Thanks to Rebecca Matthews for this guest post putting the case for Grant Robertson. Rebecca is the convenor of Unions Wellington and, amongst many other things, has recently been campaigning for pay equity, 26 For Babies (extending paid parental leave), and abortion law reform.
I remember well the NZUSA conference when I first met Grant Robertson. I was a fresh-faced, Doc Marten wearing Women's Rights Officer. He was president of the Otago students, with those weird 90s big glasses still sported by Deirdre off Coro. As I recall it, student presidents were meeting with then Minister of Education, Lockwood Smith. But Grant, as representative of those students who had were facing off against the police and been put in harm's way, just couldn't stomach the sit-down pleasantries with the architect of our user pays system.
The Grant I met then had principles that transcended the political expediency of the moment. And he still does, which is why he has my vote for Labour Party leader.
Fast forward many years, and the owly glasses have been updated, and those Docs have been dumped (but I don't know, should I get some more?). Grant has been in New York representing NZ on the world stage, and I have put in a few more years of service for the student movement as researcher for NZUSA.
I get an invite to a big education announcement from then Prime Minister Helen Clark. I don't expect too much, to be honest. I'd been working on a claim to the Human Rights Commission about the fact that through interest payments women paid much more for our qualifications, so thought, maybe some tinkering around with interest rates?
The announcement that Labour were scrapping all interest on student loans, period, came as a shock, in a good way obviously. The announcement went way beyond Labour's previous tinkering around the edges of user pays, and was in no small part Grant's achievement, behind the scenes. To knock out in one punch the worst aspect of the loans scheme to me was the greatest political achievement of anyone from my generation so far. It speaks to the vision, effectiveness, and politics of Grant as a person and the great leader Grant will be.
The campaign for Labour leader is being kept very clean so far, and this is A Good Thing. But comparing the candidates also needs to take place if we are to make an informed decision. Shane Jones to me represents a past, worst, age and his comments about geldings and the like don't even bear thinking about. Of course, its really Robertson v Cunliffe.
Why do I favour Grant over Cunliffe? Yes, I know him and trust him and have seen him engage in politics in a way I respect for over 20 years. But how do I compare him to Cunliffe to influence others?
I guess I don't believe in The One, when it comes to political leadership. I don't think that a strong man, a demagogue, or any of those things is what Labour needs right now. Of course, the leader should be a fluent speaker, and effective in the media and in the house. Grant has all these qualities as much as David Cunliffe. Grant is very progressive and there seems to be no basis to claims that Cunliffe is the more leftwing candidate, despite a lot of internet rhetoric to the contrary.
What Grant Robertson has that I have never seen in David Cunliffe is an inclusive approach to leadership. Grant takes people with him. He's about empowering communities and local decision making. He really does represent a new generation of leadership. I can easily see a Robertson/Ardern (and I want Jacinda there at the helm too, she deserves it and is a real talent) . team leading Labour for ten years. Not in a Helen Clark, take no prisoners style. But in a way that allows all the leaders in the party to grow and flourish, and be empowered. And as leaders in a Labour/Green government, that will provide modern, progressive leadership to deal to the growing crisis of inequality.This feminist (and unionist) is voting for Grant Robertson for Labour leader, and is proud of it.