Are Robertson’s leadership ambitions over?

Liam Hehir writes in the Manawatu Standard:

Half a century ago, Richard Nixon addressed the media after narrowly losing election for governor of California.

The defeat was all the more bitter for Nixon since, just two years earlier, he had missed out in one of the closest presidential elections in history.

Dejected, he assured reporters that they wouldn’t have “Nixon to kick around any more” as he declared the end of his public career.

In just six years, however, Nixon was elected president.

Not sure Grant sees that as a good precedent though!

We should keep this in mind as we consider Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson’s latest disavowal of ambitions to lead the Labour Party.

Having been beaten twice in his quest for the leadership, Robertson says his aspirations are over and that he intends to give the new leader his full support.

We should take Robertson at his word. He has put his name forward to lead Labour twice now – and has lost both times. That would demoralise anyone.

I’m sure Grant is committed to his new role.

Robertson retains a following within the Labour caucus, the permanent bureaucracy and the media. He has been accused of using that platform to destabilise at least the last two leaders. By any measure, he will be a natural rallying point for dissent.

The conventional wisdom is that Little should appease Robertson’s loyalists by allowing him to retain a large degree of independence and influence within caucus.

This would be the path of least resistance. In the short term, it would also bring plaudits as a unifying gesture.

However, it could also prove to be Little’s undoing. Such a settlement would hold while things were going well.

Once things got rough, however, the peace could quickly fall apart.

What happens if Labour’s prospects still look bleak by 2016?

What if Little has a period of rough polling, poor media performances and strained caucus relations? Does Robertson just forget the leadership?

In the end the party’s performance will determine how united they stay.

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