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Poll puts David Cunliffe in front

Sunday 25 August, 2013

Q+A Colmar Brunton poll puts David Cunliffe in front in Labour leadership race

A Colmar Brunton snap poll on TV One’s Q+A programme shows David Cunliffe to be the early favourite for the leadership of the Labour Party.

The telephone poll of 517 people conducted on Friday and Saturday asked “Regardless of whether you support the Labour Party, which of the following MPs do you think would do the best job leading Labour into the next general election? Grant Robertson, David Cunliffe, Andrew Little, Jacinda Ardern, or Shane Jones.”

Mr Cunliffe was the clear favourite on 29 per cent, followed by Ms Ardern on 15 per cent, Mr Jones on 11 per cent, Mr Robertson on 10 per cent and Mr Little on 9 per cent. Both Ms Ardern and Mr Little have ruled themselves out of contention. The other three MPs have not yet announced if they will run for the Labour leadership.

Speaking on Q+A, Labour party president Moira Coatsworth says with David Shearer having stepped down last Thursday, it’s too early for the public to have a clear view on who should be leader.
“I don’t think people will have given this much attention so far. So let’s wait and see when we know who the candidates are and they’re really up and campaigning,” Ms Coatsworth says.
If two or more MPs put themselves forward for nomination, then the Labour Party’s new electoral process gets triggered, meaning that instead of caucus electing a new leader, it will only get a 40 per cent say in the process, party members will also get 40 per cent and the unions 20 per cent of the vote. The election will use a single round preferential voting system where members rank their preferred candidates.

Ms Coatsworth’s preference is for a leadership contest rather than caucus choosing the leader. However, the deputy leader will still be elected by caucus.

Nominations for the Labour leadership close at 10pm on Monday, August 26, with a list of nominees announced on Tuesday.

Q+A, 11-midday Sundays on TV ONE and one hour later on TV ONE plus 1. Streamed live at www.tvnz.co.nz

Thanks to the support from NZ On Air.

Q+A is on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/NZQandA#!/NZQandA and on Twitter, http://twitter.com/#!/NZQandA


Corin Dann Interviews Moira Coatsworth

Good morning, Moira.

MOIRA COATSWORTH - Labour Party President
Morning, Corin.

CORIN What do you make of these results [snap poll of who should lead the Labour Party]? Does this suggest to you that we will have a contest on our hands?

MOIRA Well, we’re unclear at this stage whether we’ll have a contest. I think it’s pretty early to be looking at results. We haven’t heard who the candidates are, we haven’t heard them speak about what they’re standing for, and we haven’t actually seen them campaigning.

CORIN Quite a diverse range of support, though, amongst New Zealanders for potential Labour leaders.

MOIRA Yeah, look, I mean, I work outside the beltway, and I think it’s pretty hard out there, and I don’t think people will have given this much attention so far. So let’s wait and see when we know who the candidates are and they’re really up and campaigning.

CORIN Is this unchartered territory for Labour? We haven’t had a primary election like this, really. ACT did one, but not on this scale.

MOIRA Mm. It’s the first time for us in NZ. It’s actually the first time for a major party in Australasia, so people are really getting excited about it. But it’s not unchartered territory at all internationally. It’s pretty usual practice internationally in progressive parties.

CORIN Is there a risk, though, that this is going to expose divisions that are within that Labour Party at the moment, that these are going to be laid bare for the public in a three-week roadshow, effectively?

MOIRA I don’t think so. I think people are so committed to the need for a change of government and to pick the right leader that I think people will engage really actively in it, and then that person will have a mandate, and people will get in behind the new leader and go for it.

CORIN Because there is a feeling around Parliament, certainly, that there is a divide between the caucus MPs who have now lost their ability to elect their leader, effectively, and the party, which has been demanding more say. There seems to be some tension there. You don’t think that’s going to be exposed now?

MOIRA I don’t think so at all. I think, as I said, that people want to choose the right leader and actually get in and campaign. And, actually, caucus haven’t lost the right. What they’ve actually got is probably a greater say than other countries that do it. We’ve left caucus with 40 per cent of the say, so that’s taking account of the fact that there’s a pretty important relationship between the new leader and caucus.

CORIN Are we going to get a real contest here, though? Because you’ve put in place a code of conduct, I understand, which will effectively put some rules on these MPs. Are they going to really be able to speak their mind and take each other on and really get in some rough and tumble?

