GUEST BLOG: Curwen Rolinson – Leadership Transitions In Other Parties: A Short Guide



As cannot have escaped anyone’s attention by now, the country is presently in the grips of an election and campaign that will help determine the fate of the nation for years to come.

It’s gripping stuff – with clear divides on policy and personality; as well as an active and engaged set of voters, and the rare glimmerings of conscience and vision amidst senior MPs. The right wingers might even lose this one!

Too bad I’m talking about Labour’s leadership contest rather than the general election some three weeks before it 😛

With all the excitement over Labour (a sentence-fragment I am unlikely to re-type for much of the next three years), it’s easy to forget that other parties occasionally have their *own* leadership transitions … some of which can be even more entertaining/infuriating than the one we’re all presently transfixed and/or annoyed by.

I mean, while Labour’s is relatively simple – check out some of the others.

The Maori Party: Convene with two co-leaders. Find yourself with a Caucus composed of two co-leaders and a third wheel. Have a protracted monthslong internal debate convened through the media about how to get *three* co-leaders and ignore snarks about numbers of chiefs relative to number of Indians; before finally having your reform proposal squashed by John Key, who points out he’s only got two ministerial spots in government for the Maori Party – so that’s how many leaders they’ll have.

Realize eventually and once it’s far, far too late to change course that you’ve replaced two co-leaders with one leader … of the National Party.

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ACT: Everyone knows that monopolies are bad! (Except when it comes to Epsom electorate representation, apparently) Implement efficiencies derived from the free market value of competition right here in your own party by constantly changing the leader! Declare the last guy to lead ACT to an election result of more than a single MP to be an unelectable failure and bring in hired guns like Simon Lusk to roll him in a National Party backed coup that’s so cap-handed Rodney Hide winds up having to co-ordinate some of it himself. Install the man who lost “the unloseable election” for National back in 2005 while claiming this is somehow an improvement. Reconvene as a slightly more extreme franchise of the National Party. Watch in horror as Brash does the most anyone’s ever likely to do to make ACT electable by pushing for cannabis decriminalization … only for John Banks to angrily claim such a move will be happening “over my dead body”. Banks’ political corpse turns up later (with what turns out to be many a self-inflicted wound), giving way to an extremist libertarian philosophy professor so in touch with the electorate that he didn’t initially realize the campaign trail isn’t the best place to preach an academic argument in favour of legalized incest. Shrug halfheartedly as David Seymour becomes surely the youngest leader ever of a Parliamentary party slash tinpot National Party satrapy.

Survive on government handouts for the rest of your days. Nobody really cares that in reality you replaced your leader with the National Party one a long time ago…

The Greens: Constantly and emphatically insist that your hippy values mean you and your party comrades are above the “petty”, “vindictive”, “internecine”, and “fratricidal” “squabbles” that other parties are prone to. When David Hay comes up, suggest he doesn’t count. When other examples are cited of leadership aspirants who’ve swiftly found themselves out of Parliament after contesting leadership elections, claim this isn’t a pattern and that functioning on a consensus-basis doesn’t have to axiomatically equate to groupthink. Somehow wind up providing stable, unified, and well-regarded leadership that miraculously manages to hit the demographic tickboxes while also being demonstrably competent.

Continue to be thought of as radical, weed-whacking eccentrics by large swathes of Middle New Zealand regardless.

The MANA Party: Attempt to play in the Maori Party’s leadership contest. Fail. Set up own party. Fight perception you’ve lost control of that to alleged Pirate King and spend rest of campaign angrily correcting journalists about another party’s cannabis stance while watching elements of your support base go rogue and/or up in smoke.

Consider a comeback as a solo-act.

Peter Dunne: Bewilderingly manage to maintain enough theoretical relevance and respectability to remain electable in Ohariu. Once upon a time this also entailed keeping an occasionally somewhat fractious caucus and party together through ongoing agglomeration … but these days, not so much. Another party whose leader can genuinely say he enjoys the full support of his parliamentary caucus (thanks largely to being the last man standing while various more extreme MPs and factions have sloughed off only to wind up in the Conservative Party); however, it is rumoured that the United Future constitution contains provisions for a peacock-like duel by plumage in the unlikely event that Peter Dunne turns on Peter Dunne for the leadership. Continually reinvent yourself in an ongoing quest for relevance/salience/enough new members to keep the Electoral Commission from once again designating you’re no longer a party/leader of one.

The Conservative Party: Attempt to join just about every other political party that’s going. (Yes, Colin even apparently sounded out The Greens). Hit up Winston and offer to be his Deputy Leader. Wonder why nobody’s taking you seriously. Set up own political party. Fail to enter Parliament twice, at a cost of somewhere in the region of four and a half million dollars. Rewrite Conservative Party constitution to make it clear you’re just seat-warming for the eventual return of the Messiah at some point after the star Wormwood falls into the sea (or, as applies the bits about leading a parliamentary caucus … once Hell requires an emissions trading scheme).

The National Party: Head-hunt some guy with an impressive-sounding resume from the private sector, corporate-style. Carefully shepherd his pathway to power by, among other things, arranging for the comprehensive leaking of his predecessor’s most embarrassing email correspondence – thus forcing the old guy to step down. Watch in frank, and abject amazement as the new guy succeeds beyond anyone’s wildest dreams at delivering the goods – power and power companies – that National and its supporters crave. Start to get a bit edgy about the plausibility of the options to succeed him. Hope the *real* leaders of the National Party – Sky City – don’t mind taking a bit of a gamble…

Labour: Choose a guy named DavidRoll him. We’re not quite sure what comes next.

NZF: Bring forth the ancient black and silver scrolls from the sacred Winebox; light a few Dunhill Blues for incense; and sprinkle some Powdered Ministerial Scalp for flavouring. Tan the rhinoceros hide, heat to a molten temperature the steel for his spine; and mix in the pituitary gland of the Tarrasque. Dryclean and press the pinstripe suit. Let the populist discontent smoulder; and bring his outrage to the boil. Finally, complete the ritual by uttering the phrase “Muldoon volvitur in Sepulchro. They’re selling the assets off again. Time to Keep the Bastards Honest!” into the construct’s ear.

And that’s how, just after every election, we ensure Lich-Lord Peters stays animated and casting bolts of dark energy about the House for the next three years.



“Curwen Ares Rolinson is a firebrand young nationalist presently engaged in acts of political resistance deep behind enemy lines amidst the leafy boughs of Epsom. He is affiliated with the New Zealand First Party; although his postings here should not necessarily be taken as indicative or representative of NZF’s policy or views.” 



  1. Love it! True and entertaining at the same time.

    Why wasn’t this information/helpful background available before the
    election in such summary/understandable format?

    Want to write the guide/how to for the Labour Party?
    THey need a handbook – and a comic one – tragic the way it is.
    They need your alchemism as exhibited in NZF recipe.

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