This was John Armstrong writing back in August of 2013 about Labour’s leadership primary model:
On the face of it, Labour would seem deserving of much applause for rule changes which now make the election of the party’s leader a far better exercise in democracy.
Changes to the constitution which give every party member a say on whether David Cunliffe, Shane Jones or Grant Robertson should be handed the difficult task of returning Labour to the Promised Land have surely got to be a good thing, haven’t they?
Or are they? There is a long-forgotten but still very solid reason why election of the leader was the preserve of Labour’s MPs for so long.
MPs are hostage to the fortunes (good and bad) of their leader more than anyone else in the party. It can be argued that deciding who gets the job should remain the prerogative of MPs – and theirs alone.
The recent rule changes may instead result in the election of someone – Cunliffe to be precise – who caucus members may regard as being inflicted upon them as leader by misguided outsiders. The caucus – or at least the majority of its members – may thus not feel obliged to take “ownership” of the new leader.