FACT 1 – The Rogernomics era had no mandate from the party. It nearly destroyed Labour.
FACT 2 – It took till 1999-2002 and a Labour government that delivered on its manifesto to restore trust between caucus and party member – this lead to the end of any need for “New Labour”.
FACT 3 – However this alone was and is insufficient for restoration. The Labour Party is not yet over what Rogernomics did to it (but then nor is New Zealand).
To have a party based on democratic, and meritocratic, selection involves trust that candidates will remain loyal to the party and its manifesto. This was something completely breached in the 1980′s. So between 1987 and 2011, selection was based on a party faction patronage – this of course meant it was somewhat insulated from inclusive participation by the general public.
The Labour Party was so abused by its caucus in the 1980′s that only the recent party reforms, the retirement of the last of the 1980′s era personnel and the decline of the party factions of recent decades will enable renewal.
Too much focus on the people involved just obscures the circumstance in which they operated.
FACT 4 – Being expert in managing factions gave Clark an advantage in MMP.
The irony however is in that with a majority in caucus being of the ABC persuasion, when he was the choice of the wider party, we have continuance of the caucus and party divide that began their problems 30 years ago. And for the same reason, those dominant in caucus “knew better” (about policy or who should be leader).
FACT 5 – Cunliffe will only get confidence from his caucus if the membership of it changes or he wins an election.
FACT 6 – Labour Leaders are now required to retain the trust of their party, and thus the idea that a caucus leader can lead the party in new directions without first getting a mandate is now buried. The party can no longer be hijacked by turning its leader or finance spokesperson – a message to Treasury, whether in domestic and international aspect, as much as to the caucus.
Whether this makes for a more left wing party is harder to say. The party activist is less likely to want caucus to compromise for centrist votes, yet a more open party means more internal diversity and a broader base membership.