Labour leadership voting

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Labour is expected to give party members an equal or even greater say than the party’s MPs in electing its leader in the future – but it is understood to have backed away from the British Labour Party model which gives one third of the vote to trade unions.

Good. Union members who wish to join Labour should get a vote, but union bosses shouldn’t get to have bloc votes. If this is correct, it is good Labour is resisting giving unions a vote in leadership selections. Now, they just need to get them out of candidate selections.

Labour leader David Shearer said yesterday there was general consensus within the caucus that it was time for the membership to share in that vote – something the members made clear during last year’s leadership contest. He said the details were yet to be worked out, including the exact split of the vote.

It is understood the party is debating options including giving slightly more weight to the vote of party members than to the vote of the caucus or at least giving them an equal vote.

I think this is a good move. Maybe one day National will do the same. What is interesting though is whether Shearer would have been elected leader over Cunliffe if the membership had a vote. Cunliffe appeared to have far more membership support.

Senior members said there was some concern that giving too much weight to the membership vote over the caucus vote could result in a leader being chosen who was deeply unpopular within the caucus – a result which could be unworkable in practical terms.

However, there is also a desire to ensure the members’ vote was not purely tokenism and to give them a real influence. Debate was also under way about whether the caucus portion of the vote would be a bloc vote and how affiliated unions should be treated.

If the caucus portion of the vote is a bloc vote (winner takes all) then the membership portion would be tokenistic. Both blocs should be split according to how their members split. Let’s say they do a 50/50 split and they have 37 MPs and 2,000 members vote.

Say (for example) the caucus votes for Shearer 20 to 17 over Cunliffe. But Cunliffe wins 1,200 members’ votes and Shearer 800.

The caucus vote is 54% Shearer and 46% Cunliffe, and the members vote 60% Cunliffe and 40% Shearer. On a 50/50 split then the combined vote is Cunliffe 53% and Shearer 47%. Cunliffe would win in that scenario, despite losing the caucus vote.

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