Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Labour looks to give party faithful power to oust leader

Moira Coatsworth. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Moira Coatsworth. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Labour Party is considering a major change in the way it elects its leader to allow party members to force a handover of power through a no-confidence vote, or to block an attempt by caucus to roll the leader.

The group set up to review the Labour Party after its poor election result has recommended party members vote on the leader. At present only MPs elect the leader.

Party president Moira Coatsworth said it was "a significant shift" for the party.

"At the moment, because it is a caucus decision, caucus at any time can walk in and have a vote. So this would decide on mechanisms for triggering [a leadership vote.]"

New Zealand and Australia were the only Westminster countries in which the equivalent of the Labour Party did not allow members to vote on the leader. The Irish Labour Party required support from two-thirds of caucus and a proportion of the membership to force a leadership vote.

In Canada, members could seek a vote on the leadership on a regular basis at policy conferences.

One example the report gave was the United Kingdom model in which the caucus, the membership and union affiliates have one-third of the votes each.

The review began in February after the party's low election result and the leadership change, during which the party broke with tradition by requiring the contenders for the job - David Shearer and David Cunliffe - to speak at a series of members' meetings. The report said members had valued having input and wanted to make it a right.

The recommendations were also vetted by an external advisory group, which included US-based academic Rob Salmond, businessman Selwyn Pellett, former MPs Margaret Wilson and Tim Barnett and former British Labour MP Bryan Gould.

It said there was concern about the lack of transparency of list rankings.

It also recommended formal affiliation for groups other than the unions. It looked at ways to build its supporters' base - including reduced membership fees for youth and those on low incomes, or a koha system.

It also proposed setting up a "registered supporters" club for groups which were not affiliates, and people who did not want to be members but wanted some involvement.

- NZ Herald

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