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!