Given the lack of talent for Labour’s leadership spill, Andrew Little looks like a good safe bet.
But there is a problem, and that is his less than stellar performances in New Plymouth.
There’s a lot of smart money going on Andrew Little’s bid to lead the Labour Party, but the numbers in New Plymouth don’t lie. So what are they saying?
There’s a lot of talk about “listening” in Labour circles these days. Announcing his bid for the party leadership, list MP Andrew Little named as his top priority “getting the process underway to listen to the voters who have abandoned us”. Grant Robertson agrees, telling reporters last week “as we emerge from our heavy election defeat, we must now take the opportunity to listen”.
I suspect Little and Robertson have in mind some version of a â€śLabour Listensâ€ť tour (as Neil Kinnock did in Britain in 1997 and Gordon Brown did in 2010), a series of carefully staged outreach events involving a great deal of ostentatious nodding and taking of things on board. This is all well and good, and may even help in the long run, but thereâ€™s no reason to wait for a bus trip to start the process.
New Zealanders have said a great deal already, and in the most unequivocal terms imaginable: they have voted.
As it turns out, electors in New Plymouth haven’t left much to the imagination when it comes to Little. Labourâ€™s performance in the seat since he became the partyâ€™s local standard bearer has been disastrous. It seems worth analysing Littleâ€™s record in light of David Cunliffe’s endorsement, not to mention his own acknowledgement that the next party leader will need to arrest the partyâ€™s decline by rebuilding the party and reconnecting with voters. “We don’t have a choice,â€ť Little told Lisa Owen on The Nation last weekend, â€śWe’ve lost three elections in a row. Our vote has been going down. We’re down to 32 MPs. We are scraping the bottom of the barrelâ€ť.
He should know. In the two elections since Little became Labourâ€™s candidate in New Plymouth, National’s party vote margin in the electorate has more than doubled from 6,600 to 13,000 votes. After a 5.8 percent two-party swing from Labour to National in 2011, there was a further 6.3 percent swing in New Plymouth this year â€“ roughly three times worse than the nationwide average. As the electorate candidate, Little also attracted 6,500 fewer electorate votes than in 2008 when the previous Labour member, Harry Duynhoven, lost the seat. After three years of resources and profile as a list MP based partly in New Plymouth, Little managed a 7.8 percent swing against him on the electorate vote this year, to compound the 6.7 percent he suffered in 2011.Â Read more »