The system fixing at The Standard is done for the moment. So for the next few hours I’m paying bills and finally doing a late vote for the Labour party. The anecdotal word is that there have been in the order of 6000 membership votes. But I suspect that there will be quite a few late voters like me.
I wasn’t too fussed about the field of leadership candidates early on when I wrote “I have the form – but none to vote for” where I said
Unlike every other occasion where a leadership change has happened inside Labour I have absolutely no idea who in the hell I want to vote for. On the other hand, I also don’t have anyone who I’d vote against (which is usually my starting point).
What I want is some kind of person blender. There are aspects of each of the candidates that I’d like to see in my ideal candidate, plus a large and long dose of senior ministerial experience that is so clearly lacking.
Ok, I still want that blender. But there were some surprises for me as I went through five small meetings with candidates and two of the hustings meetings. Especially in the way that the candidates seemed to eventually get the message that dissatisfaction about the way that the Labour caucus is ‘perceived’ is actually widespread outside of this site (FFS – authors and commenters reflect opinions in the labour movement – we’re not a goddamn PR mouthpiece like many of the right blogs).
As most people will be aware, I’m generally of the ‘right’ of the Labour party in most matters. That is hardly surprising as I spend my working days involved building export intellectual property businesses. These are what we require to earn a first world living in a world that is increasingly competitive for commodities.
I volunteer help for the left because National and the right generally are such short-term thinkers. They tend to support the kinds of stupid negative sum businesses like selling dairy commodities, crony capitalism rentiers, and bloody stupid perverse incentives in property bubbles. Damn useless for our future wealth generation.
But I also have little time for ideology. What I’m interested in is building a better NZ capable of supporting its aging population and providing opportunities for the kids coming through. Labour and the Greens generally have a better appreciation and policies for that than National and its puppet parties. We have to earn the treasury benches to be able to do that, and the first place to start is in fixing the frustrating and outright irritating internal systems inside Labour that have been frustrating me for a long time.
So here is what I eventually voted for. What I’m interested in is having the whole of the Labour party in good shape to fight the next election. The left only have 3 years to build a viable alternative government and for me experience trumps almost everything else.
The first two on my list came relatively easily. The last two were a bit of a coin toss.
With Andrew Little it is because of the experience with organising outside of the political sphere in the labour movement and across the Labour party. I think that he has the ability and the talents to make the sceloric internal processes change in the incremental way that a nearly century old party needs. He and others certainly did so in the EPMU that I and my family knew of old.
Of course he is a bit like a overly serious brick when it comes to speaking. But if the Labour party doesn’t improve then they won’t look like they are going to be the leading party in a government. Then they won’t get voted into a position to be one. Besides, he has most of three years to get his arse into gear to look less like a hounddog on the podium.
David Parker has the ministerial and policy experience that will stand him in good stead with developing a working government. I was expecting that I’d put him way down. However his rapidly improving performance on the hustings and the potential for self-improvement during the process showed promise to match the background. He doesn’t seem to have the organisational experience inside the Labour party to do the kinds of change required. But it was pretty clear that he’d been taking and listening to advice from those who did. He has also done enough serious time outside of the parliamentary system to be able to think see further about alternatives that work.
I hope David keeps getting good advice and in particular mastering that self-deprecating grin – it works. Learn to cut the pauses to think. And above all learn to make the damn policy phrasing a lot shorter please. It isn’t about producing reams of carefully written policy – they are useful as links. It is about explaining and selling that policy to other kiwis who haven’t had your background so they want to dig down into those policies.
Nanaia Mahuta made a excellent point with the referencing to the effective performance from the Maori caucus in the last election. That was a awesome performance by her and the other Maori Labour MPs and candidates. She impressed me both this time and in the earlier leadership campaign. But the problem is that I have no ‘feel’ for how she would be able to do the kinds of organisational change required. She asserted that there would be change, but gave no indication about how. As anyone who reads this site is aware, I treat unsubstantiated assertions as mere wallpaper
Grant Robertson, well in this election someone had to be last. I was impressed as always by Grant, he is a good performer, a charmer, and I’m certain that he is a best of these candidates in the house and probably in parliament. But I’m interested in how to get the Labour party and the left activated and organised for the next election. And after being around politicians for decades, I treat charm as a mere trainable job requirement. After all I saw Helen Clark over several decades go from being a complete dog on the idiotbox to someone who usually commanded everyone’s attention through her personality.
The problem was that I can’t see his organisational ability to actually change the Labour party internally, and that in my view is the prime thing that needs to happen. Moreover, I didn’t see him improve through the selection process. What he was saying at the start was what he was also saying at the end. Most of it was assertions (many of which I liked) with too little detail to treat them as anything more than waffle. The factor that finally put him at the bottom was the event at the Kings Arms. Why do you have to bring hordes of Young Labour up from Wellington for an event in Auckland? I’m sure that Jacinda could have raked up some equally enthusiastic “new generation” people from up here.
So that is what I based my vote on…. And I’d still like a blender. They each have different strengths and I hope like hell that they continue to work together which ever one wins the leadership. In my view they are all good candidates.
If you haven’t voted yet. It is a good time to do so. Now the bills, some sleep, and a think about what I do for the next few years for the left.