Title: Opinion: Game of Thrones Aotearoa? Credit: Craig Young Comment Friday 23rd August 2013 - 3:06pm1377227160 Article: 13867 Rights
David Shearer has gone, the search for a new leadership starts... Erstwhile Labour leader David Shearer's surprise leadership resignation is a sad event, but what about the impending leadership succession contest? Who will win? It'd be tempting for us to automatically back gay MP Grant Robertson. He's a capable, media-friendly performer, has blokey rugbyhead tendencies that could go over well and he knows his allocated responsibilities. Added to which, he didn't try to destabilise Shearer's leadership and displayed loyalty toward his leader. Robertson tends to be "postgay"- he's more identified with his portfolio than with specific LGBT issues. Fair enough, too. There's no rule which says that every one of us has to take a frontline role for The Cause.  However, while Robertson wouldn't be the first out world gay parliamentary party leader (former Tasmanian Green Senator and Australian Green federal leader Bob Brown has that distinction), and while former Iceland Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdasdottir was the first out lesbian or gay head of state, Grant Robertson would be the first such Leader of the Opposition...and Prime Minister?   How likely is this? Would Pacific Island social conservative voters wear this? And are all Pacific Island voters necessarily socially conservative?  On the other hand, would the voting  public warm to the idea that this could once again show that New Zealand is a confident, forward-thinking progressive society- precisely through electing an out gay man as our Prime Minister in 2014? And how would the Key administration react? Prime Minister Key supported marriage equality and inclusive adoption reform and I suspect that he probably wouldn't try to use Robertson's sexual orientation as a disqualifying factor in terms of any political debate. It wouldn't go down well in metropolitan electorates.  What about the other contenders? I must declare neutrality in this contest. David Cunliffe does have considerable potential, and should be reappointed as party finance spokesperson. If Robertson is successful, one hopes that Cunliffe would be satisfied with the award of what would be a highly influential and strategically important shadow and prospective portfolio. If Cunliffe does win, one would expect him to reciprocate through giving Robertson a similar senior portfolio in this context.  Andrew Little is also discussed in this context. Personally, I think Little would make an excellent Minister of Labour in any future Labour-led government, given his past as EPMU President. Unfortunately, failing to win New Plymouth in 2011 probably means a handicap in this leadership race, as does Shane Jones' unfortunate choice of  hotel DVD viewing content. But again, Jones is highly capable. So might his unfortunate tendency to snipe at the Greens, Labour's probable coalition partners after 2014 (or 2017).  All of these individuals are allies of our community, as indeed is most of the Labour Party, whether organisational or parliamentary, with a tiny handful of exceptions. One fascinating unifying thread in all this appears to be Labour's Social Policy spokesperson Jacinta Ardern, who is described as the highly probable choice as deputy party leader regardless of whether Robertson or Cunliffe wins. Ardern herself is probably a future Leader of the Opposition/Prime Minister. What effects will this have on the rest of Parliament? The Prime Minister seems uneasy. Either Cunliffe or Robertson would be a match for him, given Key's unfortunate tendency to fudge precision and detail. After the Labour leadership is settled next month, the Opposition needs to concentrate on a core set of specific concerns. It needs to elaborate the merits of its proposed capital gains tax policy against National's proposed asset sales, instead of one-sided negative campaigning against asset sales at the cost of any such elaboration. It needs to focus parliamentary, public and media attention on questions about whether current government attacks on public service capacity have severely undermined service quality in crucial areas- Pike River, the Christchurch Earthquake, the Rina incident and now the Fonterra contamination scandal are starting to look like a pattern. Then there's the GCSB Bill. Labour and the Greens need to explain how they'd do things differently. Which raises the question- After Key, whom? Steven Joyce is the "Mister Fixit" of his party and would be the logical choice, although Judith Collins also has her own leadership aspirations and populist law and order appeal. Perhaps Joyce as leader, and Collins as his deputy? If so, they may have a lean time of it- it would only take four thousand votes for Epsom (ACT) to revert to National, and for Ohariu Belmont (United Future) to fall to Labour. That leaves the Maori Party and it is an open question whether the mana of Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia can be be transferred to their respective successors. Te Ureroa Flavell is probably safe, but might end up as the only surviving Maori Party MP after 2014.  And then there is New Zealand's third party, the Greens. The party displays enviable stability and excellent conflict resolution skills, which may have assisted perceptions that it is a trustworthy and capable coalition partner for Labour. Given current polling, they will occupy an important role in any future centre-left government. Whether Robertson or Cunliffe, the next Labour leader will need to relate well to Russell Norman, Metiria Turei and the rest of their caucus.  And it will be a centre-left government that the Greens choose to support. National's foolishly short-sighted weakening of environmental safeguards risks isolating National without any viable major coalition partner when the incumbency fatigue tide really starts to hit home, presumably either later in this term of office, or any Key administration third term.  One gathers that the Greens would prefer a "clean" coalition with Labour in this context, without having to contemplate New Zealand First's parliamentary presence. The populist anti-market party in question is highly irritating with its talk of neutrality and crossbench occupation, neither in absolute coalition or even the decency of confidence and supply. This is opportunist and irresponsible. Fortunately, it is far from certain that New Zealand First will return after 2014. If it does not, at what point does Winston Peters become too elderly or incapacitated to serve in Parliament? And what happens then, given that NZF is a populist vanity vehicle for its leader? And if it leaves Parliament again after 2014, will this be the last time that it does so? Finally, there's the Conservative Party. If National is desperate enough, it may ignore one significant law of New Zealand parliamentary politics- never trust fundamentalist Christian microparties. They are selfish, sectional and irresponsible. Other than religious social conservatism, the Conservatives seem to have few other elaborated government policies. What about the Conservative Party's opposition to asset sales and its reliance on a raft of expensive binding referenda if it holds the balance of power? Given what happened to the Christian Coalition, which ate into the centre-right voter share in 1996 due to its unpopularity, and United Future's carpetbagger fundamentalist caucus and the resultant disintegration (2002-2007), I wouldn't trust Colin Craig's vanity vehicle or promote its cause. Experience is a difficult taskmaster. National needs a new centre-right, socially liberal satellite party if the worst happens to ACT and/or United Future-if not in 2014, then probably in 2017. Otherwise, there may be a prolonged period of Labour/Green centre-left parliamentary dominance. And thus begins our own domestic version of the Game of Thrones... - Craig Young Craig Young - 23rd August 2013    
This article is also available with formatting and images at the following online archives: NDHA
This page displays a version of the article with all formatting and images removed. It was harvested automatically and some text content may not have been fully captured correctly. A copy of the full article is available (off-line) at the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand. This online version is provided for personal research and review and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of If you have queries or concerns about this article please email us