attack because of that identity. It’s a way of enforcing a narrow definition of what makes an electable leader. Funnily enough, those some people who enforce such definitions also pontificate loudly about selection being based on merit. It’s a no-win situation.
Yes, anyone selected is going to be subject to attack. But there’s no point in allowing that to cloud our judgement.