The Labour leadership race rolls around New Zealand with very little interest from the media. Thank god. The public’s apathy is Labour’s best friend right now. Labour has deep structural issues that it needs to address, and the lack of media attention allows the party to have important conversations on their purpose, policy, strategy, tactics and leadership.
Grant has been promoting an interesting policy/strategy called ‘Labour in the Community’, which would “hire regional organisers … to connect with the communities we represent”.
As I’ve previously argued ad nauseum, I think one of Labour’s big problems is that its vocal base (particularly young Labour) are waaaay out of step with regular people. The idea of Labour having representatives in the community could help young Labour hacks learn the views of regular people.
However, this looks very much like a ‘jobs-for-hacks’ programme. It could be a lot more, but there are still far too many unanswered questions, such as:
- Who will fund the positions?
- How much will this cost?
- If the positions are funded by the party, how will the party secure the revenue to fund them, by cutting expenses, or by increasing revenue?
- If cuts; which? If revenue gathering; how?
- How many positions will be created? Where will they be?
- Who makes sure these reps are actually doing their jobs? Do they have key performance indicators they have to meet?
- Who will ensure the representatives operate outside their bubbles?
- Will the representatives seek to grow union membership?
- Will the programme be subject to a pilot or a review to ensure it’s actually doing something?
- Will the representatives receive a living wage?
I think the idea has some potential, especially if the representatives do the grunt work of helping regular citizens with regular problems. This sort of stuff is how Peter Dunne keeps getting re-elected. If someone has a streetlight out, they can call him and he will get it sorted. Politics is local.
‘Jobs for hacks’ is pretty effective intra-party politics. If I was a Labour hack, I would hear this plan and think I stand a decent chance of getting paid for my work for the party. So I might be inclined to vote for Grant for this reason. Calling this ‘vote-buying’ would be a bit strong, but it does seem a lot like a job lottery. Vote for Grant! You might get a job out of it!
Of course, the obvious criticism is whether the party should have to pay people for this kind of work at all. If the party was strong, it would do this already. If it was relevant to people, it would have existing links to the community and/or use volunteers. Or, god forbid, the MPs could do it themselves.
I’ve contacted Grant on facebook, email and twitter asking for details. If I get answers to any of these questions, I’ll put them in a blog later in the week.
NOTE: I want Grant to win.