Q+A Panel: Young Labour and Labour Party Leadership
HOSTED BY SUSAN WOOD
Discussion about Young Labour and Labour Party Leadership
Welcome back to the panel. Dr Raymond Miller, Kate Sutton and Michael Barnett. So do you think unity will be breaking out in Labour in few hours’ time, Michael?
MICHAEL BARNETT - CEO, Auckland Chamber
I would like to think so, and I must say that I was encouraged by the way that they went through the process, the way they travelled together, the way they appeared to work as a team. It wasn’t my interpretation. When I looked at the process, I thought that it would lead to division, but I have to say I think I’ve been proven wrong. So I think what we’ll see out of this is a different result that what we’ve had over the last couple of years, but a lot more unity.
SUSAN Well, Kate, you’re expecting unity to break out, aren’t you?
SUTTON - Former Labour Party board member
Well, this is overwhelmingly positive for Labour. I mean, whoever wins is going to have a fantastic platform to go forward with. We’ve had an over 20 per cent increase in membership, which is fantastic, for 2014. You know, more positive coverage for Labour since we were in government, and the most important thing, I think, is that we’ve got three figures all who now have a national profile, all who are real prime ministerial alternatives who are putting themselves forward. So whatever happens today, this is a process that the party designed and the party voted for.
SUSAN But there are risks, Raymond, aren’t there? For example, somebody wins and they don’t have caucus, and they have a party. Those votes are going to be laid bare, so we’re going to know who voted what.
RAYMOND That’s right, and if it had been under the old rules, then probably Grant Robertson would have been elected the next leader of the party, and we don’t know that he’s going to be elected the leader this afternoon. So what it does is it does expose divisions, but these divisions can be fixed. I mean, this is a very healthy thing, I think, for a political party. Long overdue in relation to the two major parties in NZ. I think it’s really important that people realise that the policy wonks think if they get the right mix of policy, everything is going to be hunky dory, and that isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, what the party needs more than anything else is to instil self-confidence, and that comes from self-belief. It has not been firing. The party has not been firing within Parliament for the last couple of years, and they only need to look at the way that National and John Key conduct themselves. Even when they get into a real mess, as they have from time to time, either John Key or one of his senior firefighters come out and they put out the flames. And there is a tremendous self-confidence there. That’s what Labour needs in order to be able to attract votes.
KATE But you can see that from the Young Labour members. We have a lot of confidence. We have three prime ministerial alternatives. We didn’t have that six weeks ago. Think about how far we’ve come. Members are incredibly empowered because they designed and voted for this process, and now we get to take part in it, and what the young man at the end [of the clip] said, he said, ‘We have to get in behind whoever wins, and we will.’ We want to win in 2014, and we will with whoever wins the leadership.
MICHAEL I’m quite sure you will, but just listening to you, and I have to say to others, all we’re doing is picking up the same old system. So you’ve got John Key out there as the bogeyman, and he’s the target. And in actual fact, surely there must be an opportunity for us to put up a different style of politics and to put up a different dream.
KATE We’ve already set the standard in terms of the Labour Party. This system is now being picked up, a similar system, but the ALP [Australian Labor Party.] I mean, the democratisation- Surely there’ll be members in the National Party and other political parties going, ‘Hey, I want to be part of that.’ And when you democratise your political party, then you do get a different style of leadership.
MICHAEL That’s not going to give you a different result. You’ve got a different process in place, but, to me, having John Key out there as the bogeyman and he’s the one that we have to win against, to me, is absolutely wrong. You need to put in place a different dream.
SUSAN As opposed to focusing on Key, which Labour does seem to do, you’re actually saying, ‘Forget about him. This is what we are.’ Because you do hear a lot of that. I heard Cunliffe on the radio the other day, going, ‘I’m going to take this to John Key.’ And I’m thinking, ‘No, I want to hear what you’re going to say, not what you’re taking to John Key.’
KATE But the three candidates, they’re different styles, but there’s a lot of similarity there, and they’re talking about who we are, what our values are. We’re working for ordinary Kiwis. We want everybody to have a fair go. We’ve got the policies to make a difference.
RAYMOND Yeah, I think it’s all very well talking about these things, but they have to listen as well. They have to understand the mood of the country. Why is it that National is enjoying such strong support? Unless you come to terms with that, for the last couple of years, there has been a real problem there of Labour being able to position itself. It’s all very well criticising the Prime Minister and the government. They have to be able to put forward a positive message, and to do that, they have to listen to the nation.
SUSAN Final question. The Young Labourites we saw. They want to move the party to the left. It ain’t going to happen, though, is it?
RAYMOND Well, no. I mean, it’s understandable that party members tend to be the guardians of the ideology, and that’s understandable. But, really, the politicians know that they have to gain support out of National. They can’t just take it out of the Greens. Obviously, they’re going to have to get more voters out, but the important thing is they have to be able to win over those National voters who are becoming disillusioned.
MICHAEL And as they get older, those young ones will move closer to the centre. (ALL LAUGH)
SUSAN Thank you, panel.