Lessons from New Zealand Labour

Earlier today, the leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, David Shearer, announced his resignation as party leader. Shearer’s resignation paves the way for NZ Labour’s first direct election of its parliamentary leader.

Last year, New Zealand Labour Congress embraced the direct election of the parliamentary party leader, adopting a three section electoral college (40/40/20) with 40% allocated to rank-and-file members and the Parliamentary Party and 20% allocated to members of affiliated unions. It is similar to the model that the British Labour Party uses (33/33/33) and that some within the Australian Labor Party are advocating.

Australian progressives should pay attention to the upcoming NZ Labour leadership contest as it will provide lessons in how to run (and how not to run) a direct election contest. It will be interesting to see how involving affiliated union members will work in practice, what the turnout will be and what the eligibility will be to participate in the ballot.

The leadership election is also likely to shape Labor’s post-election debate about whether there should be a 50/50 model or if affiliated unions should be involved and may be cited as an example by advocates of a three section electoral college.

Whatever ends up happening, it will be worth keeping a close eye on what unfolds across the Tasman.

UPDATE: Over at KiwiBlog, there is an explanation of how the union section will work. It seems that other than one union, all the others are using Conference delegates instead of One Member One Vote.

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