With another Labour leadership contest underway, it seems to me worth considering what, broadly speaking, we look for in a political leader. Experience does not seem high on the list of requirements, as John Key proved by becoming Prime Minister in 2008 with no prior experience in-government.
Nor does beauty count for much. Robert Muldoon was not known for being handsome, nor was Helen Clark — although she suffered more direct abuse because of it. What we look for is predictability, not someone who will show their hand, but one who we feel we can trust not to play one that makes us hurt. This is the strength of John Key, one he didn’t have in 2008, but he has built over time.
Predictability goes hand in hand with stability and the ability to communicate. We understand what we are already thinking, if you follow me. To this end when looking at the four Labour leadership contenders it is possible to filter them down.
David Parker. He has experience, which doesn’t count for much. He is unpredictable insofar as he changed his mind on whether to run for leader, and he was behind Labour’s unpopular policies, including the capital gains tax. He has signalled a rethink, but given that he previously proposed and supported taxing capital gains; there’s no doubt he’s in favour of it. Therefore he is unpredictable, and in the media this can easily morph into slipperiness, and falseness. Look at the crater marked ‘Cunliffe’ and see what happens when you run with that.
Andrew Little is unknown. Until he has introduced himself to the public he can’t avoid being unpredictable. That isn’t a mark against him though, for he has the opportunity to shape himself into whatever the people want. His endorsement from Cunliffe may come back to haunt him though, if he wins he should act quickly to impose distance between himself and the toxic former leader.
Grant Robertson, for all the reporting of him being ‘beltway’, he has an established profile. His homosexuality does not increase the perception of unpredictability, and for younger voters it is an advantage. Robertson has the makings of a successful leader, and should he pass the test before him he has sound plans for moving the party forward. Partnering him with Jacinda Adern creates a formidable ticket, although Adern has never been forthright as to her ambitions. She is unpredictable.
Nanaia Mahuta is the wild card, and I struggle to take candidacy seriously considering she nominated at the eleventh hour. She is unknown by the wider public, but has significant mana in the Maori community. She should be on the front bench after the election whoever becomes leader.
On balance I therefore think that Grant Robertson remains the candidate to watch. Assuming of course your still interested in politics.