My (late) vote

Written By: - Date published: 4:58 pm, November 16th, 2014 - 54 comments
Categories: david parker, grant robertson, labour, Nanaia Mahuta - Tags:

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

veggies-in-blenderUnlike 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.

Slprent - labour leadership voteo 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.

54 comments on “My (late) vote”

  1. Clemgeopin 1

    Enjoyed reading the article and your fair and frank analysis.

  2. George D 2

    I suppose we have, as you say, “several decades” to turn a “brick” into someone who can charm the people of New Zealand, through the harsh eyes of the press gallery.

    Most of New Zealand doesn’t care one bit about the internal organisation of the Labour Party. They just want someone who can explain how a Labour-Green Government is going to reduce their mortgage payments or deposit, and give their kids the education they deserve. On all available evidence, Little is completely and utterly unable to do this.

    I ran an election campaign against Grant, and started this year a complete skeptic. His propensity to surround himself with his young fan club put me off, as it does for you. But despite stealing more of his party vote, I rate him highly. He is very intelligent, excellent both in person and in front of the camera, and committed to social equality. He’s also a lot more ready than he was several years ago.

    Parker and Mahuta I have no strong opinions about.

    • lprent 2.1

      He is very intelligent, excellent both in person and in front of the camera, and committed to social equality. He’s also a lot more ready than he was several years ago.

      I agree with all of that. The problem is that he’d probably be fine on TV, but Labour doesn’t win on TV unless National is fracturing themselves – eg Bolger/Shipley. Quite simply National is more centralised and more capable of running a good solid negative campaign than Labour is.

      Labour wins elections against National by having enough supporters and members being willing to go out and arguing with their friends and family about why what Labour is proposing are some damn fine ideas and being willing to do that for 3 years. The party structure is the way those messages get dispersed and it has been let fall into a shameful neglect.

      Why does National win? Primarily because if they see *any* incoherence in Labour from years out, they will target that for their negative campaigns to make them look as if they are numpties who couldn’t form a coherent government if they tried. Just think on what has happened since 2004 and that is the exact pattern they follow every time. It was the same pattern that they used to use with great success from the 1950s onwards.

      It isn’t like they have good policy or even great leaders. They try to get voters to react against the left and the only defense against that is to get people on the left to work for what they agree with. That takes a great deal of organisational work over years all the way through a political organisation as large as Labour, not just a short campaign.

      That is why I don’t give a rats arse about the individual leader in terms of the last six weeks of TV campaigning. It is the prior ~125 weeks of getting the party and caucus looking like that can run the country and messaging that right down to the grassroots that will win an election against National either way.

      It was pretty clear to me from the hustings that I think that Grant Robertson would be awesome in the last bit of the campaign, and he would still lose because of things that happened years back.

      • George D 2.1.1

        You spend 2.75 years winning on television, and then .25 years winning on the street.

        It doesn’t matter how strong your ground game is (and from what I could tell it was reasonable) if voters have decided in the last few years they have no compelling reason to vote for you.

        (Yeah, I know those 3 months take 15 months of organising. They also require a lot of people to give a lot of money to a party they think is going to win.)

        • lprent 2.1.1.1

          Not really.

          You can spend 2.75 years losing on TV with multiple silly damn things like

          1. Chris Carter posting letters under journalist’s doors (to take personal example from the term not under review)
          2. or spokespeople contradicting each other
          3. or ‘confidential leaks’ by senior Labour figures contradicting whatever the policy is after it has been made.
          4. or having a controversial policy like CGT not really made clear to either the politicians or the political activists. I grimly remember the debate here after Cunliffe wasn’t sure on TV – and we weren’t that sure either

          Or innumerable other examples that National exploited (and I had to suffer through).

          Then you can spend 0.25 years trying to look like a government. That strategy clearly doesn’t work.

          The media will run a story about a policy for just a few days or maybe a week at the outside. It simply doesn’t penetrate into the general voting population. To get members and activists to keep repeating it to their workmates, friends and family you have to keep repeating it to them as well. Since most members and supporters aren’t great readers of political blogs or in the policy loops, that means a lot of organising to keep those messages repeating throughout the election cycle.

