Assessing the Labour Leadership Candidates

Little Mahuta Parker Robertson
Internal Attributes
Unite the caucus Well placed to do so, as few enemies. Cunliffe endorsement did not help him though Would unite the caucus, but against her, not with her Well respected. Would be given a fair go Would have very loyal support from majority of caucus, but resentment from a few
Establish competent Leader’s Office Would recruit mainly from unions which has problems Very unlikely. Has little personal networks, so would leave to his deputy Robertson has huge networks and would attract a very talented staff
Satisfy the activists Most likely to be given support from the activist base Has gone down well with some activists Unlikely to motivate many Would have huge loyalty from many, but also huge resentment from Auckland ones especially
Attract donors Little had a constructive relationship as EPMU head with many businesses and could do okay here. Unlikely to attract any outside Maori organisations Very credible with business and would rebuild finances Unlikely to attract donors unless Cullen and Palmer agree to become party fundraisers for him
Manage the parliamentary team Little has not made a big impression in Parliament, but did well in growing and managing EPMU Unknown Has been a competent deputy who does much of this for the leader Robertson is hugely experienced and would by far be the best parliamentary team leader
Develop and stick to a political strategic plan Little shows signs of this with his campaigning on removing issues that distracted core voters Unknown Generally good at focusing on important issues Robertson tends to forget the bigger issues of the economy, and go after the scandal of the day.
External Attributes
Media appeal Reasonable relationships with journalists No strong relationships with journalists Rather boring Robertson is very close to many in gallery and would get favourable coverage
Match Key in House Little has been solid in the House but never spectacular Did not perform well when on front bench A solid performer in the House but unlikely to bother Key The only Labour MP who can cause trouble for Key
Likeability Rather dour Rather sour Bland Projects likeability – someone you want to spend time with
Hold own in debates Little is a competent debater Unknown, as has rarely been on TV, but did well last time she was on Won’t get a knock out, but won’t stuff up Formidable and tricky
Have economic credibility Little does have some economic credibility from his EPMY days. He was a welcome change from the old style unionists who only striked, and often struck sensible deals with employers Unlikely Mahuta will be seen to have economic credibility Parker has strong economic credibility Robertson’s employment record has been purely public sector which makes economic credibility challenging for him
Appeal to Waitakere Man Little is from provincial NZ, and EPMU work kept him in touch – but proposals like reverse burden of proof in rape go down like cold sick Mahuta could do quite well here – she is down to earth and relatable Too nerdy Too Wellington
Appeal to Maori Little has no special appeal here Mahuta is effectively a Tainui Princess, and well connected and respected No special appeal No special appeal.
Appeal to Pasifika EPMU background can help Mahuta has significant support here No special appeal Sexual orientation is an issue for some
Appeal to unionised workers Little well ahead. No special appeal Wants to increase their retirement age – not popular with union workers Robertson struggles here.
Appeal to urban liberals Little is effectively an urban liberal, but hides it well, so should retain support from them Unlikely to appeal to urban liberals Parker has some appeal Robertson is King of the urban liberals
Appeal to Auckland Little has little profile in Auckland. Would need Ardern as his Deputy if he wins. Unlikely to appeal to Aucklanders Parker has built up some respect in Auckland Robertson seen as alien to Auckland, hence why he named Ardern as his preferred Deputy
Lift Labour to 30% so they lose less badly Little should safely be able to get Labour back to 30% Hard to see Labour becoming more popular with Mahuta as Leader Hard to see Parker doing better than Goff Robertson should safely be able to get Labour back to 30%
Lift Labour to 35% so they can win if Winston will let them Difficult to see Little attracting an extra 10% of the vote Will not happen Will not happen Robertson has an interesting back story (his father etc), very good communications ability and an association with Clark which could bring some former Labour voters back. Make take more than one term but could get Labour back to mid 30s
Lift Labour to 40% so there can be a Labour/Green Government No No No No

So this is my honest opinion of the four candidates. They all have some strengths, and none of them look like they have the potential to be a game changer (Shearer and Cunliffe had the potential to be, they just didn’t manage to do it).

If I was a Labour Party member and wanted to maximise the chances of winning at the next election I’d rank first. Also even if he doesn’t win, he has the best skill set to rebuild the party organisation team and parliamentary team so they are less dysfunctional – and this would help the leader after him.

My second preference would be . Andrew was hugely impressive as EMPU General Secretary and a pretty good Labour Party President also. However he hasn’t been a star in Parliament. He may rise to the occasion, if given the leadership (which seems likely), but his record in New Plymouth shows his electoral appeal may be limited.

Prior to them both entering Parliament, I had said that Robertson and Little are potential future leaders.

The third preference would be . He’s a better Deputy than Leader though.

The last preference would be . I have nothing personal against her, but when she has had front bench opportunities such as being Education Spokesperson, she doesn’t seem to have been highly effective. I suspect her candidacy is more about becoming Deputy Leader.

I expect Andrew Little will be the winner tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if he gets 50% on the first ballot, and if not, how the preferences flow.

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