Just four months after an election then, political commentators are suggesting replacements for the current Labour Party leader.
My own view is that the strategy, devised by his Chief of Staff Stuart Nash, of having Shearer stump the country making speeches, rather than leading the charge against the Government in the House, has been misguided. The effect has been that Shearer is rarely seen on prime time television, while the Greens, Winston Peters and his own Deputy make the 6 o’clock running. Out of sight really can mean out of mind.
So let’s just indulge in a little speculation. Between McCarten’s and Hartevelt’s front-runners – Little and Robertson – who might make it to the finishing line? I’m going to plump for Robertson. Yes, Little enjoys the support of the unions and is a forceful debater in the House. But it’s hard to see this rather dour, uncharismatic unionist as the face of a rejuvenated Labour Party. At 41, Robertson, on the other hand, who lists his interests as ‘watching too much sport, playing a bit of indoor netball and squash, cooking, movies, listening to New Zealand music and reading New Zealand literature’, projects a youthful, energetic, upbeat and thoroughly modern image. And he’s fiercely ambitious.
In talking this issue through with a gallery journalist I suggest the danger time for Shearer was the beginning of 2013. The journo reckoned it will all be over well before then.
So are we ready for a gay Prime Minister? I can only speak for myself. I find the idea invigorating. Other than prejudice, I can’t really think of any objection to it. And we Kiwis are for the most part an open-minded lot. After all, we had no trouble electing the world’s first transsexual MP. And we didn’t seem to mind a mincing John Key.
It’s true that gay Prime Ministers are thin on the ground. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, elected Prime Minister of Iceland in 2009, was not only the country’s first woman Prime Minister but also Europe’s first openly gay head of state. She was followed in 2011 by Belgium’s Elio Di Rupo. When asked whether he was gay, the new Prime Minister replied, ‘Yes. So What?’ That strikes me as the only sensible answer to the question.
I don’t think it is useful to conflate mincing with being gay, but for the wider point I agree that the sensible answer is “Yes, so what”.
However sexuality can have some bearing, if it impacts politics. There is a difference between a politician who happens to be gay, and a politician that campaigns on gay issues. Chris Finlayson is very much in the former category while Chris Carter and Tim Barnett were in the latter category. I’d place Grant Robertson somewhere in-between.
I agree that at this stage the next leader of the Labour Party is probably a contest between Grant Robertson and Andrew Litttle, and Robertson is heaving favoured to win. The bigger issue is when will the vacancy occur!