Saturday, November 01, 2014

Meeting the candidate

Today I went to Browns Bay to join other Labour Party members on the North Shore to meet with Grant Robertson in the last of his informal meetings in his campaign for Labour Party Leader. He’s the first of the candidates for Leader who’s come to the North Shore, though Andrew Little is due here tomorrow. It was a good event.

The photo at the top of this post is one I took of Grant during the question and answer segment. The photo at the bottom of this post was posted to Facebook by Labour Auckland North. It looks toward the area where I was standing sometime later; I was late arriving due to traffic on the motorway. Actually about a dozen or so people arrived after me.

There were maybe 40 or so all up, enough that the room got uncomfortably hot. Good thing it’s not summer yet!

Grant began by telling us about himself (the part I missed) before moving on to talking about what we can expect from him should he become Leader. He also talked about his commitments, listed on a small flyer and on his campaign website (http://www.grantrobertson.co.nz/commitments).

One of his commitments is what he calls Labour in the Community, an ongoing engagement by Labour in our local communities, and not just for the six-month campaign every three years. We were talking about exactly that sort of thing some weeks ago when our electorate committee met for our campaign de-debrief. We see it as a way to build the party and get people interested and involved, rather than showing up only at election time. What I particularly like about the proposal is that it means Labour supporting people’s local campaigns and initiatives to improve their communities.

This particular gathering was basically about Labour, of course, but he also talked about remaining committed to core Labour Party values of fairness, opportunity and shared responsibility to one another. He also said that Labour was a party formed by and for workers, but the nature of work is changing, with increasing casualisation of work as well as people who were formerly workers who supported Labour now being entrepreneurs, small business owners and contract workers. Grant said that the party must address their needs, too.

All in all it was a good opportunity to hear directly from him about the challenges and opportunities ahead.

I got to ask the first question, and I asked that even though, as he’d mentioned, the division in the Labour Caucus was quite small and blown out of proportion, was he prepared to knock some heads together if necessary. He said that wouldn’t be his first choice of action, of course, because his leadership style is consultative and inclusive, so caucus members will have buy-in to the policy and programme of the party and caucus. But, he said, should the necessity arise, the party already has a range of penalties available to it, and they would be used if needed. He said there has to be consequences for bad behaviour.

Jacinda Ardern, Grant’s choice for Deputy Leader, was also at the gathering, which was a real bonus, since she’s been sick recently. I’ve met her a few times now, and have always been impressed with her command of policy.

There’s no doubt that Grant was in his element. He was relaxed, friendly and spoke very well about sometimes complicated issues—all things a good party leader should be and do. I think that the people in the room were suitably impressed.

I won’t be able to go hear Andrew Little tomorrow, since I have another event at the same time, and it’s not looking promising for me to attend any of Auckland’s three hustings (candidate meetings organised by the party with all four candidates present), so I’m glad that I at least got to see and hear Grant.

Labour has taken a lot of flak, mostly from the rightwing, about the way we choose our party leader, but I think it’s a good process and system, on the whole. I also think that party members absolutely should have a say in who the party leader is. The Green Party involves its members, but don’t seem to get nearly the same level of criticism for it as Labour has had. C’est la vie—it’s our party to structure the way that works best for us and our electoral campaigns, and we really don’t need somewhat self-serving advice on that from our political adversaries (who quite possibly are more worried that their party members might want a say, too).

I’ll have a bit more to say about all this soon.

Voting for Labour Party Leader closes at midday on Tuesday, November 18 and results will be announced at 2pm that day.

Grant Robertson speaks to Labour members in Browns Bay, Auckland this afternoon. This photo was taken before I arrived. (Photo: Labour Auckland North Facebook Page).

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