Politics

Outside the box: in search of the future Labour leader

Jacinda Ardern? Kelvin Davis? Why stop there? Simon Wilson plays fantasy politics and surveys a world of people who could lead the Labour Party. 

Labour desperately needs a leader to excite our passions and lead the people to the promised land. So who’s the best person to do that? Not sure if they’ve got anyone in caucus just now? Well how about they do what it takes to bring in someone new? We suggest Dame Susan Devoy. Brilliant grasp of progressive politics, as demonstrated in her role as Race Relations Commissioner. Much loved sports hero. Makes headlines every time she opens her mouth. And despite all that, has not, to our knowledge, made enemies. She’d be great.

So would Dr Lance O’Sullivan, everyone’s favourite doctor, anti-poverty crusader, anti-nutcase health advocate, so good looking too. Like Devoy, he’s from the provinces, which probably also helps.

Who else? Helen Clark hasn’t got anything to do, her fanbase is gigantic and full of people who are known to vote, and she’s quite good at the job, despite what Matthew Hooton thinks. Or because of it. Someone has to persuade her this is her destiny and she can’t escape it. Or possibly Sir Geoffrey Palmer…? No, sorry, got sidetracked there.

Moana Maniapoto, she’s always got interesting things to say and she’s a total make-it-happen person. Dave Dobbyn, because we all know all the words to all his songs and who doesn’t want to hear “Welcome Home” on election night? (Please don’t feel you have to answer that.) Actually, by that reckoning, Jordan Luck should be on the list, too.

Kiri Te Kanawa? She might be a little out of touch, but she’d make parliamentary broadcasts more entertaining. Lorde! Obviously smarter than most politicians and who wouldn’t vote for her? Plus, she’d set those parliament debates on fire. In a good way.

If Lorde’s not available, what about Chlöe Swarbrick? She might not be able to sing, but she gets noticed, and she wins crowds. OK, she’s in the wrong party but they’re not offering to make her leader, are they? Nikki Kaye. She’s virtually Labour anyway: close your eyes when she talks about her government’s social policy achievements and you could easily be listening to a Labour person. And what’s she got to lose? There’s no way, surrounded by ruthless true-blue Tories like Paula Bennett and Judith Collins, that her own party, National, is going to give Nikki Kaye the leadership.

What about Paul Henry? Sure, he’s National, too, but he doesn’t have a job and he’s bound to relish the chance to go head to head with the Nats’ chief propagandist, Mike Hosking.

Bernie Sanders? He’s another one who doesn’t really have a job and he does command a good crowd, which is actually more than Paul Henry could ever say. He’s a crotchety old bugger though and it’s not immediately clear that would play well in New Zealand. But Sam Neill, now, he’s popular, and opinionated, and terribly avuncular. People love Sam. And he’s good at fighting dinosaurs.

Patrick Gower! That would be a genius move. Neutralise Labour’s fiercest critic, commandeer his ability to make people talk about him, make sure his sound-bite sneer skills are turned on the government at all times. Both Paddy and Paul Henry might be quite hard to persuade, but hey, they’re in media, they’ll have a price.

While we’re thinking ruthless, what about Caesar? You know, the ape. Especially as we now know he has a proven track record of leading his “people” to the promised land. What, chimps aren’t eligible? Don’t be silly, it’s Andy Serkis in a monkey suit. He does this shit for money all the time.

Maybe take a slightly different tack. Line up this year’s winners of Survivor NZ, The Block NZ and The Bachelor, give them a complicated political task and choose the one who looks best on TV doing it. You could add a few winners from previous years, though maybe not, because who can even remember their names anymore?

Someone to kick arse? Cheryl West the older, or Rita West, or, fuck it, Cheryl West the younger. It’s a new world out there. Or if you want someone classy, Eleanor Catton. She’s got more opinions than any of the Wests and well over 100,000 New Zealanders bought The Luminaries, which at this rate could be more than will vote Labour.

But hey, when all the searching and the shouting has died down, we think there are really only two people who could do this job properly. One of them, drum roll and heavenly choirs please, is Richie McCaw, who’s well known for his ability to do absolutely anything in the whole wide world. And the other is the most convincing impersonator of a man who can do anything we’ve ever seen. He has also, as it happens, spent eight years being very relaxed about implementing Working for Families and other policies used to belong to the Labour Party. He’s been practising! He doesn’t need the money but he might just do it for the lols: John Key.

Or maybe Max? Or Colin Craig: his latest attempt to take someone to court has just been thrown out so he’s probably got a bit of time on his hands.


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