Andrew Geddis writes:
The only thing worse than electing the wrong person as leader of Labour is electing him by the narrowest of margins, by virtue of the influence of a handful of individuals acting under instructions.
Labour just made the wrong choice, in the worst possible way.
Obviously, I think that the decision to choose Andrew Little over Grant Robertson was the wrong one however it came about … that’s because Grant is a good friend whom I think will one day make a fantastic Prime Minister of New Zealand. So Andrew Little could be the reincarnation of Jack Kennedy mixed with Bob Hawke by way of Michael Joseph Savage (which he most certainly isn’t) and I’d still be lamenting the Labour Party’s decision to appoint him leader ahead of Grant.
So let’s put aside my personal disappointment at the actual decision that Labour has made and instead look at how it has done so. Because it looks to me like it’s created an almighty cluster&*k.
First, Little beat Grant by just over 1% of the weighted votes cast. That’s about as close a margin of victory as you can get, achieved on the third round. So the overall mandate for Little’s leadership is … fragile, at best.
Second, Little lost heavily to Grant in both the Caucus and the Membership vote in every successive round of voting. Little was the first choice to be leader of only four of his colleagues (assuming he voted for himself, that is). Only 14 of 32 backed him as leader over Grant by their third choice – meaning 18 of 32 think Grant is a better person to lead them. And in respect of the membership vote, Little was consistently 10% behind Grant at each stage of the vote.
The thing that gave Little the edge, of course, was his support amongst “affiliates” – which means those unions that still retain membership ties with Labour.
Now, I’m not a knee-jerk anti-union person. I am, and always have been, a member of AUS and then the TEU. I served on the local branch committee for a while. I believe strongly in the need for collective organisation and action to protect the rights and interests of working people.
I also accept that the Labour Party has been (and to a degree remains) the political expression of that need. So I don’t have any sort of problem in principle with the union movement having some sort of guaranteed input into the process of selecting the leader of the Party. Plus, of course, its really only the Labour Party’s business how they do things.
But for all that, as a “concerned observer”, I think that the sight of the Labour Party leader being chosen almost purely because of lopsided support amongst the union organisations is a terrible,terrible one for it.
They have a leader rejected by his colleagues and the party members, but there due to the union vote.
It’s not that 75% of the individual members of all the affiliated unions think Little is a better leader than Grant. It’s instead that 75% of those people that each union allowed to decide the issue plumped for Little ahead of Grant. People who, in the case of (say) the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, basically were told by their leaders that they should vote for the guy who used to be their boss.
Only one of the six unions allowed their members to vote. The other five had the bosses cast the votes for them. A few score union bosses got to decide the labour party leadership over the wishes of the caucus and the party members.
Try to imagine if the National Party had a leader who had the support of only four of his colleagues. It’s so ridiculous that you can’t even imagine it.
But then imagine if the National Party had a leadership system where the Auckland Chamber of Commerce Board got say 7% of the vote, the Wellington Employers Association Council got 5%, the Federated Farmers Executive got 6% and those three employer and industry groups got to determine the National Party leadership over the wishes of the caucus and/or the membership?
Here’s the real problem for Labour. In a rational party, some senior members or activists would be speaking up and saying “hey our rules have led to us having a leader who failed to win a majority of support from either the caucus or the members, this is a bad look, so we should review the rules”. But no one dares say this in public, even though they are saying it in private.Tags: Andrew Geddis, Labour Leadership