MOIRA Yeah, on the issues. I think if you look at any campaign, there’s campaign guidelines that cover some basic things so that you run a campaign ethically. That’s what that will cover, but we’re anticipating and looking forward to robust debate.

CORIN Because you can imagine, I mean, David Cunliffe, for example, has had a couple of cracks at the leadership already. You can imagine that that caused some rifts, that those sort of things might come out in the campaign. Is that the type of thing that’s fair game?

MOIRA I think that people will be wanting to campaign on the issues, and I think what party members will be looking for is the kind of qualities that they want to see in a leader. So have they got Labour values, have they got leadership potential, can they communicate, are they really going to go hard and implement the kind of transformative policies we have?

CORIN Is that what they really want? Or do they want someone that can win, that can beat John Key?

MOIRA Yeah, it needs to be a person who can win. Absolutely.

CORIN But is that necessarily, at this time in Labour’s life, the right person?

MOIRA Well, I trust the maturity of that group of people to have a really good think, and it’s all going to be out there for a democratic process, and people are pretty pleased about that.

CORIN Well, that’s interesting, because the message coming from the unions is that they very much want whoever the person is who can win the next election and beat John Key.

MOIRA Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Everybody wants that, yeah.

CORIN Are you worried that people are going to think, and they already are thinking, that this is going to be a contest decided by the unions?

MOIRA Um, yeah, I’m a bit puzzled at that. In the UK, that’s the narrative, but in the UK, the caucus get the same vote as the unions. And the way that we’ve done it, as I said, caucus get 40 per cent, party members who are individuals or family members get 40 per cent, and, you know, party members who are the working people of NZ - the tanker driver, the aged care worker, who are also legitimate members - they get 20 per cent. So I would have thought that, actually, the most privileged in this are caucus.

CORIN Yeah, but, you know, the way it’s potentially shaping up is that some would argue Grant Robertson has a strong support base in caucus. David Cunliffe has a bigger support base in the party. They cancel each other out, and then you’re left with the unions that could decide it.

MOIRA Well, I think everybody’s got a say, and it all gets put together into one single total, and that will be the decision.

CORIN You must be worried, though, because Tim Barnett did say there will be restrictions on block voting for the unions. Can you explain?

MOIRA Yeah, no, I’m not worried at all. We have, right from-

CORIN But that suggests the party is a little bit concerned.

MOIRA No, no. I mean, what we want is the principles of this, one of them is democratic integrity, and so we’re wanting it to go as broadly as it can. Some unions have chosen to take that right out to individual members, and some unions have taken it out as far as their national conference delegates, which is, again, international practice. So I’m not worried at all. I’m excited by it.

CORIN But how do you stop unions block voting? Because that is what Tim Barnett said.

MOIRA How do you stop them block voting? Well, the things they’re saying they’re doing, as I said, the Service Workers (union) are inviting their individual members to come to all the meetings and vote at the meetings. The others have got their national conference delegates. It’s a postal ballot. It will be sent out by the company who’s doing it for us. They’ll get the vote individually. It’s a secret ballot, and it will go back to them, and we’ll get the results. So…

CORIN Will you come out and back anybody?

MOIRA No. I’m the president. I’m going to trust in the judgement of everybody, and I’ll work with that new leader.

CORIN What about MPs? Do you have a problem with them endorsing potential candidates?

MOIRA No. The people that we expect neutrality from are from myself and Tim, and we’ve got what’s called a leadership advisory group overseeing the process so that other people like the NZ Council can participate in this as vigorously as they’d like to. So it’s a small group of people who are expected to maintain that neutrality.

CORIN And when we see this roadshow, we won’t see a ticket, will we? We won’t see a leader and deputy go out, will we?

MOIRA No. The deputy leader is still elected by caucus, so this is a straight leadership.

CORIN Would you expect potential candidates, though, to perhaps anoint a deputy early on, or does that have to wait?

MOIRA Caucus decide on the deputy leader, so that’s a matter for caucus to decide, yeah.

CORIN And do you believe at the end of this process that you can come out with a unified party?

MOIRA Absolutely, and I think that the international experience is that people who participate in leadership selections have some skin in the game and they participate more. So I think anything that increases the strength of democracy in NZ’s a really good thing, yeah.

CORIN Moira Coatsworth, Labour Party President, thank you very much for your time.

MOIRA Thank you.

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