I am not particularly impressed with Damien O’Connor’s comments, but I do see where he is coming from. This from Stuff.co.nz:
O'Connor said he stood aside because he did not trust the list ranking process. ''Frankly, I didn't trust the system to give a straight-shooter a fair deal ... It is dominated by self-serving unionists and a gaggle of gays.''
He would not name individuals, but said he was disappointed the system did not deliver better results for rural and provincial candidates, such as himself, who were outside the party's power blocs.
''It does not truly represent the rank-and-file members and delivers a list that is not truly representative of those who vote Labour.''
The list selection process is largely predetermined. Each delegate goes into the process with clear instructions from their region, union or branch, for example the women’s branch. The party ensures each delegate is aware of the hierarchy’s expectations and each delegate is encouraged to vote accordingly. Simply put, the process is a sham. Each delegate backs their own man/woman without considering what is good for the party. Wider political considerations are secondary to personal political agendas.
The process rewards insiders, for example Deborah Mahuta-Coyle, who can gather support within the upper echelons of the party. The process penalises grassroots members who cannot court the support of the parliamentary leadership or the party establishment. It is a recipe for elitism.
The list is, without a shadow of a doubt, unrepresentative of those who vote Labour. The homosexual community and the urban liberal bloc are overrepresented, the Indian and Pacific communities are underrepresented and the so called “straight shooters” are near non-existent. The number of Maori on the list is satisfactory.
I grew up in provincial New Zealand where jokers like Damien O’Connor win votes by the booth. A New Zealand where city folk like Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe lose votes. Labour values are respected in the provinces, but Labour faces are derided. That is an oversimplification, but it holds true nonetheless. If Labour wants any show in heartland New Zealand the unions and the rainbow bloc need to need to move beyond their own personal agendas. The list selection process needs to be put in the hands of ordinary members.
Admittedly, O’Connor’s comments were “a bit redneck” and poorly timed. Labour does not need this sort of controversy. The government is quite possibly at its most vulnerable, but once again Labour mucks it up.