It would appear that the Labour caucus has decided to take its time to fully consider all implications of what was a massive defeat before proceeding to decide questions of leadership. I think that is wise – we have to get the Labour horse in proper shape for the next race before we worry about the jockey.
The Party constitution requires “as a matter of course” that there will be a caucus vote to endorse the Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party. This is not an option; the vote has to be taken. And it has to be taken “no later than three months after the date of a general election.” But it can be taken at a time of the caucus’ choosing. It does not have to be immediate.
Note that it is an endorsement vote for the Leader, not a confidence vote as described by Meltdown Paddy at TV3. The bar is high – in order not to trigger a party-wide election the Leader has to get the endorsement of 60%+1 of the caucus.
Labour caucus members will have heard and delivered a lot of straight talking today. I sat in that caucus for over eight years, and saw and occasionally participated in quite a number of sometimes very robust debates. I think what is not often appreciated by outside observers is that people can have strong and different views but still retain respect for each other, and can at the same time retain their collective shape.
People who put themselves up for election to Parliament put their lives on the line. When they lose, and when they lose as badly as this, it hurts. They are grieving, and we should not be surprised if denial and anger come to the forefront at the start. While we may grieve too it is not quite the same for us and what we should do is give our MPs the space, time and respect they all deserve.
So I think they have made a wise decision to consider all aspects and implications of this loss before doing what they must by way of endorsing the Leader. Believe me, there is plenty to consider and the issues are not simple.
Labour has had three leaders in six years, and arguably we would have been better served if the process of electing Phil Goff and David Shearer had been more considered. Also in my view if there is to be a party-wide leadership election the candidates should be required to propose a detailed manifesto and plan, and not just be judged on the basis of a speech.
There is a lot that needs fixing, and a lot of listening and discussing to be done. Remember the old saying “act in haste, repent at leisure.” No need to rush; the voters aren’t hanging out for the decision.