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Corin Dann: Election contest now looking inevitable

Corin Dann

By Corin Dann ONE News Political Editor

Published: 2:48PM Friday August 23, 2013 Source: ONE News

If some in the Labour party caucus were hoping for some kind of a deal to prevent a contest for the next leader of the Labour party, they will now surely have to ditch that thought.

The message from the party bosses today is loud and clear…the party rank and file want a say on the next leader, and a ground breaking election primary election needs to be held.

In the hour following David Shearer’s shock resignation speculation was rife that the position may be uncontested with caucus favourite Grant Robertson emerging as the likely candidate.

Now you can understand the attraction of trying to hammer out a deal that sees only one nomination, as for some the last thing the party needs is a three week road show airing all the party’s divisions.

Even with the inclusion of a ‘code of conduct’ for candidates to adhere to in a campaign, there is the risk the process could get nasty and divisive and turn wider voters off.

But it is frankly now too hard to see how any deal will be acceptable to party rank and file, perhaps other than one that has David Cunliffe as leader.

And that seems unlikely given Grant Robertson is understood to have around two thirds of caucus backing him.

So it seems to me that Labour really has no option now but to take the plunge and have a contested primary election for leader…something it has not done before.

Certainty the party seems ready for it. The rules introduced at the last conference are clear, and the ground work has clearly been done to make sure it is a robust process.

Now while the likes of Andrew Little and Shane Jones could still join a race, this is really looming as a battle between Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe.

Such a contest I believe would be close. Both are strong debaters and smart politically. They would be evenly matched on the campaign hustings.

David Cunliffe is understood to have strong support in the party and some union support.

Conversely Grant Robertson has good caucus backing, reasonable party support and also some Union support.

As far as the expectations game goes I’d say Grant Robertson has the benefit of being lesser known and more chance of surprising voters on the upside.

If they both run as expected, it could be a fascinating tight race.