Left 64 ~ Labour leadership: where’s Jacinda?

I feel I have to weigh in on Labour’s leadership. Everybody else is. Do you judge people by their faces? There’s a theory that by around 30, your life experience etches itself on your face so it more truly reflects your personality. Look happy or calm, that’s because you have been happy or calm a lot and so on.

Andrew Little looks a bit bitter, don’t you think? Grant Roberts looks like a baby. Cunliffe looks like a Cheshire cat, sure, but not like negative experiences have dictated his life – while Shane Jones somehow looks defeated already.

But of this somewhat unsatisfying foursome, Jones would be my pick if he made a run (I don’t expect him to). He’s savvy, clever, quick and a good debater.

Jones would help get Maori back on side and a lot of men, anyway, would forgive him the porn thing. The stupid thing there, sorry to say, was that Jones used his ministerial credit card to purchase porn in a hotel – not the porn itself. Under the surface, that’s what many guys would actually think, since the figures of men actually looking at porn is  high, and just not generally admitted to. So it’s disingenuous (if awful) for many men to castigate Jones for looking at porn.

But using that credit card showed an incredible naivety or, worse perhaps, simple lack of thought, and that’s a worry – attention to detail was Helen Clark’s big strength. I don’t think he has that – or at least, he didn’t. Has he now?

The likely winner is Cunliffe. Grant may have the numbers outside caucus, but it’s caucus that brought Shearer down. Cunliffe has caucus support, he’s  smart and he’s combative – he would certainly take the fight to Key, which Key might be anxious about (not a bad  thing). But Cunliffe has a mean streak and he’s made dedicated enemies because of it.

Some people reckon Grant could get the numbers to trump Cunliffe, but the problem is I don’t think he’d get the vote of the country come election time unless Grant really ups his game and looks much more decisive in front of the camera. He needs to develop some gravitas.

Yes, Grant is gay. This is hardly insurmountable. The CEO of Apple is gay and he’s widely perceived as effective, decisive and at the top of his game.

Being gay is ever more tolerated in New Zealand (thank goodness). It’s not a bad thing at all as far as many women are concerned, and even for NZ blokes most will admit the onus is on effective leadership, however perceptions around sexuality may make them feel. The church isn’t exactly on side with Labour anyway, thanks to all the advances for gay rights championed by Labour – and this means the most challenging sector of Labour’s traditional base for a gay leader is South Auckland Polynesians, who are already feeling alienated.

With smart handling, none of this is impassable – but currently Grant, to my eyes anyway, simply doesn’t look ready.

But I wish Jacinda Adern would put her hat in the ring. Jacinda’s name is already being mentioned by people, including in the media, as a contender for leadership. Sure, many would say she’s not ready (I think she is –many people just aren’t ready for her). My point is, if Adern goes for leadership now, it puts the party, Labour supporters and the country on notice that she’s a future contender for leadership. Adern is not that far past 30, she’s already incredibly accomplished, smart and successful, and she already has enviable international experience. And Adern is assured and erudite in front of the camera.

If she does put her hat in the ring, she will draw some support. She probably won’t win – but it puts the country on notice she’s a possible future leader. Which I think is a really good thing, to give many people hope for a revived Labour that can be relevant for people under (and over!) 50.

If Cunliffe wins, he might keep Adern at arm’s length as a possible rival, but is that such a bad thing? He’s 20- years older. She’s going to outlast him anyway, one way or another. Or he might, if he’s as clever as people say he is, keep her close, to help him engage with younger voters. Either way is not so bad, I reckon.

And if Grant wins (I’d be most keen on him upping his game and winning) he would probably keep Jacinda Adern close anyway. He’s smart, she’s smart. Their ages are fairly close and they’d make a wonderful combo, along with other young and effective Labour MPs. The party would really appear infused with fresh blood, which it desperately needs. The blood’s there, it’s just mostly invisible. Move into the light…

The other thing like about Jacinda is that she’s not scared of the Greens. Shearer couldn’t seem to take them seriously and Goff treated them as irrelevant even when they had become clearly relevant. And Adern and Turei, now that’s a power combo!

Problem is, at the end of the day, Labour still doesn’t seem to know what it’s about. And if Labour doesn’t, nobody else does.

Whoever wins, I still want to know what Labour actually represents. Succinctly and clearly. Please!

Published in: Commentary, Government, Left, Maori, New Zealand, Pacific, Politics, Thought on August 23, 2013 at10:13 am Comments (2)


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  1. on August 24, 2013 at 8:15 amPaul Said:

    Indeed what a combo, I’d like to see that, Adern and Turei. Robertson and Norman too. I want to know clearly what Labour represents today too, policy and trust do get votes – as much as fear of the opposition. I often think the Greens are so assured these days they have eclipsed Labour’s self-assured sense. Reclaim that.

  2. on August 24, 2013 at 8:48 amMH Said:

    Thank you for this write up – I always enjoy it.

    It’s a hard one in an adversarial political context like this.

    My trust is in none of the contenders. Jones has made some clanger comments in relation to the environment regularly (eg he loves mining a lot and from his comments anywhere will do for it in the name of big business first), and has been the centre of Green bashing in Labour (not a good leader to go into collaboration with the Greens on and I think he’d not be popular enough).

    While Phil Twyford has championed the kauri dieback cause, he’s also made similar overtures to Jones at times on the environment in his position on the RMA and opening it up to business. So, I don’t trust his motives either.

    Cunliffe could be a another Rudd in that he divides people with his ego (I know a number of Labour people who really don’t like him for instance).

    I have until lately thought Jacinda would be great and I hope she can be because she could be the fresh face of a very tired party to me – but I have a second opinion because I hear from a few Labour sources that despite her advocacy for the needy her other policies are quite right-leaning in terms of her views on economics etc, as well as thin on the ground, so how she would back up her advocacy is a mystery (this is just hear-say for me, but does make me pause). And, she’s not going to get a look in with the conservative old guard in my view, which is a shame because she could yet prove her self and disprove the cynics I have heard from lately.

    Little won’t get a look in in a serious way, he’s too-union for many, especially to the main-stream media (which is a shame) and National will have a field day on that.

    Perhaps this leaves Grant Robertson who could be a viable option perhaps? Would they be willing to take a risk with his sexuality? I hope so. He’s not squeaky clean either in terms of his position on the environment, and he has worked well to collaborate with the Greens (though he too has not been exempt from pointless Green bashing once or twice).

    So, the problem is, is that Labour is a party that currently lacks sufficient vision and lacks supporting its future leaders in my view. It has the pressure of leaking votes to the more serious left and environmentalists(the Greens) and more than anything has a powerhouse of a PR machine that is John Key – the latter is what Labour should look to compete with if it wants to be successful, especially if it looks to continue its rather tokenistic environmental pro-TPPA conservative corporate policies (such as supporting deep sea mining, fracking, advocating for big business at the expense of everything else despite what they say). (Another example is how Labour the other day failed to support the Greens bill on protecting waterways, and sided with National and big business – a huge environmental mistake.)

    So, considering all of this I suggest that Labour simply folds – it’s had its day. It’s no longer a party for everyone (as they like to say) and it has no significant policies that will make any difference to Aotearoa, or candidates.

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