I voted for Cunliffe, Robertson, and Jones in that order. My reasons are in this post. It is unnecessary for people to speculate on additional motivations.
But if Clare Curran, Trevor Mallard*, Patrick Gower or anyone else wants to run a politically based smear on me like they did on Jenny Michie, Mike Williams, and others then I’m perfectly happy to tear them a new rectum through their political credibility over the next decade.
As David Shearer has so predictably and clearly demonstrated, actual political experience in our local system is the primary requirement to being the leader of Labour’s caucus. Other attributes may get help in getting your party elected. But absolutely nothing puts off voters more both in the intermediate future or over a decade than having a inexperienced hand trying to guide a fractured caucus and party.
David Lange demonstrated that in an earlier decade when he was elected leader but was far too reliant on a small coterie within caucus and the wider party. We still see reverberations of that to this day with the size of the party membership being dwarfed by the Labour Ulterior of ex-party members who left and never came back – which seems to be where I’m slowly heading.
You can see much of the same attributes within the National party at present with the continual factional discussions popping into view as people jostle for the lead position when John Key decides he needs his knighthood on his CV more than losing an election. Besides, he could emulate Keith Holyoake and be the second National party leader to leave without a knife sticking out of their back.
The role of the parliamentary leader(s) of a party are to help to win elections and to lead any subsequent government. To do that they have to have credibility that they can win elections and that they can run an effective government afterwards. Cabals of power like the “backbone club” running a political figurehead simply don’t work in either of these. Yes – it is possible to lie your way into power through an election. But the subsequent government will ensure that party will forever afterwards have to win elections with reluctance of their own supporters to see a repeat dragging them like an anchor.
To be able to be the leader of a political party having the well-rounded experience to be credible to your members, the voting public, and even your colleagues is the crucial requirement.
Getting parachuted into a safe electorate seat is one thing. But running a couple of a successful campaign is a crucial learning experience for new MP’s. Losing a campaign beforehand in an unwinnable and even hostile electorate is an even better one. And any electorate MP who cannot manage to largely hold their own vote and at least retain much of the party’s vote really needs to be looked at with askerance.
Unfortunately list MPs despite several attempts to provide them one do not have that cauldron of experience. It wouldn’t be that hard to set them up virtual electorates across the countries or regions for the party and their colleagues to assess their actual effective performance. However this hasn’t seemed to be a consideration during selection. List selection seems to be based more on a factional criteria than performance.
Experience around the party organisation helps a lot. Much of a parties political power comes from harnessing their activists so that regardless of their differences, they are at least pulling in much the same direction.
This is and always has been especially the case in movements from the social democratic traditions. The possessors of capital who own the plant required by most media simply aren’t very sympathetic to the labour or green causes who are more concerned with societies as a whole then the effects on affluent individuals. It doesn’t matter how sympathetic individual media workers may be, their jobs often depend on showing an imbalance towards their employers views. Hopefully the steadily reducing costs of media will break this eventually.
So social democratic movements always rely heavily on their members and activists to push messages and ideas into a population in a way that can’t be distorted or jammed. Knowing how to build the consensus that makes this happen amongst the disparate parts of a widespread and largely voluntary organisation is an artform that is more learnt than taught. It also acts as about the best sounding board for strategies that a party can have. It invariably has the bets critics if they are listened to.
Being a minister to really important. I don’t think that anyone can really be able to become an effective Prime Minister if they have never been had the pressures and stresses of being a minister. They’d be far too easy for ministers new and old to bamboozle. That would make a cabinet impossible to run as anything other than a negotiating point between opaque fiefdoms. Hardly a way to build any coherence in a governmental policy. Its wavering courses woud probably look somewhat like the current government’s strategies..
Experience in parliament in both the house and the select committees is also a basic requirement. Being able to deliver a good speech, argue a good case, and question people arguing a case is important. Being able to think and articulate interjections, adapt your speech on the fly, and to understand what others are saying is even more important. So is understanding the rules the surround these activities to protect the course of debate.
Being able to do the same inside caucus is much the same. But even more importantly this is also where the general electoral strategies of a party tend to get argued out. The main requirement is that whatever agreed must be coherent and be able to be seen to be coherent to the wider membership because if you can’t convince them, then you have no hope of convincing the wider electorate that it makes sense.
This isn’t a matter of getting a consensus or even the factional win of a vote. If a single decision of caucus undercuts the overall strategy agreed across the wider party, then we should be able to expect that a leader will treat it as a vote of confidence. Because ultimately the role of a leader of party is to make sure that all parts of a party are working towards the same goals.
Being liked or fully supported by caucus colleagues or even your members is simply not a requirement. Partial or conditional support will do. After all if there is a broad agreement about objectives then a few diversions on the way that people personally disagree with can and usually are tolerated.
I volunteered to work for Labour starting in 1984 almost in spite of a personal highly individualistic (some say outright eccentric) views because I considered that they had the best solutions for what my society needed. I worked closely with Helen Clark from 1993 onwards despite having a political and personal philosophy that was quite different to my own because she had the vision, experience and competence that I thought that a Labour party needed.
The need to have a leader that is personally liked doesn’t happen in any other successful workplace. And I’m rather surprised that some people in the party and even the political media seem to think it should be. It is nice to have a candiadte
I don’t personally know any of the candidates well. But I don’t need to. This leadership contest is pretty much of a no-brainer for me.
Shane Jones has a political career that to me seems to be more punctuated by bad decisions and impulse control than anything else. I’ve had to try to defend his actions in these pages far too often until these days I don’t bother any more. He seems more intent on playing clown than working for the party. His electoral performances have been piss-poor to date because he doesn’t seem to organise them. I think that the party should either find a court jester role that he can work in effectively while he sorts his shit out, or they should dump him from selection.
Grant Robertson is shaping up as being an effective minister whenever he gets a chance. But he has only been a MP since 2008. In my view he is more characterised by what he doesn’t as yet know and understand than by what he does. I’m going to be very interested in what he manages to do with his weak points throughout the party over the next few years. Also what happens with such basics like his electorate numbers – which currently don’t distinguish themselves from the parties numbers over the last few elections.
David Cunliffe gets my support almost through default due to the lack of a credible alternative. He has been in parliament since 1999 after
being parachuted into New Lynn winning the National held Titirangi seat. After the Titirangi was eliminated in boundary changes, he was selected for safer next door New Lynn seat which took the bulk of the Titirangi population. He has maintained a strong hold on it ever since.
He actually has a pretty good track record at almost every level – electorate, parliamentary, ministerial, and even party. About the only thing that seems to be an issue is a relatively small number of MPs who appear to personally dislike him, which says more about their lack of professionalism than it does about Davids. There also appears to be a faction of the caucus who don’t appear to agree with some of his ideas. But their lack of a credible candidate means that they will probably have to accept this one.
What both this and the last leadership debate highlights most to me is the paucity of seasoned talent that has developed from 1999 onwards. One suitable candidate?
I think that Labour has to look very closely at the selection procedures that have been in use from 1999 onwards. They clearly are not recruiting or selecting a good standard of candidate.
* Trevor may be completely innocent on this one. But since I usually subsequently seem to find him embroiled in the middle of this style of political infighting I’m going to include him in a Napoleonic justice approach – guilty until proven innocent.
Updated: I made a mistake about how David Cunliffe entered parliament.