Small on Labour leadership

Vernon Small writes:

Cunliffe cannot possibly be the answer. Leading the party to a historic defeat is one reason.

Having not much more than a handful of first preferences in the caucus ought to be another.

The lack of any public (as opposed to party activist) enthusiasm for him is a third.

A return to Shearer ought to be unthinkable. He has the back story of bravery, can do the statesman thing and is formidable on foreign affairs.

But he still has not mastered the fatal hesitancy when dealing with other topics that dogged him through his leadership.

Like Cunliffe he would mark a return to the past.

Stuart Nash and Kelvin Davis have also been mooted. But they are too inexperienced and come from too far back in the caucus.

They may be the dream of a faction of the caucus, notably the ones who were enamoured of Jones, but neither is a viable choice at this stage.

So who?

There seems to be a growing expectation then, that whoever stands Robertson will win.

BUT Robertson also comes with a problem. Not his gay-ness, though for some it is a still an issue. Some in the party are concerned that conservative voters, especially Pasifika ones in South Auckland, would rebel and may even start their own party if Robertson is chosen.

New Zealanders are likely to be more tolerant than many in and the unions think, but it is playing on some minds.

A bigger difficulty for him, though, is not caucus, confidence or competence . . . it’s speaking to voters in an everyday way, stripped of platitudes and bureau-speak. If a consensus does emerge it may be around him, and that may be the safest option.

Labour can ill-afford another mis-start. But he has work to do to present a coherent “vision” for the party and the country in a way that speaks to everyone.

Grant’s biggest challenge will be convincing New Zealanders that someone who has never spent a day working in the private sector (well post study anyway) can lead a Government with competent economic management.

But if we are to suffer a primary race, is there a third player who could energise it and offer a genuine alternative to a hackneyed run-off?

David Parker has been there before and pulled out, but his speech to the Labour conference was a surprise package that had many in the party sitting up and taking notice.

He manages to espouse Labour values while steering away from identity politics.

There is a lot of pressure on Parker to stand. He’s pulled out or refused twice before.

Andrew Little – a former union boss and party president – could energise the troops, would be an easy sell to the unions and speaks to the Left and Right of the party from Labour’s solar plexus.

He is also respected in business circles and that can only be good for fund-raising.

But at this stage he would probably draw fewer first preference votes in caucus than Cunliffe.

Little could potentially win, but if has the support of just five or so, then he risks also looking like a leader without his team behind him.

So the best outcome for Labour? Robertson as leader, with caveats.

Little, Parker and providing the deputy, finance and social policy leadership.

The only thing missing from that is a prominent role for any Maori and Pasifika MPs to reflect their importance and loyalty to Labour.

Two at least must be on the front bench when the dust settles after the leadership race.

Davis and Sepuloni?

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