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.
I’m absolutely certain that Scott Yorke was not thinking of me when he wrote The Post I Never Posted.
I don’t believe I’m personally on his radar. I think he’s responding to a wider trend of Shearer-critical posts, predominantly at The Standard.
And I can see how people who are Labour supporters are getting a little annoyed with the constant pointing out of Shearer’s many clear failings. Look, people, we’ve already explained six times that he can’t answer basic questions about his political ideas in clear complete sentences, do we really need to go for round 7?
And I was feeling all warm and charitable about the broad variety of opinions on the New Zealand left, and how wonderful it is that we have so many leftie bloggers who can put their arguments forward for wider discussion.
And then I got to this sentence.
And even if I was wrong on that point, I went on to write, David Shearer was still not the best man for the job, because he had failed to demonstrate an ability to walk on water or bring the dead back to life.
How droll. Scott thinks we Shearer-critics are unrealistic, over-demanding, petulant children who expect the leader of the parliamentary Labour Party to be not just the perfect politician, but messianic.
It would be a super-cutting little barb if it bore any resemblance to reality. If, say, Shearer had blown the political debate wide open with his first big policy speech, taking the fight straight to John Key, if whoever the Labour Education spokesperson is/was had claimed the easily-findable scalp of Hekia Parata. If, say, Labour were still only at 30-odd in the polls, but this was clearly down to a set of un-Shearer-related botches, like Shane Jones getting caught using taxpayer money for porn. Again. And it was Sea Shepherd-themed.
Basically, if Shearer had turned out to be a fantastic, charismatic, visionary, inspiring leader, but Labour was still doing poorly in the polls because a lot of its MPs are complete muppets … then someone like Scott might very well have a good point to make about criticisms of Shearer being based on unrealistic expectations.
Here’s what I hoped – I won’t say “expected”, since he was such an unknown quantity at the time of his election to the parliamentary Labour leader position – of David Shearer.
Look and sound better on the telly than Phil Goff did
Difficulty rating: not found
Phil Goff was actually a damn fine speaker when he was on form, but on TV he just had an unfortunately grumpy-looking face. Then someone worked magic behind the scenes during the 2011 campaign and he figured out how to smile. Apparently this someone is no longer employed by the Labour parliamentary office.
Tell us what Labour is about
Difficulty rating: minimal
I understand that I’m a big scary ranty feminist with big scary feminist political goals (like SHOCK HORROR comprehensive sex education!) I do understand that mainstream party leaders cannot actually go on Campbell Live and say “First thing I’m going to do is make abortion legal, free and available in every town in New Zealand.”
What I feel it was entirely reasonable to expect, though? A big, sexy commitment to a guaranteed living wage. To a 40 hour working week. To expanding Kiwibank, or offering a public option for KiwiSaver, to crack down on Aussie banks who don’t pay tax and millionaires who hide their assets in trusts.
What we got was analogies about lazy roof-painters not pulling their weight.
Lead the Labour caucus
Difficulty rating: pretty low for a dude whose work experience includes literal warzones
Instead, a damn fine spokesperson and one of the most competent (one might almost say one of the only competent) frontbench MPs gets paddled over a non-coup … and Shane Jones shits all over the Green Party while Clare Curran antagonises the biggest online ally the party has.
Take the hammer to National when the opportunity presents itself
Difficulty: kinda your job
Remember how David Shearer completely caned John Key over the Christchurch school closures debacle? That was totally awesome! … Wait, the dude with the big ears who says “marvellous” all the time isn’t David Shearer? He’s a journalist, you say? Well damn.
And yes, I would’ve liked a giant, fluorescent shift to the left, some repudiation of previous shitty Labour policies, even the slightest glimmer of acknowledgement that the Waitakere Myth was a stupid basis for policy, but guess what, people, the fact I say “fuck” a fuck of a lot doesn’t actually mean I’m a totally unreasonable echo-chamber-constructing bitch.
What I really wanted David Shearer to do, was show he understood that in the first year of a big, public, direction-setting role like leading the parliamentary Labour Party, you need to make an impact. You need to put your mark on the situation. You need to show you have a reason to be there which isn’t “keep the member for Hutt South in bike pants” and a passion for the job. Please note: constantly using the phrase “I have a passion for this job” is just breaking the cardinal rule of show, don’t tell.
For any of the above to be the political equivalent of “walking on water” I must actually be situated on another planet, like Mars. Where the water is frozen damn solid for a lot of the time. What I’m saying is, it’s not hard. Unlike the water.
And the only “dead” that Shearer was meant to bring back to life was Labour’s poll ratings. Given the performance of the government in recent times, Labour clawing its way back to its crushing 2008 defeat levels of support is barely a flicker in Lazarus’ eye.
What’s super-ironic is that the most recent example of Shearer-pedestal-setting I’ve seen comes from … still-a-Shearer-fan Mike Smith, quoted by Colonial Viper at The Standard:
Labour’s new leader promised a fresh approach. He’s delivered already in his speech in reply today. Gone is the ritual opening denunciation of the government’s programme – Shearer begins with where a new Labour government would start.
He puts Labour firmly on the path to winning in 2014 – the intention is clearly stated and the programme for the clean, green and clever New Zealand is exactly the right one. He understands what New Zealanders expect of their MPs. It’s a very good start.
I never expected Shearer to be the messiah of the Labour Party. Other people told us he would be, but I am nothing if not a cynic.
I just wanted a leader.
Apparently this was far too much of me to ask.
(Here’s the hilarious thing: before I saw Scott’s post I’d already drafted tomorrow’s post, an apology to David Shearer. Because it is actually possible to seriously dislike a guy and have not a shred of faith he’ll lead Labour to victory and simultaneously not think he’s the Antichrist.)
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!