Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, TV3 broadcast the public portion of the final hustings meeting of the Labour leadership election. There are too many prepositions in that sentence.
So dispose of the prose and check out the Storify of the hashtag, now with even less pointless edgy derailing by the Occupy “movement”.
A continuation of yesterday’s post, wherein I appropriate the labour of Young Labour to comment on the
Old Labour leader candidates.
Well, that clears that up.
Cunliffe: Yes it is my intention to do so, but I want to check that sufficient protections are in place.
Basic political answer for the issue.
Jones: Highly unlikely.
And Jones immediately shatters his straight-talking stance, inasmuch as he had one, by dodging a pretty simple yes/no question. Of course, it all makes sense if you add “unless Sealord makes it worth my while” at the end
of everything he says.
Cunliffe: I really think we need to improve the financial support and structures for students. I can’t make a commitment to a universal allowance until we’ve crunched the numbers – but it’s something I want to strive for. I am committed to extending eligibility for the allowance.
Jones: I will, subject to fiscal resource, deliver a universal student allowance system.
Robertson: Question is not if, but when. One of the things I am proud to have been part of was the interest free student loan system. I have always been committed to making study more accessible.
They’re all pretty much the same – no one’s saying “yes, 100%, in the first 100 days we’ll get it sorted”.
What I will be picky about? Is Robertson being proud about merely ameliorating the shittiness of student loans by making them interest-free. Those who studied while interest was being applied? Still have to pay that interest back. And we now live in a country where there’s a new “being a grown-up” milestone: the milestone of getting the first paycheck after you’ve paid off your loan.
If you ever pay it off, of course. It’ll take you longer if you’re a woman. And we know that social and educational outcomes for children are on average a lot better if their mothers have higher education.
Meanwhile people wring their hands about why younger people aren’t able to afford first homes …
Boy, that sure tells us a lot about them.
Cunliffe: Helen’s great achievement was putting the brakes on the neo-liberal experiment and putting people and social justice back into politics. The role of a government I lead would be to really move forward on making fundamental changes to our economy based on the traditional Labour Party principles of fairness and social justice.
Jones: I will alter the tax system to reward investment and jobs in the regions.
Robertson: I am proud of what the Clark government achieved. But the economic framework of that time needs to change. This means a government that is more hands on in creating jobs and policies like a capital gains tax. The era of light handed regulation is also over if we are to have safe workplaces.
Cunliffe and Robertson both try to have it both ways, praising Clark yet criticising. Jones … again, I just can’t tell if he’s meaning to sound as snarky as he does (just add “unlike SOME governments” at the end to see what I mean) or if he’s just not much of a thinker or if he’s just that straight up-and-down (insert porn joke here).
The whippersnappers* of Young Labour have done a very good job canvassing Cunliffe, Jones and Robertson’s feelings on a number of topics … so I’m just shamelessly springboarding off their hard work to provide my own take (and also transcribe the answers for those who can’t read the images).
Of course, they were always going to start with the dread ManBan.
Robertson: I am totally committed to ensuring the Labour caucus is 50/50 men and women.
Nice and straightforward, doesn’t actually address the question.
Jones: I don’t support a quota system, I will reward merit and take innovative steps to attract quality candidates regardless of gender, ethnicity or creed.
Surprise surprise, Shane Jones believes in a meritocracy and doesn’t think he should take this golden opportunity to address the fact that people think he’s a fucking misogynist troll.
Cunliffe: I’d like to see Parliament made up of 50% women, but it’s not something we can legislate for. The place for deciding on quotas is in political parties. I am committed to 50% of Labour’s caucus being women no later than 2017 and earlier if practicable. That means a real effort to change our culture.
Well, you can actually legislate for that kind of thing, David … but points for actually addressing the question and stating clearly that this is something requiring a culture change.
Cunliffe: I am comfortable with personal possession of marijuana being a minor infringement. I do not believe that it makes sense to waste significant police resources on this issue. Did I ever smoke marijuana? I was a student in the early 80s but I swear I did not inhale while writing poetry.
A nice balanced answer, though not one that’s going to convert any ALCP members. And I like Cunliffe’s ability to make a joke of himself, which neatly takes the sting out of bullshit hacks’ jabs at him.
Jones: I am not a smoker and will not put any priority on legalising marijuana.
Robertson: Like any drug we need tight regulation, but I favour a partial decriminalisation approach. I have to say though that this issue is not a major priority for me. As for inhaling, yes, not for many years, and I did not particularly enjoy it.
Another balanced answer, but it’s always super-telling when a politician uses the phrase “I have to say though”. It’s an ass-covering manoeuvre, a sop to the people who will freak out over the statement preceding it.
*QoT rolls up her sleeves and readies the chairleg of truth*
Robertson: All women should have the right to control and determine their own reproductive health. That is an absolute non negotiable. In my mind, our current abortion laws fall outside this principle and need to be reformed.
… well that was unexpected. It wasn’t Holly Walker levels of awesome, but given the last Labour leader to be asked the question decided to put his male privilege on full display by declaring he “hadn’t given it much thought”, I’m impressed, Grant.