          The money is important, but people donate to parties that they think are likely to win. So that is the same thing.

      • Tracey 2.1.2

        helen clark spent a year on the ground before the 99 election. this is exactly how lp wins elections. as long as they are not tv unfriendly they can win from the ground.

      • David H 2.1.3

        An excellent article as usual Lprent.

        However: Little couldn’t even win his electoral seat so for me he’s out.
        Parker didn’t even bother to try for an electorate seat so He’s out.
        Robertson won his seat, but I have never trusted him So he’s out.
        Mahuta Should be made the next leader she does not have any baggage.

        Now what should have happened was, they should have had a investigation into why labour lost the last election, and why some of the candidates cost Labour the election by not chasing the party vote. Then those now politicians should be given a piece of paper with their resignations already printed, dated and just needing a signature.

        And the treatment of Cunliffe by Caucus all through the election, has cost Labour my support for the forseeable future.

        Mahuta to lead.

        The rest of them not worth the tick!

        David H

    • lprent 2.2

      Basically I’m convinced of Grant’s tactical abilities, I’m simply unconvinced of his strategic focus and abilities to concentrate on that. Labour and the left will probably win or lose the next election on what happens over the next 6-9 months.

      • Anne 2.2.1

        Yep. I came to the same conclusions for exactly the same reasons as lprent. A Little/Parker combination is what the Labour Party needs with Robertson, Mahuta, Cunliffe, Twyford, and Ardern taking the next five places. Annette King and Phil Goff still have a lot to offer in the way of experience and knowledge, but they have to give way to a new team. Having said that, I think they should – along with Shearer – take the next three places.

        Now, if I get my way… then I’ll be a happy chapess. 😀

        • weka 2.2.1.1

          Little/Parker, what would happen to the retirement age policy?

          • lprent 2.2.1.1.1

            They’d have a argument heated discussion inside caucus based on the priorities of the policies about what they want to push this term, and then sell that list to the rest of us.

            There is so much available policy that they’d have to pick and choose anyway because they sure as hell can’t do it all in one term. Figure that out early and then push that for 30 months. Make that public and clear early on and then stick almost entirely to that plan of what they want to emphasis this time around.

            The idea is to stay on the treasury benches for 6-12 years so it is a question of when they would want to do it rather than if they’d want to do it.

            The biggest issue of the last 6 years was that we didn’t know most of the campaign policy for 2011 until 2011, and much the same thing was happening in 2013 for 2014.

            Labour needs to advantage of the vast pile of policy that has been decided, costed, and reviewed in the last 6 years and announce it as the campaign priorities next year for 2017. No-one will be particularly happy, but at least there would be some goals to work towards. Everything else goes up for another round of decisions in 2018.

          • Atiawa 2.2.1.1.2

            Little wins that argument. Raising the age of eligibility to 67 was soooooo dumb. Why would Labour go head to head with John Key on that issue? And why should people have to wait another two years having worked a life time? Whoever within Labour gave that policy wings should start looking for another party. Good luck.

            • Tracey 2.2.1.1.2.1

              and therein lies the failure to communicate cos the rise to 67 wld be phased in but. nats succeeded in making 60 year olds think they had to wait til 67… which they didnt under the policy.

              todays 30 yr old wld… but so what…

              • Atiawa

                Sixty year olds I know didn’t think the policy was going to affect them. Key has maintained from day one that the age of eligibility would not change under his watch. We understand that the cost of universal superannuation will be greater then the governments total spend on education by the end of next year. The debate in the first instance needed to be around the decreasing tax take as a consequence of tax cuts for high income earners & companies.
                Key has turned superannuation into a sacred cow. Yet it requires robust debate in respect of affordability and eligibility.
                It was and remains piss poor Labour party policy even if off-set, for some, by the mortgage interest rate/KiwiSaver initiative.

        • greywarshark 2.2.1.2

          !@ Anne
          Sounds good. I’d vote for that and hope for that if I was Labour.

        • Karen 2.2.1.3

          That is exactly the front bench I’d like to see, Anne.

          Let’s hope!

