Labour are changing their leadership. I suggested yesterday on Twitter that this should be something different from the usual back-room wheeling and dealing: that they should hold primaries, with debates between the candidates. One of Goff’s big problems was that not even Labour supporters wanted him running their party – this would avoid that problem and generate publicity for the candidates. It’s an idea that’s anathema to the Philosopher-Kings running Labour though – the party is there to give them money and perform menial tasks like leafleting. Why should they care what the members ‘think’?
Anyway, my brief thoughts on the aspirants:
Andrew Little: If he’d won New Plymouth he’d have been the first Labour MP since the palaeolithic era to win back a provincial seat from the Nats, and would have been the only logical choice for the leadership. But he fought a feeble campaign and lost to a weak candidate by a large margin. Now he’s come in on a list that he helped draw up, and which elevated unionists over competent, popular MPs. If Little assumed the leadership now it would look like a union coup.
Shane Jones: As far as I can tell, the sentence ‘Shane Jones should lead the Labour Party because . . .’ has no credible ending to it.
David Shearer: Has an inspirational life-story to match against Key’s. But that’s less important now that Key’s star is already waning. Shearer might turn out to be an amazing leader, but he has yet to display any traditional leadership qualities.
Grant Robertson: Has not met expectations as an opposition MP in terms of holding Ryall to account in the health portfolio. And winning an election means winning Auckland, something a Labour Party MP from Wellington Central might struggle with.
David Parker: I don’t have a detailed critique. I just can’t see him as leader. He is, apparently, competent and intellectual, but Goff was also supposed to be competent and intellectual. And I’m trying to think of a way to say this and not sound shallow but can’t – he physically resembles Goff, and the party really wants to draw a strong distinction between the outgoing leadership and whoever takes over.
David Cunliffe: Is certainly arrogant, cunning and vicious enough to be leader. Is also very, very smart – Key is unlikely to ever leave Cunliffe fumbling about getting his numbers right in the midst of a live debate. And apparently his fellow party members despise him, which greatly endears him to me and suggests he may be popular with ‘real New Zealanders’. You never really know how someone will perform as leader until you put them in charge of the party, but Cunliffe has been publicly auditioning for the role for at least six months, so he’s less of an unknown than any of the others.