Jones: Abortion, for me will always be a matter for an MP’s conscience.
Surprise surprise, Shane Jones hides behind the conscience issue – but won’t actually let us know what his conscience (I assume here that he has one) would tell him to do. And that’s a big fucking deal for a party leader.
Cunliffe: I want to see a woman’s right to choose protected. The current law hasn’t been reviewed for many years and I think that is now urgent. The Law Commission would be best placed to undertake this review as it is a conscience issue which splits across parties.
David does well here, but … yeah, a definite second place. Saying the law “hasn’t been reviewed for many years” is a massive understatement which is barely balanced by “that is now urgent”. And I just hate the conscience issue thing. Sure, abortion is widely seen as a “moral” issue, but we don’t have fucking Parliamentary conscience votes on whether Viagra can be advertised on television during the cricket, and Viagra isn’t a necessary medical procedure the lack of which might kill people.
Of course, Robertson and Cunliffe both make abortion purely a woman’s issue. They’re neither of them strident feminists, and if Grant thought about it he probably didn’t want to hand the religious extremists another “look at the gay man who is gay!!!!” attack of opportunity.
What I’m most torn on is Jones’ answers. Because I think he’s below pondscum, I read his brief, politic responses as either the kind you give when you don’t really respect the person asking your questions, or the kind you give when you lack the political instinct to figure out how to turn it best to your advantage. Cunliffe and Robertson have both made efforts to either cement their progressiveness or reinforce their moderateness and they’re definitely aiming at the Young Labour audience. Jones doesn’t seem to give a fuck.
On the other hand, there’s probably plenty of people out there who will see that as a good thing: straight-talking, no waffle. No real principles either, but that probably doesn’t matter to Jones supporters.
*Oh god I feel old.
There’s a lot of buzz around the Labour leadership contest ending in either a deliberate “stitch-up” by Cunliffe and Robertson, or each of them endorsing the other as Deputy, or the relative merits of a Cunliffe/Robertson or Robertson/Cunliffe leadership team.
And maybe I’m missing something, but I just don’t see it.
There seems to be some kind of logic being applied which goes: there are two factions in the Labour Party who viciously hate each other. If we get the preferred candidates of each faction and mash them together into a leadership ticket, voila! Unity!
But doesn’t Cunliffe/Robertson just open the door to the Hootons and Garners and Gowers of the world making constant insinuations about Robertson’s treachery? Ooh, he was deputy to one leader and that didn’t end well, so can Cunliffe really trust his deputy? And the last guy Robertson stabbed in the back was called David, too!
And doesn’t Robertson/Cunliffe just open the door to constant insinuations about Cunliffe’s deep dark leadership aspirations being once again stifled by an ABC faction throwing him a figurehead role to appease his fans in the membership, and can Robertson really trust his deputy given his history of undermining those who stand in the way of his goal of world domination? David Cunliffe, I’m asking you to rule out a leadership challenge. Just rule it out, show your loyalty to your leader, rule out a challenge then!
This isn’t me saying that Robertson is a backstabber, or that Cunliffe is a treacherous worm. You can probably guess my actual opinions on either assertion. But that’s not the point of this post. If we can learn anything from the media’s behaviour since last year’s party conference, can we at least learn that they don’t really give a fuck and won’t focus on policy at all as long as there’s a quick and dirty LABOUR LEADERSHIP IN CHAOS AGAIN headline to sell?
That’s what a Cunliffe/Robertson or Robertson/Cunliffe leadership arrangement creates. Especially if there’s any hint of a backroom deal.
Also, you know, if we could avoid a two-white-dudes line-up that would be nice too …
It should come as no surprise that I agree with the other posters on The Standard who think Shearer needs to go as Labour leader. But weka, in the comments of Eddie’s post, asked:
If Shearer is to go, then who replaces him? Who else is there in addition to Cunliffe? A serious exploration of the options would be a good next step.
Obviously I’m a Cunliffe fangirl but it’s a good question – no hierarchy-based structure has good long-term prospects when there’s only one person – or no clear person – with the ability to lead (see also: how Goff got to be leader, or for the more historically inclined, the fallout after the death of Alexander the Great.)
So, what are our prospects? Let’s assume we want to avoid the obvious pitfalls of pushing a 2-year n00b to the top. Let’s assume we want someone with experience, with a bit of a profile, with some pizzazz.
So, profile. While I’m far too lazy on a Sunday morning to reproduce something like this handy chart from Dim Post, let’s assume that if you’re a current MP sitting in the front two rows of Parliament, you’ve probably got a bit of a profile, giving us (alphabetically):
Ardern J; Chauvel; Cosgrove; Cunliffe; Dalziel; Fenton; Goff; Hipkins; King A; Mahuta; Mallard; Parker D; Robertson G; Sio; Street; Twyford
Let’s note that Labour has been absolutely pathetic at fielding attacks based on the actions of the fourth Labour Government – although we might allow that this was largely due to Goff, as previous leader, not having the will/spine to fully refute his actions at the time. So, remove anyone who was an MP under Lange/Palmer.
