A Little chance of bridging the divides

One of Labour’s biggest problems is disunity, and in particular a growing gap between the activist/union leaning left of the party versus the centre-left. At times it looks like a gulf, especially tight now.

David Cunliffe tried to shift to the left and he partly succeeded, he got majority union (affiliate) support in last year’s leadership contest and he still has the support of the labour left leaning Standard blog. But Cunliffe also tried to lean back to the centre at times and with his authenticity problems, the dire election result and his poor handling of the aftermath he is going to have trouble getting the leadership back.

The other confirmed contender Grant Robertson may be able to work across the divide in caucus but there’s substantial doubt he could do it across the party. He doesn’t seem popular in Auckland, and he would have to win over the union left and that would be very difficult. The left of the party are far more entrenched in their views than the more impressionable centre.

Labour’s best chance of bridging the divide is someone who already has some union support but who is able to reach across to the center.

Andrew Little is an obvious option here. He has a union background but seems pragmatic and conciliatory enough to connect with employers and with Labour’s centre left and just as importantly, the swing voters in the centre that Labour has to win win back if they want to regain major party status.

On bridging the divide Little said yesterday:

I think the issue is crucial which is why my main contribution to Labour’s IR policy this year was to back off major change to the present framework pending an audit of the labour market. We need to get a decent picture of how people are engaged for work and exactly what is happening work wise before we think about how we might improve job security and lift wages more fairly. It means engaging with employers too since they have more influence over more workers than ever before.

He says he wouldn’t have delayed the scrapping of the 90 day trial law “because it would have been accompanied by clarification of probationary law” but would have “wanted a more moderate pace on minimum wage increase”.

Stuff reports that Andrew Little considers Labour leadership bid.

Little faced the prospect of losing his place as an MP as Parliament waited for special votes to be counted.

Shortly after the result was confirmed, Little said that he would now mull whether to throw his hat in the ring.

“It’s not something I’ve considered, because  I’ve been waiting to see whether I would be confirmed in Parliament, it’s something that I may well now consider, but I will also be considering how realistic my prospects are, and that’s where it’s at,” Little said.

Little has little to lose by joining the leadership contest, and potentially a lot to gain. He is only an outside chance but if he can promote himself as union sympathetic but pragmatic and conciliatory towards the centre he would improve his credentials in the desperately needed Labour rebuild.

And there’s a small chance the leadership contest could swing his way as an alternative to the failed Cunliffe and a potentially to unpalatable Grant Robertson.

Little is one Labour MP who looks like he has learnt from initial mistakes and has grown into his job as an MP.

Labour would also benefit if Little joined the contest. His presence would diffuse the tension that’s obvious between Cunliffe and Robertson. He could highlight the need to join the factions in a common purpose.

There seems little downside as long as Little is prepared to expose himself to a higher level of scrutiny and inevitable attack.

Another prospect for bridging the divide is Louisa Wall. She would would add an up and coming Maori presence and reward South Auckland support for Labour, she has a good tertiary qualifications plus a high profile sporting background, and she proved her political worth working successfully cross party to be a driving force behind the passing of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill last year.
Both Little and Wall are relative rookies in politics but Labour desperately needs new blood to rebuild – with strong support from the old hands.

David Parker is one of Labour’s best bets for a steadying hand at deputy level and with Little as leader and Wall high on the bench pecking order Labour might finally start to look like a party intent on putting failures and animosities behind them with the  capability to build a party that can seriously contest the next two elections.

Two of the worst outcomes of Labour’s leadership contest:

  • Cunliffe to get back in despite a major loss of confidence from the Labour caucus and the electorate.
  • Robertson to win and appear to favour cronies over rebuild capability.

If Robertson wins the leadership contest then Parker, Little and Wall should be a prominent part of his rebuild plans.

If someone like Little sneaks through and he gets the caucus support that should be a given then Labour will lack in experience but will gain substantially in future prospects.

If Labour comes out of the leadership contest with their divides entrenched they may struggle to survive as a major party.

Whoever can step up and look most capable of bridging Labour’s divides will be their best chance of recovery.

Labour really needs to look like a virtually new party that can bridge it’s own divides, widen it’s appeal from the union and activist left across to the centre, and then they might get into a position where they can pose a serious threat to National – and present a credible next government to the voters.

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3 Comments

  1. IGM

     /  5th October 2014

    If the combatants in this open display of disunity had ever run businesses (successfully), held positions of authority in the private sector, or maybe, just shown some personal success, they would not behave in this manner. This is typical of unionised drones who have lived lives of envy of the hard working successful members of society, believing, if they can get into political positions of influence, they can make amends for their lives of leeching and failure

    Reply
  2. What’s up, after reading this awesome pargraph i am also cheerful to share my
    experience here with colleagues.

    Reply
  3. IGM

     /  6th October 2014

    I find it strange Little can claim he has many supporters approaching him to run as leader of the failed socialist party Labour. This is strange when one assesses the votes he received in New Plymouth; if he has not the ability to take a seat, how can he lead a party that is supposedly democratic? It appears the power crazy unionist is no better than any other trough snouting aspirant, devoid of personal humility, and ability in leadership. It is a big difference operating a Parliamentary party, to throwing one’s weight around brainwashed, misled unionists. Little, you are not wanted, neither by New Plymouth, nor New Zealand taxpayers.

    Reply

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