Saturday, 31 August 2013

Guestie: Why I'm voting for Grant Robertson

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.


Anonymous said...

I'm still agnostic about the current Labour leadership. It'd be great if Jacinda Ardern or another female candidate were standing*, but it's good to see someone endorsing Grant Robertson on the basis of his strong support for trade unionism and his PSA past.

Craig Y

*And if she does stand in 2017 or at some point in the future, I will endorse her candidacy.

Owen Thompson said...

Only Cuncliffe is currently a Union member, SFWU. The other two candidates expect Unions to support them, but do nothing to earn that support.

Owen Thompson

A Hodgson said...

Owen, Grant has been a member of a union through the bulk of his working life.

He was a union member when he was a teenager cutting veges at the supermarket in the 1990s, he led an association of students, and he was a PSA member up until his election in 2008.

As an MP he is the only leadership contender to have written a Bill for workers - the successful Mondayisation of public holidays Bill - and he signed Labour up to the Living Wage campaign last year.

So tell us again: how has he done nothing to earn their support?

Posted by a SFWU and TEU member.

Public Servant said...

A Hodgson, come one, being a university graduate who joined a couple of unions doesn't make you a member of the working poor. Nothing to be ashamed of, but you are not exactly a MWU member battling the harsh reality of Talleys. Public sector workers (such as Grant in his previous life), represented by the PSA, have an average Salary of almost 69000.

kylejits said...

None of the candidates are working poor.

Public Servant said...


No they aren't. But trying to emphasize Robertson's credentials as some sort of union battler seems a bit counter-productive. But hey, I'm just another person commenting pseudonymously on the internet.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post, Rebecca.

I'll be voting for Grant at the upcoming leadership election twice (SFWU!! and NZLP membership). Grant's commitment to ensuring everyone gets ahead and not just a few is really admirable and he can lead Labour to victory with those values in 2017.

Darien Fenton said...

Grant is a member of the SFWU. David Cunliffe became a member, along with other MPs, when I signed him up when I was a new MP.