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September 9, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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A Pain-Free Labour

The Labour leadership contest is a story that has three losers. The two candidates who don’t take the throne of the party, and John Key. Contrary to all predictions by anybody who knows anything about the personalities within the party, the leadership contest is allowing Labour to flourish. The leadership meetings are providing nothing but positive stories for Labour as talented candidates shine, passionate members discuss their voting decision and bold policies are presented.

For months the Labour caucus avoided activating this process. In full knowledge of the dwindling support for Shearer both within caucus and among the voting public, they gave him chance after chance for fear of four weeks of disarray with no leadership and no direction. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

From the outset, Party bosses instructed all members and candidates that a clean fight would be fought. No personal attacks would be permitted, allowing a genuine battle of ideas to win over the party. Almost immediately, two of the three candidates began committing the party to a lurch toward the left; they spoke in terms of “hope”, “opportunity” and “putting people first”, and the eyes of the country focussed on Labour reconnecting not only with their members, but with New Zealanders.

Key might’ve thought that he had succeeded at ousting Shearer, but he had really dug his own grave.

The democratisation of the leadership selection has forced candidates to appeal to rank-and-file members of the party, who, since the days of Clark, have largely sat to the left of caucus. Leadership candidates have embarked on a derailing of the third-way track laid by the Clark government in an attempt to win votes, and they are creating a narrative which will appeal to all New Zealanders. They are united on making Labour about people again, about helping the everyday Kiwi with a job, a home and something to hope for.

Giving Labour members a vote has set the groundwork for a Labour victory in 2014. It has made Labour relevant again. It has moved the party to the left and forced the next leader to commit to the things which matter to voters. It has reinvigorated the party. It has put an end to the internal bickering and leadership speculation. It hasn’t even produced a new leader yet, but it has already created the worst nightmare for Key.

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