...because Labour needs to change, not the voters.
The Labour leadership contest has changed the Labour party because Shane Jones stood.
He’s been fearless. And, yes, sometimes crass. But he has looked outward, away from internal squabbles and said what needed to be said; if Labour is to appeal to middle New Zealand, then it can’t say ‘we want your vote but not your values.’
To all those commentators who sneered at Shane’s style, who do they think the Labour party represents? If the party is not appealing to those in the RSAs, marae, pubs and to those browsing in Mitre 10 at the weekend, it isn’t a Labour party.
Shudders flew down spines when Shane said, ‘People need to remember that the word Labour means work.’ For many inside Labour, this was heresy. For many of Labour’s lost flock, this was a statement of the obvious they have waited to hear.
There’s been a lot of talk about unity. Unity has to be earned. First you need a red meat contest of ideas about how to translate Labour principles in to policies.
David Cunliffe’s version of unity has been to double down on the policies that have been unsuccessful in the last two elections in the hope that a more assertive defense of them will convince more people to support Labour.
What Jones is doing is more interesting. He says if Labour is unpopular it’s because we are not being true to our values. Voters actually like our values and our principle that anyone no matter what family you’re born into, should have access to the same opportunities. Labour is only unpopular when it takes entrenched positions that are unfaithful to its core principles.
Jones sounds refreshing because he is brave enough to name where Labour has gone wrong and that’s precisely why some people, who he has mischievously called intellectuals, have disparaged him. The whole point of entrenched positions is that they’re painful for the party to change. But the party won’t succeed until it confronts the need to change.
The contrast between all three candidates was clear in the way they handled the sacking of David Cunliffe’s campaign worker, Jenny Michie.
Grant Robertson saw nothing wrong with his supporter, MP Claire Curren, tweeting a claim that Jenny Michie ‘dog whistled’ to homophobes. This is the politics of personal demonisation. Banishment is the only politics left when you refuse to debate ideas.
Cunliffe buckled under the pressure and fired her, indicating that he thinks unity is achieved by silence rather than argument
Jones called Claire Curren out.
I know Jenny. She is no homophobe.
She was a victim of a political technique where people are taken out rather than ideas refuted.
Labour needs to be a broad-based party, valuing a diversity of opinion and promoting people because they are good advocates rather than because they picked a side in a spat.
Parties need to be able to debate ideas without banishing and demonising those with whom they disagree. If you don’t have a contest of ideas you can’t be sure your own ideas are good ones.
Shane has courageously spoken out for what he thinks needs to change. That’s been valuable to Labour because its demonstrated that the party is broad based. He has made sure the race has been a contest of ideas. And he’s spoken out for the people whose votes labour has been trying to attract while the party simultaneously rejects and even trashes their priorities.