Harré returns to Labour

Posted: December 13, 2016 in economic justice, elections, feminism, New Zealand, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Worth noting today is that Laila Harré has formally re-joined the Labour Party, (h/t to Andrea Vance) and intends to stand as a candidate. (depending on party decisions on electorate selection and list ordering, of course)

Laila has excellent credibility with the Left in general and working people in particular, and her selection as leader was basically the reason the Internet Party enjoyed any legitimacy at all, pre-Mana alliance or post-.1 It wasn’t exactly a great move for her reputation in retrospect due to how successful the Right were in associating Mana and the Internet Party with Kim Dotcom due to his donation, but it does make clear that she has a lot of mana with the left.

Prior to Sue Moroney taking over the issue, Laila was the original champion of paid parental leave in Parliament, (she successfully pushed for 12 weeks) has been a friend to the union movement and a vocal critic of neoliberal policies ever since Rogernomics, and quit as a Labour member to join the NewLabour Party and thereby eventually the Alliance, which as its name suggests, was an electoral alliance of radical left parties, such as the Greens, (temporarily) Mana Motuhake, NewLabour, and the Democrats for Social Credit. After her election in ’96, she has served as Minister of Women’s affairs and associate Minister of Labour and commerce, fighting hard for much of the pro-worker legislation that occurred prior to collapse of the Alliance as an effective political vehicle. She has also served as a strategist for the Green Party, so this is a woman who has literally been prominent in every significant left-wing political movement since the 80s, and would provide credibility to the notion that Labour is positioning itself as a senior coalition partner for the Greens, as Ms. Harré is still to a degree part of the Green whānau, and having her at the table for that discussion could legitimately make it easier for both sides.

If Andrew Little wants to run a big-tent campaign that targets both the Labour left and Middle New Zealand, or even if he is going for a left-wing Labour campaign that targets demotivated voters, (ie. “the missing million” strategy) Laila is an excellent candidate who he should be placing high up his list, as she is persuasive to both groups2. (given her crowning achievements have mostly been around securing pay and benefits for workers, she has a lot of pull with left-leaning centrists) He should even be considering how quickly he can move her to the front bench, I would argue. While she’s not new to politics, she is part of the populist change Labour could represent in 2017, and she deserves a winnable electorate or list position when compared to some of  the less inspiring electorate MPs, and even a couple of the senior List MPs that snuck in with the 2014 election. (Compare and contrast Laila to Mallard or Ardern, for instance, both of whom were given very winnable list and electorate positions. Then compare with her to some of Labour’s less stellar candidates like say, Clare Curran, and I think an objective observer can agree that Laila deserves to be on or near the front bench)

Laila would make an excellent Minister for Women, or a great head of MBIE, or even both, whether or not Labour intend to split MBIE again3 into Labour and Business ministries. While normally I would be promoting a Green candidate for most ministerial positions if Labour can win in 2017, I can’t really see anyone more qualified to advocate for women, and there is simply no way a party branded as “Labour” is going to even consider handing over the ministry dedicated to working people to any other party in more than an associate role. Little should be seriously considering not only his current shadow cabinet, but how the people on his list and winning electorate selection could contribute to a possible cabinet in 2017 if he is taking his job as Bill English’s opposite seriously, and Laila is an excellent way to give himself more options in both the Labour and Ministry for Women areas.

1 As an anecdote, Laila’s debut as Internet Party leader was literally the only time I have considered changing the party I vote for. Unfortunately it just wasn’t clear enough that the Internet-Mana alliance would enter Parliament in 2014, and a lot of the funding behind them seemed to have gone into flash media rather than serious policy, so I figured I’d be safe with my usual choice.

2 Strangely, you don’t need to be a centrist to appeal to “centre” voters. This is often because a lot of them are left- or right-leaning, they just don’t identify with particular parties or economic political blocs because they see other political concerns as primary. (sometimes that’s social policy for liberals or conservatives, sometimes it’s issues-based, such as minimum wages, or tax relief for the middle class, or policy that helps parents) And for those who genuinely fall in the centre, they’re often a lot less persuadable by factors like policy or candidate selection, and care more about intangibles such as “unity” or “leadership” or simply a candidate’s charisma, so it’s perfectly reasonable to project a strong left-wing message while also playing to those centre voters, because some proportion of them will accept the left-wing message, and the others can be targeted completely separately of selection and policy concerns.

3 They should, they really should. I don’t support reorganisations of ministries simply for the sake of doing them, but this clears that threshold handily. It’s frankly bananas to have Labour and Business advocacy done by the same ministry, and an example of how dismissive National is to the concerns of workers. You don’t put sheep and wolves in the same Ministry. Now, that’s not to say the departments under MBIE shouldn’t continue to share buildings and resources- that actually makes sense. But there should absolutely be a firewall between advocacy for ordinary people and advocacy for businesses, and the best way to do that is to make them seperate ministries. If Business doesn’t have enough other things to do, you can always merge that into the Economic Development portfolio where it belongs.


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