In a voting process that has apparently cost tens of thousands of dollars you have a leader – Andrew Little – elected in the worst possible way (courtesy of a few handshakes with his former employers – the Unions – and not even all of them at that), David Parker in so much of a huff that he’s ruled himself out of any shadow portfolios, Grant Robertson ejected for a second time and so ruling himself out of contesting for a third, and Nanaia Mahuta showing people she has more support within caucus than the actual leader himself. At one of the meetings I attended Moira Coatsworth said that members shouldn’t pay attention to the media, or all those people who were criticising the election process, because they had no idea that all of this was perfectly normal overseas. Well from what I’ve seen on the news recently ritual beheadings on YouTube are also relatively normal overseas, but you have to wonder at the efficacy of the exercise (the primaries that is, not the beheadings, they – at least – seem to be achieving their objective) if it has twice produced such poor results.
It’s not that Andrew Little is a bad leader per se, it’s just that you’re not giving the guy much of a chance when you’ve spent the past month showing everybody all of his imperfections and contrasting them with all of the other guy’s good qualities. It’s even worse when the contest has exposed bigotry within the party membership itself, as happened when the Labour ‘Auckland Pacific Sector’ moved to rank Grant Robertson last on their ballots. Now I’m sure there are plenty more bigots within the National Party, but none of them have cause to release press releases or get airtime do they?
If, as Moira Coatsworth seemed to imply, the media is bound to criticise a process like this, then what is the point of having it? I thought the whole thing was supposed to be a PR exercise? So far all the PR seems to have flowed in the exact opposite direction.
Incidentally, as I noted earlier, Andrew Little himself is not actually a bad choice for leader. Out of all of them he was certainly the only one with stage presence. Although I do note that he doesn’t have quite the same presence when it comes to television interviews. He also has a gravel-like voice that would make him an ideal candidate for the next Batman but less so for a position that involves you pretending you’re amazed at the achievements of Little Jonny from Blah-de-blah school and that you’re really genuine about wanting to kiss that stranger’s baby.
It also unnecessarily left Grant Robertson with no option but to never stand for the Labour leadership again. Although many are taking his proclamation with a grain of salt – and they may well be right to – I also suspect a smart guy like Grant also sees that, having lost two elections now, his call to re-election the next time would not only be stale but make him look like the last cab off the rank if he did win. Which is a waste really, because I think Grant really upped his game this time around and could easily have been as good a leader as Little. If the process hadn’t have been so public he’d have been in there with a chance, but with such a process in place it is easy to see how he might not be able to run again.