it's time to select a labour party leader once again. a not entirely unpredictable happenstance, given that the person chosen by caucus had little experience as an MP and not much experience of party politics.
at the end of 2011, i wrote mildly in support of david cunliffe, & more in the context of my support for nanaia mahuta as deputy. in that post, i predicted that the writers in the political blogosphere who were vociferously supporting mr shearer's leadership bid would soon turn against him, and it only took a few months for that to happen.
i still don't know mr shearer particularly well, in that i've had very little personal interaction with him. his public utterances never did give me much of a clue as regards his underlying values and philosophies. that he was clearly out of his depth was pretty obvious, and it was obvious at the time that he & mr cunliffe were touring the country in december 2011. listening to the two speak & answer questions side by side, there was no doubt that mr shearer was nowhere near ready to take on the role.
i didn't speak out too strongly about that at the time. mostly because i didn't think it mattered: the vote was to be taken by caucus after all. this time around, the party membership has a say, whether they vote directly or through their union delegates. and this time around, i feel much more strongly about the issue.
i'm still very disappointed that none of the women MPs have put their names forward. perhaps they don't have a chance of winning, but then neither does shane jones & that hasn't stopped him. it would not only give them valuable experience, but would also give them the opportunity to connect more closely with the membership. it's part of the process of developing leadership skills, and the fact that there is no woman in the race is still a major issue for the party.
so we are left with the three who have put their names forward. shane jones was prepared to turn on his own party membership, particularly those who care about the representation of women, so it would be pretty odd for him to be asking support from that membership for his leadership bid. if he represents the "red-blooded male" sector of the party, it would be interesting to know why that positioning seems to involve a pretty confrontational approach towards many women party members. does he see being that kind of male as being incompatible with being supportive of the aspirations of women? i've yet to hear him say much about issues of equity & equality, particularly as it comes to gender.
in terms of capturing the maori vote, i'm not in a position to say too much about that. ms mahuta has signed mr cunliffe's nomination form, so she is clearly not supporting mr jones. there is this from morgan godfrey who is supporting mr cunliffe, and i'll be keeping an eye on what the writers at maui street have to say. i'd love to see a maori person as leader of the labour party & prime minister of the country, but mr jones is a person that i can't support.
in a labour leader, i'm looking for someone who actually recognises that when labour has won the government benches, it's on the back of the women's vote. i'd like to see a leader who has both the courage and the good sense to appeal directly to women. mr obama clearly did that in his last campaign, both in his speech to the democrat convention and in his televised debates against the opponent whose name already escapes me. mr obama deliberately used female pronouns and talked to issues that were of importance to women. he also spoke directly to people of colour. he wasn't side-tracked by the right-wing dismissal of "identity politics" (a way to deflect from the fact that the republicans weren't prepared to give due attention to marginalised groups). and it showed in the demographic breakdown of voting results.
so is grant robertson the person who can do this: is he prepared to fight for the women's vote instead of focusing on "waitakere man"? can he relate to and articulate a vision for people of colour? as someone who belongs to a community that is also marginalised, he is capable of empathising. but i'm not so sure that he is capable of listening.
he was prepared to act as a deputy to a leader (mr shearer) who would not commit to standing up against racists, but instead kept talking about a "broad church". a leader who wasn't prepared to discipline MPs who were not only publicly dismissive and pretty nasty about fellow MPs and the aspirations of women, but who actually promoted those MPs. perhaps, for the sake of public unity, mr robertson was quiet in public but vociferous behind closed doors. it's entirely possible, and i'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.
but there comes a point where we expect people in leadership positions to stand up and be counted. and to respond positively and constructively when members take the trouble to put forward their serious concerns. if he was listening, it didn't come across that way.
which leaves mr cunliffe. referring back to my post which i linked to above, i was impressed that he had the strength of character to take on ms mahuta as his deputy and the ability to recognise her talents.
not only in this but in other ways, he has shown himself to be a secure male who isn't threatened by women and is willing to support their aspirations. this is something we saw in people like michael cullen, steve maharey and many other men in the 5th labour government, who happily supported the introduction of paid parental leave, childcare subsidies, pay equity legislation and much more. men who were advocates and champions of policy that positively impacts the lives of so many women.
this time around, i get a vote in who gets to be a leader. my vote will be going to david cunliffe and i'll be advocating for him as much as i'm able to within the time pressures i'm currently facing. it's not just about policy regarding women, which i've focused on in this post, but about the ability to articulate a vision and to take on powerful elites. the willingness to make some fundamental changes and to challenge long-standing narratives that serve to increase inequality. maybe he won't be able to do all of those things, but i certainly think he is much more likely to do so than the other two. and after a pretty long stretch of time, i do feel some hope that the party i joined in 2003 will stand for strong progressive values once again.
so if you're a labour party member, i'm asking you to vote for david cunliffe.