(I can already hear the objections on this one being a bit ageist, but I’ll just say this: find someone under the age of 30. Tell them Phil Goff was an MP before they were born. Ask just how much they think he can relate to them. Consider how much Obama just got re-elected thanks to a mobilised youth vote.)
Ardern J; Chauvel; Cosgrove; Cunliffe; Fenton; Hipkins; Mahuta; Parker D; Robertson G; Sio; Street; Twyford
Let’s take out Sio because, well, hahahahaha. Let’s take out David Parker on the oft-commented assumption that he was the first choice of the anti-Cunliffe club but was deemed unadvisable even by them. This handily gives us a top 10 of:
Ardern J; Chauvel; Cosgrove; Cunliffe; Fenton; Hipkins; Mahuta; Robertson G; Street; Twyford
Now it’s the truly subjective things: who on that list delivers a damn good speech? Who’s going to provide policy grunt and the debating skills needed in our usually pathetically-shallow election coverage to cut through the John Key waffle? Who can throw down against the Nats with “real-life” experience and business cred? Who’s got a solid electorate seat, which yes, shouldn’t really matter in an MMP system but still does to a lot of people?
I’m still picking Cunliffe.
I’d like to see more of Ardern, Robertson, Chauvel, even Twyford for all his wankery around the marriage equality bill, but I don’t see any of them being able to pick up the ball at short notice and make something of it. It’d be awesome to see them at work under a leader who can articulate real values and policies and actually fight for them instead of expecting “heartland” NZ to change sides just because he goes to Nelson and wears an “I❤ farming” shirt. Unfortunately, the “diversity at the top” argument totally nukes Twyford for deputy,
Cosgrove, Fenton, Hipkins, Mahuta and Street … well, they don’t do anything for me, to be honest. (A note on Mahuta, specifically: she’s been criticised recently for having no profile and objected strenuously to that, yet Parata is absolutely fucking up schools in Christchurch, Campbell Live’s been running non-stop stories on it and I have not heard a single thing from her on it. This could very well be down to the Shearer office fucking up, but nevertheless, she’s missing in action.)
So it’s Cunliffe for me. Cunliffe to take Labour into 2014 and win enough to form a solid, grown-up coalition with the Greens, to rebuild the party into something I can give a toss about, develop talent like Ardern and Robertson, and provide an actual legacy for the NZ left.
Of course, anyone out there can disagree with my assumptions – maybe you want to plug for young MP blood like Faafoi or Little, maybe you think some of the old guard still have it in them, maybe you’re one of those bizarre Shane Jones fans. Let’s have this debate – comments are open now!
1. Jordan Carter and Scott Yorke both post about Trevor Mallard’s historic “Tinkerbell” comments, targeting Stephen Wittington, ACT candidate, and David Farrar, National pollster, for raising said comments following the announcement of Labour’s policy on same-sex adoption.
2. Apparently neither Jordan nor Scott read No Right Turn, which is a shame. Or it might have just got in the way of the “this is a nasty rightwing plot against us” meme.
3. Jordan thinks the big issue is that we must be very clear that Trevor Mallard isn’t a homophobe. He just says homophobic things, which is … better, and also completely different.
4. Scott thinks the big issue is that National are full of homophobes anyway so stop paying attention to Labour’s. I am possibly coincidentally reminded of when a few of the secondary school teachers in my family pondered voting National in the early 00s, on the basis that “at least we expect to get fucked over under National”.
Moral of the story? Firstly, as I said on Jordan’s blog, in a country with NZ’s suicide rate amongst queer youth, I have no time for “but just saying a homophobic thing doesn’t make a person A Homophobe” hair-splitting.
Secondly, when an outspoken, openly gay MP like Grant Robertson is reduced to saying of a senior MP, and of a homophobic attack against one of his colleagues, “It’s a silly statement“, when you’ve already had another MP’s homophobia defended because Oh Well Those West Coast Rednecks Will Like It, when it takes two fucking years for someone to admit calling a gay man “Tinkerbell” was “probably unfortunate” but oh, oh, he’s totally not homophobic? I feel quite happy assuming Labour has a serious problem with homophobia.
Alternatively, I suppose one could argue that it’s just a context-free political ploy to unsettle Finlayson, they would’ve called him Four-Eyes if he weren’t gay … but if you’re seriously happy with your political party playing off other people’s homophobia and a culture of queer-bashing for their own gain and still want to defend them, hey, you go right ahead, I’ll be over here with the people who have basic ethics.
And yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees, Scott, National are probably 1,367 times as homophobic as Labour so why am I trying to destroy the Left again??????? But you know what, when it comes to the left, I expect more.
I cede the floor to the Member for Wellington Central.
But the real impact for me of the Bill is that it has allowed me to grow up and live my life freely. That is not to say that there is not still discrimination and stigma for gay people, because it is still very real for some people. But for me, sitting here as an MP, I have been able to pursue my dreams and goals, and live my life as I choose in part because of those people in Parliament and outside, who campaigned so hard 25 years ago. It is a curious twist that the fact that I can be an MP and not focus on my sexuality, but on the whole of my beliefs, values and policy is a result of all those who stood up for what was right. I, and many others, owe them all a huge debt of gratitude.