Labour's next leader | The Jackal

23 Aug 2013

Labour's next leader

In my opinion, David Shearer's shock resignation sends the wrong message to many voters, especially his supporters. Although the party obviously needs renewal, the current message is that Labour is unstable. I hope I'm wrong, but my prediction that we should expect another three years of National if Labour was to have further leadership troubles hasn’t changed.

Shearer’s resignation might be good for the Labour party in the long run, but it is not good for the left wing in general at a time when we should be pressing home the undemocratic passing of spy legislation. The GCSB amendment bill is a clear attack on our values and rights as New Zealanders and Key’s dictatorial rushing through of such unjust policy should be highlighted at every opportunity. The only benefit is that Labour is in the news again, but for all the wrong reasons.

However, Shearer resigning isn't what's really damaging Labour and the lefts chances to depose John Key's destructive regime. What is really damaging Labour at the moment is the medias response to his resignation and the fact that further leaks surrounding divisions within the party have come to light.

We now know that Shearer jumped before he was pushed. He jumped to try and save the party from a protracted and damaging leadership struggle, which is commendable. He did say that without the full support of his caucus he would step down and he is clearly a man of his word. Unfortunately his detractors within Labour don’t appear to be happy with his dignified resignation, with the NZ Herald's Claire Trevett reporting today:

A group of Labour MPs were planning a motion of no confidence against party leader David Shearer at the caucus meeting on Tuesday - a step pre-empted by his resignation from the leadership yesterday.

Mr Shearer said he was stepping down because he had not achieved the desired results.

After taking "soundings" from some of his colleagues, he believed he had lost the confidence of many Labour MPs, and it was time for a change before next year's election.

He said there was no challenge against him.

But the Herald has learned MP Maryan Street was preparing a motion of no confidence in Mr Shearer for Tuesday's meeting.

Plans were also being made to send a delegation to him before that to ask him to stand down rather than force the confidence vote.

The MPs involved were certain the motion would have succeeded if it had been required.

Although the media are manipulating the situation to make Labour look as bad as possible, it is clear that Shearer's opponents within Labour weren't happy with him preempting their attempted coup. You have to ask yourself why they would run off to the media with information that will only damage Labour’s chances for reelection to the government benches next year? In politics such unscrupulous tactics should sometimes be respected, but when it comes at the party's expense, no such respect should be forthcoming.

Clearly Shearer's honorable decision to step aside wasn't good enough. The knives are still out and not just from people like Judith Collins, Paula Bennett and John Banks. While they hissed and spat insults at David Shearer’s back, the right wings media lackey’s were also promoting their own choices for who should lead Labour. It’s ironic that the disloyal Shane Jones and fossil fuel advocate Andrew Little have gained their attention, but lets stick to the candidates who actually have a chance to become the Labour party’s next leader eh!

While many leftwing commentators support David Cunliffe, he is unfortunately largely alienated from the general public. Like it or not, there is some merit to the argument that Labour should remain a centrist party. Although fervently supported by many on the left, Cunliffe's direction will encroach further on the Greens. In my opinion, Labour will only increase its chances by securing more votes from middle New Zealand while retaining its core values. Having said that, the right wing propagandists clearly fear him, mainly because Cunliffe is an impressive speaker of the truth.

Grant Robertson is a bit more moderate in his beliefs. He is nonetheless just as charismatic and formidable a politician as Cunliffe. Although some have argued that his time in Helen Clark's office and sexuality will be a factor, I have to disagree. Experience is in my opinion a good thing and homophobes who would vote against Robertson just because he's gay aren't likely to vote Labour anyway. Bigots are National, Act and NZ First party supporters, so there is nothing to really lose there. I like to think that New Zealand has moved ahead enough so that an openly gay politician would gain support. While Cunliffe is likely to win more of the membership vote, Robertson is the clear winner within caucus. Healing division within Labour should perhaps be their top priority.

As for the future, serious consideration should be given to Jacinda Ardern. She is after all the people’s choice and has no association with Labour’s dead wood so to speak. In light of the ever-degrading social and economic situation in New Zealand, many people are pining for the days of Helen Clark’s steady leadership. Jacinda Ardern speaks for those who do not have a voice. She also has many of the same qualities as Clark and perhaps none of her flaws. Plus the prospect of seeing Key’s chauvinism exposed to the nation in a debate with Ardern is a chance worth taking. H3 or the Cheshire Cat up against the smiling assassin are similarly appealing things to think about.

Whoever is chosen, let’s hope the Labour party can put their quarrels behind them. Because without a strong and unified Labour party showing they can lead New Zealand to a brighter future, without a cohesive opposition that speaks for the majority of Kiwis, there is no telling what National will do with another term in power. That prospect alone is worth the left putting their differences aside and supporting Labour’s choice no matter who the next leader is.