        • Tracey 2.2.1.4

          and no backstabbing from those who dont win and their supporters. lp has to be tighter than the proverbial cos gower et al will focus on cracks…

    • Karen 2.3

      George D – I suggest you read Little’s response to the Standard’s 6 questions then read Robertson’s answers. Robertson is waffle and political speak, Little is straightforward, with clear, well considered answers. When it comes to communicating, Little is much better than Robertson.

      I am sure that Grant Robertson is very intelligent and is committed to social equality. He obviously also has lots of charm in person, but I don’t agree that this comes across on camera. He was dreadful in the debate with Steven Joyce during the campaign (Joyce was worse admittedly) and he often appears petulant when challenged. He kept talking over Nanaia Mahuta in the debate on the Nation.

      The Labour Party campaign was poor, and the problems with caucus unity had been obvious to the general public for some time. Labour needs to sort out their organisation, otherwise voters do not hear about policies, and even if they do, they will not be convinced Labour would be able to deliver. To think otherwise is naive.

  3. lprent 3

    Ah! damnit. I must be tired. I clipped the image of my vote wrote the post and *forgot* to press confirm.

    *sigh* Now I have actually voted…. Good thing I spotted that before I went off for a snooze.

      • lprent 3.1.1

        You would say that…. Another one in the bag…

        I tell you what though, David Parker surprised the hell out of me. I was kind of anticipating him being at the bottom of my pile. As it was it was only the union organising that tipped the balance. It is much closer to the needed managerial style Labour needs (in my opinion) than the more business style that I think David Parker would prefer.

        While the Otago Community Law Centre (I still have a tee-shirt from about 1986 from when my partner at the time was volunteering there) was a hell of good effort in the same style, I simply didn’t think it’d scale up in the way required in a country wide effort. Andrew Little had already done largely that – I’d seen or heard some of that in various workspaces at the shop steward level (my family works on the other side of the table).

    • greywarshark 3.2

      @ lprent
      Don’t wear yourself out!

  4. fisiani 4

    Had i been a member that’s exactly how I would voted. Hope that’s not too concerning.

  5. Clean_power 5

    My vote would have been: Robertson, Parker, Little, Mahuta.

  6. red lion serratus 6

    David Parker is an intellectual & passionate, he may have been a perfect leader in the pre- television age. AL for the current day.

  7. Phaedrus 7

    My vote was the same as yours, for very similar reasons. I also very much agree with your analysis of Labour’s problems in the past, and their seeming lack of vision and belief (incoherent is the word that comes to mind) and how Labour should proceed from here.

    • seeker 7.1

      Cannot agree with you Phaedrus (and lprent) as I cannot get past Parker’s immediate disloyalty after the election, and his intransigence regarding the raising of the retirement age. Have had enough of dishonourable behaviour from the national party, cannot cope with lack of integrity in Labour as well. Labour has to form a more honourable, ethical and creative team this time to prevent our country sinking further than ‘down under’ as is the direction we are heading thanks to #mobkey.

  8. Ron 8

    I go with your order Lynn but reversed Mahuta and Parker.
    My real worry is now that Robertson will lose and not accept the decision and we start the nonsense of disunity all over again.

    • seeker 8.1

      “My real worry is now that Robertson will lose and not accept the decision and we start the nonsense of disunity all over again.”

      My worry too Ron.

    • marie 8.2

      Also very worried about this. Haven’t seen a lot of evidence yet that certain caucus members are willing to put the Party, and those that the Party is supposed to be helping, before their own naked ambition.

  9. Skinny 9

    I have the contenders in that order also. One of the wannabe Leaders pointed out the very good point that if Grant is chosen it’s leaves the problem of the party not being rid of undermining crowd. It’s going to be a very close thing between Little & Robo with an outside chance that Parker who is probaby the one who could bring unity could sneak thru on the secondary vote, depending upon which way the caucus lean?

  10. odysseus 10

    Interesting Lynn, I was close to your ranking but have reversed 1 & 2 , though not much in it – for me, main criteria is electability .

  11. Tracey 11

    i thought dp was very able deputy to dc… i dont know if he has abc behind him or. not. i dont know enough about the inside machinations.

    i dont think dp or gr mentioned unions in their offerings to this site which may be problematic.

