By mid afternoon today, Labour will have a new leader, hopefully our next Prime Minister.
The three week leadership campaign has given us much to conjure with, not only about the candidates themselves, their personalities, politics and policies but also the role of the media. This morning’s NZ Herald has a lot of coverage, including an editorial on Grant Robertson’s sexuality.
Absent from the paper is any reference to yesterday’s Roy Morgan poll, which described a significant swing to the Opposition. If an election were held this weekend, a Labour / Greens coalition would easily win.
Of Cunliffe, the Herald writes “He is still not prepared to live among the masses, preferring Herne Bay’s salubrious environs to shifting house to his New Lynn electorate.”. Last time I looked, our current PM “is still not prepared to live among the masses, preferring Parnell’s salubrious environs to shifting house to his Helensville electorate.”
The Herald goes on to say “it’s rather reminiscent of the time when the late David Lange was parachuted into Labour’s leadership after the hapless Bill Rowling comprehensively failed to best long-time National Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon either in Parliament or on the hustings.” It’s also rather reminiscent of the time when John Key was parachuted into National’s leadership after the hapless Bill English and Don Brash comprehensively failed to best Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark either in Parliament or on the hustings.”
Even-handedly, the Herald states ” Cunliffe is already the complete package. Driven by an over-powered ego, it may not be one that has endeared him to his colleagues in Parliament. There is always a “cringe factor” with Cunliffe.”. Replace Cunliffe’s name with Key’s and the sentence and sentiment make the same sense.
On the (non)-issue of Robertson’s sexuality, the Herald puts the boot into TV3: “Robertson’s ability. …has been overshadowed by the “gay factor”. That has dogged his campaign. The novelty of a gay prime minister meant it was always going to do so. It won’t the next time Robertson is vying for the leader’s job. That will be old news. Or at least it will if TV3 stops exhibiting a Victorian-era style prurient obsession with Robertson’s sexuality which verges on the homophobic. The channel has seemed to think it has been given some God-given right to manipulate the result of the contest. Its self-appointed role as kingmaker is an insult to the intelligence of the Labour activists who are well capable of making up their minds without TV3’s advice.”
This campaign has not been short of self-appointed king-makers insulting the intelligence of those eligible to vote for the new leader under the new rules. The current PM, Judith Collins and others in the National Party could be added to the list. Quite how or why their views ever made the news should give news editors pause for thought. TV3’s coverage has been tabloid at best, partisan at worst.
For my money, Cunliffe and Robertson (and to a much lesser extent, Jones) have been the only players to rise above the noise and the mud. Together, they have lead a long-overdue debate on the state of the nation and its future direction. If yesterday’s Roy Morgan Poll is to be believed, the punters have liked what they have heard: words David Shearer might have thought but was incapable of enunciating: coherent, considered and fluent: the case against National’s neo-liberal agenda. It’s a damning case: unpopular and uneconomic asset sales; persistent, pernicious corporate welfare; an instinct for speculation over production: an unprecedented wealth-transfer, sold to the public via a package the late Justice Peter Mahon would describe as an ‘orchestrated litany of lies’. For all concerned, the moment of truth is at hand.
I’d give it to Cunliffe because he has the political and real world experience to win. And if he wins, I want to see the party unite behind him. Bob Hawke described party disunity as the obvious cause of voter discontent with Labor across the ditch. Here, let the bloodbath begin but across the House: take the fight to those who, to date, have escaped accountability for years of mismanagement and widening the gap. I also want to see a hand reached out to Labour’s coalition partners, who have kept a respectful distance during this campaign. Accentuate the many common causes and respectfully agree to disagree on points of difference. Show us your magnanimity, your ability to work effectively and creatively as a team: your ability to govern. The stakes are high and the opportunity historic. Good luck to us all.