Labour leadership voting

July 11th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

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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7 Responses to “Labour leadership voting”

  1. anonymouse (717 comments) says:

    The other question not raised is what if any roll the general membership might have when getting rid of a leader,
    In the past if the parliamentary caucus said we no longer have faith in the leader they were gone,
    Are they going to allow the general membership some form of recall if they become unhappy with their leader?
    – I doubt it……….

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  2. alex (304 comments) says:

    It is long overdue for Labour to give their members a real say in leadership selection. Since Clark left, leadership has been one of the issues that has been driving people away from Labour to the Greens, a party that gives members the right to recall or reaffirm the leadership every year. If you were a left wing Labour activist, would you really have felt represented by Phil Goff?

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  3. scrubone (3,099 comments) says:

    Labour’s role is to represent the unions in parliament.

    National’s is to represent everyone else.

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  4. tvb (4,430 comments) says:

    It is the Union block vote that gives thousands of votes to one person that makes democracy in the Labour Party laughable. This is against a background of declining trade union membership. Though the teachers unions are still strong as are other public sector unions. This makes the Labour Party hostage to some special interest groups which is a big turnoff to the wider public. Imagine if the chamber of commerce could exert the same influence over the National party selections and conference votes.

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  5. BillODrees (94 comments) says:

    BLOCK voting, whether by the Caucus or the Affiliates, does not make for good democracy. Cunliffe was one or two votes off beating Shearer in the Caucus vote. Cunliffe won the overwhelming support of the membership. The members will is ignored. Many of the Caucus owe their tenure to the Caucus and National Council. Many of them see the membership as cannon fodder for campaigns.
    If Labour is to re-connect with the hundreds of thousands who stayed at home on election day in 2008 and 2009 it must stop alienating the membership.
    I suspect the leadership sees the recent 4point increase in support as an endorsement of the status quo. It is not. John Key and the Nats have handed Labour opportunities by the bucketful. And Shearer has not converted them into a ignificant gain. Shearer has to become his own man, open the party to the members and create connections with those who have voted in the last few elections. Then he might win the next election.

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  6. BillODrees (94 comments) says:

    Correction: Last line to read…
    those who have not voted in the lat few elections.

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  7. Pete George (23,601 comments) says:

    @BillODrees:

    It is not. John Key and the Nats have handed Labour opportunities by the bucketful. And Shearer has not converted them into a significant gain.

    Phil Goff didn’t convert either – Labour wasted all of last term and at least Shearer is trying to change things now.

    Shearer has to become his own man, open the party to the members and create connections with those who have not voted in the last few elections.

    Yes, I agree that he has to seen to become his own man. There are glimpses but there’s also too much same old Labour from him.

    And a continuation of an obsession with an anti-asset sales campaign is nuts. They are selling people a petition that they know is futile. They are presumably be hoping the referendum will be seen by people as an anti-National vote mid term, but when it’s ignored by Government as everyone knows it will be, some of the petitioners might feel a bit deceived by false hope.

    But the problem is much deeper than leadership, leadership selection and repeating strategic failures.

    I tried to offer help to Labout three years ago and they weren’t interested – ok, they initially said they were interested, but when they found out I wanted to offer ideas they lost interest, they only wanted yes-pawns.

    And look at what could be a flagship left/Labour orientated forum – The Standard. Anyone labelled an enemy of any sort is harrassed and abused continuously with the open support of the blog moderators. It’s one of the least welcoming environments you could imagine.

    Granted, there are Mana and Green operators there too who have an interest in keeping moderate support away from Labour, but there is plenty of very nasty stuff from authors and commenters with known links with Labour and with unions.

    The Labour malaise runs wide and deep. Shearer needs to address that.

    Then he might win the next election.

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