Running a political party by committee fails every time


National was in the same spot in 2002 that Labour found itself in 2008, 2011 and indeed today.  It takes effort to climb back out of a defeat, but National almost did it in two terms.

National chose three new leaders over nine years in opposition: Bill English, Don Brash and John Key. Each led the party at an election and it was third time lucky. Labour has chosen three new leaders over six years but only two have been put to a public vote. Mr Shearer did not survive a full term. He wants another chance. So does Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson, who ran unsuccessfully in the party election last year when he was the preferred candidate of the caucus.

Whoever Labour chooses this time, it must get it right. Four leaders for a party in opposition is unprecedented.

And yet it won’t.  It has a bigger problem than not having an effective leader.  It needs a total overhaul.  Putting a new steering wheel in a vehicle with an unreliable engine isn’t going to get you anywhere.  

Labour’s election post-mortems are making much of the fact that the party’s next leader needs to be someone who can appeal to the broad spectrum of New Zealanders, not a coalition of social causes. Mr Cunliffe’s fateful apology for being a man was a moment of truth for “identity politics”. Labour needs to realise that while gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation are important to people, they do not define them.

The lack of an obvious new leader in Labour’s ranks may be a result of its failure to bring in enough fresh talent at elections. When National suffered its heaviest loss in 2002, it also brought to Parliament Dr Brash and Mr Key, not to mention Judith Collins, who had leadership potential in some eyes. Labour has brought in Mr Shearer, Mr Robertson and Jacinda Ardern, who impresses many. Her failure to get the better of Social Development Minister Paula Bennett in Parliament, though, suggests Ms Ardern may struggle in popular debate.

The party’s new rules have not given it much time to choose. It should trust the caucus this time. Those who work closely with the ambitious know them best.

If it truly just took the right leader to take the Labour Party back into the glory days then they’d have a chance.  As it is, they are broken.  No money.  No ground level expertise.  No rejuvenation.  No saleable policies.  No broad appeal.   No experienced talent.  No talent coming through.

But good luck putting a new leader in place.  That’s going to fix it just fine.


– NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.