  12. Orthodoxia 12

    How is caucus voting, do they vote on the day e.g is their vote already locked in or not? Politicians like to back the winning horse so if Little appears to be ahead even by a nose some of caucus could jump across?
    Why I put Grant at 4 personally, is that even though he says he is the new generation, his caucus base should have retired 2 elections ago. The other issue is that mainstream NZ already thinks that Labour is a “gaggle of gays” and also just a bunch of university intellectual elites and Grant right or wrong will just continue to reinforce that perception.
    Having said that however if Robertson does not win I can not see him surrendering his ambitions…

  13. Ad 13

    “Now the bills, some sleep, and a think about what I do for the next few years for the left.”

    Yes.

    I spent Friday evening at the Waitakere Eco Awards. That’s 300 people who have no party structure, volunteer not to enable others to gain power, not for jostling into some minor micro-territory with the otherwise late middle-aged and spent, not donating thousands of hours and $$ in futile efforts every three years without recognition…

    … instead what they do is make the world a better place, one park and garden and stream at a time. For no instrumental benefit, no political or policy or territorial sensibility to what they are doing, and have open, generous and generative interactions with other people doing the same thing. They form community. And then have an evening full of simple celebration of everyone else’s good and hard and effective work.

    As an old Labour activist, being in that room of 300 people was quite a challenge.

  14. Halcyon 14

    Orthodoxia, you are so correct. If Robertson does not win this selection then he needs to be neutralised. Otherwise Labour will be facing another leadership challenge before the next election day.

    Robertson appears determined to be the Labour Leader come hell or high water. And it is about ego and not what is best for Labour.

    • b waghorn 14.1

      If he does not win and does not come out in full support of who does they should take his seat off him and put him at 35 ish on the list for the next election

    • Clemgeopin 14.2

      I think you are being very unfair to Robertson here. Let us wait for the leadership result and see how he reacts and behaves in the future before making any baseless unfounded unfair imaginary allegations.

      • Skinny 14.2.1

        Robertson and his deadwood mates will try force DC out. I am not lifting a finger to campaign for Labour if that happens, the man has a lot more too offer that the likes of Cosgrove!

        • goodsweat 14.2.1.1

          Union guys are accustomed to focussing on the long game. Where the fight needs focus to achieve favourable long-term outcomes.

          I’m hoping Little might have the chutzpah to orchestrate and conduct all of the soldiers with Labour principles in their hearts to take the fight out of the bedroom and into the street vs National, where it belongs.

  15. saarbo 15

    Hear,hear….ditto.

  16. fambo 16

    At the very least Andrew Little has the capability to settle things down in the Labour Party. I remember him from years ago when he was president of the Victoria University student union and there are some very positive qualities about him that I doubt very much have changed over the years. There’s a bit of mettle at the bottom of him that means he won’t cave in to bullying.

    • b waghorn 16.1

      God knows the left need to show a bit of mettle. I also saw a glimpse of fire in him when talking about workers getting a fare deal. Were as all I saw was poli speak from the others.

  17. westiechick 17

    I have to decide whether I will vote before I decide who to vote for. Last time round I was desperate for Cunliffe to win. This time, I have no strong feelings. I can see them all doing ok. I think we have also realised now that this is a three year commitment and whoever wins will enjoy the support and security of tenure that the last two didn’t have. Hard to pick winners. Muldoon, Lange, Bolger, Clark and Key couldn’t all be more different from each other but they all managed to cut through. Hopefully whoever wins tomorrow will join that list and win some elections.

  18. seeker 18

    i think after tomorrow it must not be a case of building unity but KEEPing unity.
    If there is disagreement learn to disagree agreeably to keep unity rather than disagree disagreeably and become disloyal.

    If I even sense differing factions in Labour setting out for their own personal agendas I will have to leave. Am still uncomfortable about Parker and his apparent personality flaws regarding loyalty. Not a sign of trustworthy and inspiring leadership in my view.

  19. Orthodoxia 19

    Yes Parker now looks poor after his behavior straight after the election and should not be Deputy Leader or Finance going forward. Let him cool his heels say in health etc. Also don’t want to go negative but Jacinda just does not cut it on the front bench she is poor in the house and even her sound bites on the news aren’t flash, so whoever wins she should not be deputy.

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