So Rohan Lord has pulled out from being a Labour candidate in East Coast Bays.
He was previously selected to stand in this seat. He also sought a position on Labour’s list. He was given list number 72.
For him to get into Parliament Labour would have to poll 60% plus. So it was not going to happen. The chances of Rohan winning East Coast Bays was even more remote. The day Labour wins East Coast Bays is the day that all activists retire. Because by then we will have reached left wing nirvana.
I was at the recent Auckland list conference meeting. It was like previous list conferences, except it was not. Because of recent rule changes Candidates did not have to show any ability to do deals or understand what was happening deep within the party. And members lost our collective power. Previously we all talked and understood who was proposing to go when and if it met with majority agreement it was given the big democratic seal. The latest list conference was really frustrating because we all were given a piece of paper and asked to list the candidates. It felt like an attempt to get rid of the wisdom of the collective.
Rohan Lord was there and gave a speech. With the greatest of respect his speech was not memorial. He had a back story and a narrative that was interesting and distinct but he showed very little understanding of how the Labour Party worked or what it stood for.
In my previous post I mentioned the names of candidates who were not members of parliament who really impressed me. People like Willow Jean Prime, Lydia Sosene, Anahila Suisuiki, Jin An, Romy Udanga, Kurt Taogata, Sunny Kaushal, Marja Lubec and Jesse Pabla. These are people who mostly have been active in the Labour Party or in the Trade Union movement for years and who in their own ways have contributed greatly. I did not mention Rohan because with the greatest of respect he did not stand out.
His basic problem was that he seemed to think it was a job interview, show up, put your CV in front of everyone and may the best candidate win. His thinking clearly is that being a Labour MP is a career choice and not a calling.
He is right that having the skills to do the job and having a back story is important. But he is wrong to assume that these qualities will be enough.
The Labour Party is much more than a means for careerists to have a comfortable life ensconced in the Wellington bubble. It has a 100 year history, it was built on the back of the trade union movement and tasked with the improvement of the plight of the working class.
It is not there to provide employment opportunities to individuals with an interesting back story. Candidates should be there to give it their all for the time they are in Parliament and then stand aside for the next person to take over. And they need to be brave and express proudly their belief in collective action.
Throughout the western world progressive parties that are careerist in approach are being hammered. Labour in Scotland has all but disappeared as support flocks to the more principled and passionate SDP. In England Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has surged recently despite much of his caucus openly attacking him and the party at large despite the damage caused. In the United States careerist democrats including Hillary Clinton failed when a re-energised Bernie Sanders led party could have succeeded.
Greece provides perhaps the best example where the machine like approach to politics will lead the left. From the Guardian:
As I write this, some of the best-paid brains in Europe are puzzling over what happens when the inevitable suddenly becomes impossible.
For the past half-decade, Greece was run by machine politicians who took orders from their northern European creditors and stamped on their own voters – slashing their pensions, selling their national assets and wrecking their economy. The weekend’s elections put an end to that cosy, monstrous system. And so in banks across the continent, analysts handier with statistical probabilities than political unknowns tweak their models. Ministers and pundits look on the tumult in Athens and wonder how to shape it into a glib one-liner.
Amid such febrility, it’s natural to want to pass the first verdict on Syriza – and completely dishonest to do so this early. The coalition of leftists numbers Maoists and Trotskyists, alongside others who sound more like Roy Hattersley. Rather than soundbites and polling, their expertise is typically in Japanese monetary policy or Lacanian philosophy. Tony Blair’s eager young shavers – glued to their BlackBerrys for the next line from HQ – they are not.
But instead of speculating about Syriza’s future, we should draw one vital lesson from its very recent past – one that Ed Miliband and his inner circle ought to learn too. Because there’s no way that Alexis Tsipras would have been sworn in as prime minister had it not been for the disastrous and ultimately suicidal behaviour of Labour’s sister party in Greece, Pasok. The death of the country’s main centre-left organisation has been swift and spectacular.
What happened? Two things that will be familiar to any Labour-watchers. Most immediately, the party accepted Europe’s demands for austerity and imposed massive spending cuts on its own supporters. But over the longer run, it went from a mass movement to an arthritic bureaucracy in the pocket of a small, corrupt elite. Scandals over kickbacks and expenses mounted. One family – the all-important Papandreous – provided three of Pasok’s prime ministers.
So in my personal view Labour should prefer passionate dedicated candidates who want to make a difference and have shown in the way they live that they want to make a difference, not those seeking a career.
And what is wrong with having a caucus truly representative of our community?
Lord is wrong about there being no future for middle class white men in the Labour caucus. There are plenty of them. The most recent addition to Caucus, Michael Wood, is a middle class white male. He has done things like stood as a Labour candidate in National strongholds on a number of occasions, formed a progressive local body ticket that now dominates Puketapapa, and made a considerable contribution to the party’s policy formation over an extended period of time. And he has shown that he can succeed at elections. Success in politics is something you cannot downplay.
Lizzie Marvelly in the Herald this morning considered Lord’s plight and used less diplomatic terms to describe him. From the article:
I find it fascinating that a wannabe politician who receives a low ranking on a party’s list would take from that the message that, “you’re probably not for us”. Surely the most likely conclusion one would jump to would be that the party was saying, “you’re new to this and need to work your way up”.
What seems overwhelmingly apparent in all of this is that a self-described white, middle class man entered into a new profession with a high opinion of himself and the expectation that reaching the upper echelon wouldn’t take him long.
When he was found wanting, while others who didn’t look like him were given the nod, he reacted not by taking stock of what he’d need to do to improve his position next time, but rather withdrew and looked for explanations for why such an apparently unexpected outcome had befallen him.
Such a situation provides a stark illustration of the most offensive side of the diversity debate. In order for diversity to be a bad thing, the people filling the positions that in the past would, let’s be honest, almost automatically have gone to white men must be thought of as sub-par, or not as good.
In a dynamic nation like our own, you can’t tell me that we don’t have a decent number of talented people – women, Māori, Pasifika, and others – who are just as qualified and ready to serve New Zealand in Parliament.
What Labour’s move to attract a more representative list has done is ensure that there is more competition. It means that Labour has gone looking for good people from all different backgrounds to represent a diverse population. It hasn’t simply relied on self-selection of people pushing themselves forward – a method that, for whatever reason, often results in an overrepresentation of middle class, white men.
For all future aspiring politicians the rules are that Labour wants a diverse representative caucus. It should not be a career. It should be a calling where for perhaps a short period of time you dedicate yourself to improving the plight of ordinary New Zealanders.