McCarten on Labour

Matt McCarten writes in the HoS:

After he defeated John Howard for the prime minister’s job the world swooned. Rudd was part of a new wave of intelligent, moderate social democratic leaders led by Barack Obama. John Key was also part of this new order.

But governing successfully, and winning campaigns, require two different skill sets.

Obama is struggling with that predicament. Fortunately for this Government, Key has made the transition seamlessly.

Rudd, however, has been a train wreck, stuffing up one policy after another.

Rudd’s arrogance and flip-flopping put him offside with the electorate.

And he had never been popular with his colleagues.

You have to hand it to the Aussie Labor Party: if its leaders don’t perform, they are quickly and efficiently dispatched.

The party’s had a string of leaders in recent years and if new leader Julia Gillard can’t save it from electoral defeat in a few months it will shaft her, too.

The party’s New Zealand parliamentary counterpart doesn’t have the same ruthless survival instincts to oust its leaders when it can’t win.

Our Labour MPs, in their hearts, knew Helen Clark couldn’t win the last election and know Phil Goff can’t win the next one.

But, as they did with Clark, they’ll go into denial and pretend that as long as they plod along they’ll still have a chance.

Ouch. Tough words.

Unfortunately, softness on the left isn’t restricted to national politics. Questions are being raised about its standard bearer Len Brown’s durability in the Auckland mayoral campaign.

Until this month he looked unassailable. But his stumbling over his credit card use made him look weak. His key advisers, by blaming his problems on a media beat-up, make him look like a whiner. No one votes for a victim.

Anyway, it’s legitimate for the media to put him under scrutiny as voters do want to know whether he’s up to job. His responses tell us a lot about what sort of person he is.

Brown has a winning way with voters face-to-face but he does have to convince us he can be a capable chief executive, given some of the recent spending in Manukau City.

Brown had better lift his game because other contenders are starting to smell opportunity.

Theatre director and actor Simon Prast’s entry into the mayoral race on Friday helps the right wing’s strategy of encouraging a split to the anti-Banks vote. Prast should be able to garner up to 10 per cent of the vote, and that will harm Brown.

I assume there will be more “celebrity” candidates. More worrying for Brown, though, is a strong rumour that a poll has been commissioned to test Stephen Tindall’s chances.

I’ve been hearing Labour are starting to panic over the Brown candidacy, and are looking around. If Tindall enters, they may swap their support to him.

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