A guest post by Michael Lu:
Winner and Loser
By Michael Lu .
Whatever the final outcome of the Labour leadership’s contest, it is hard to say who is the loser amongst the three contestants – David Cunliffe,Grant Robertson and Shane Jones. If I have to determine whose the loser in this contest is, then it is probably the Labour Party itself.
The three contestants are now pulling out all the stops to try to woo the supporters, unions and caucus to support them in this leadership contest. All of them have released their policies in their leadership roadshow. Shane Jones has not specified the financial commitments in his policy to woo the voters, whereas the other two candidates are more specific in what they can offer.
Amongst the three contestants, Shane Jones has little chance in winning the leadership contest. His participation is to assist him to increase his profile. He wants to seize this opportunity to address voters’ concerns and show his political astuteness. The recent roadshow has shown his ability to attract the supporters and raising his profile. In my opinion, Shane Jones is a winner. His increased popularity and his future political career are more likely to attract media and voter’s attention. The once ranked fifth minister in former Labour government with great leadership potential will struggle to be elected to be the leader due to his indiscretion and actions in the past.
Many people have commended that both Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe are the front runners in this leadership contest. The policies released by both of them have shown that they have put up sweeteners like living wage in order to attract more votes. Whoever the elected leader is, he will face pressure to honour these commitments and increase the popularity of Labour party amongst the voters.
In the leadership contest, I believe David Cunliffe has the upper hand in winning the leadership. He has been ranked third in the Labor Party heavyweights, highly educated at Harvard University and has been in politics for a number of years . His political view is more leaning towards left-wing voters which will appeal to the blue collar support. This will be a risk for David Cunliffe to unite the faction of party and supporters which has a more centre political view. It is important to note that in the last election, one of the contributing factors that Labour lost the election is the voters has lost confidence in the leader and hence has decided not to vote.
David Cunliffe, although popular at the grassroots level, seems to be unpopular and left out from the Labour caucus. His personality has made it difficult for colleagues to support him. It is crucial for him to change his leadership style and make it conducive for his colleagues to vote and support him in order to win this contest.
Under the MMP electoral system, both the Labour and the National need to find allies in order to form coalition government. It is important for any leaders to have good political relations with potential partners. In the past, Helen Clark was reluctant to form a coalition government with the Greens in order to avoid being overly containment policies. Helen Clark rarely ruled out any coalition deals in the public. David Cunliffe’s recent speech of ruling out giving the finance minister post to the Greens did not make much sense. If the Greens performs well in the next election and the Labour needs to surrender the post of finance minister for them to form the coalition government, the opponents will accuse David Cunliffe to be untrustworthy. If and when David Cunliffe becomes the leader, his focus is not only on uniting the party and also building the good relationship with political parties for Labour to form coalition government.
On the other hand, Grant Robertson is more likely to gain support from the caucus. His centre-left policy and good performance throughout his career is well known. However, it is difficult to predict his gay identity is seen to be favourable or disadvantage to lead the Labour in the upcoming election in 2014. New Zealanders considered themselves always open, egalitarian. An openly gay prime minister perhaps would make New Zealanders proud.
From another perspective, whoever loses this contest, this might not be a bad situation. Firstly, the new Labour leader will face lots of challenges from Russell Norman and Winston Peters whose outspoken style is always the focus of media. Secondly, the winner of this leader contest won’t make everybody happy. The losers will challenge the leadership again once there is an opportunity. Finally, the John Key led National Party has been in the government for two terms now and still leading in the latest polling. It is not an easy job for the Labour new leader to lead the party to take over the power from National in the upcoming election in 2014. Once the Labour loses the election, the new leader may be forced to step down. Therefore, whoever loses this Labour leadership contest; he is not to be a loser yet. If the Labour loses the upcoming election, he still has a chance to become the next Labour leader and has a better chance to defeat National in 2017.
In the end, who is the real winner from the leadership contest, I am afraid that only time will tell.