Rugby, Beer, Rock ‘n’ Roll – Robertson launches leadership bid

October 19, 2014 in General

Rugby-loving Wellington grandfather Grant Robertson launched his campaign this afternoon to become the next leader of the Labour Party.

He told a crowd of around 200 gathered at a central Auckland pub he represented a new generation of leadership for Labour, and that it was time for the party to start “working as one”.

Robertson also confirmed popular Auckland MP Jacinda Ardern as his running mate, in a move that surprised no-one.

Jacinda Ardern has been a loyal supporter of Grant Robertson for years.

Grant Robertson confirmed Jacinda Ardern as his running mate at today’s campaign launch.

Ardern’s been a loyal supporter of Robertson for years. Bringing her onto his ticket unifies the Auckland and Wellington fronts, effectively doubling his campaign team.

Ardern paid tribute to Grant’s track record, and said he had nerves of steel and a great sense of humour.

“Grant is my colleague, but first and foremost my friend,” she said.

Robertson returned the favour, describing Ardern as representing the “new generation and new approach that we need.”

He also poked fun at her religious background, introducing her as a “lapsed Mormon who only learnt to drink and swear when she worked with me”.

Comedian James Nokise was the event’s MC.

Nokise joked about last night’s All Blacks game, referring to how Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie resigned following their drubbing at the hands of the Kiwis.

In a dig at former Labour leader David Cunliffe he suggested it wasn’t lights out for McKenzie quite yet, as he could still throw his hat back in the ring.

“Rugby’s a complicated game folks,” he said.

Grant as “the bloke” was a common theme through the campaign launch.

The bathroom at the King's Arms - not your usual campaign launch venue.

The bathroom at the King’s Arms – not your usual campaign launch venue.

Roberson paid tribute to the venue when he took to the stage, saying he had many fond memories of rock gigs at the King’s Arms pub in Eden Terrace.

He revealed one of his favourite bands was “The National”, although he joked that he mentally thinks of them as “The Labour”.

But there was also a more serious message.

Robertson acknowledged the Labour Party had to reconnect with everyday New Zealanders, and said people needed to know what the party stood for.

“We need to do things differently,” he said. “Labour as a party must stop talking about ourselves. We need to start listening.”

Robertson listed climate change, inequality, public education, health and housing as key policy areas.

He drew attention to the growing gap between rich and poor in New Zealand, saying under his watch “no-one will be left behind”.

In a direct message to the Labour caucus, he said he expects the party to pull together and work toward the 2017 election once the leadership contest has concluded.

“Our Labour team must be working as one,” he said.

Of course, Robertson was preaching to the converted. A sea of red-shirted supporters clapped enthusiastically as he outlined his vision for the party.

It was a predominantly pakeha Auckland Central crowd, reflective of the support base in which Robertson and Ardern perform so well.

Samoan/Welsh comedian James Nokise warmed up the crowd.

Samoan/Welsh comedian James Nokise warmed up the crowd.

Nokise joked about the lack of Samoans in the audience, and said they were all at church praying for good weather for Robertson’s launch.

Labour supporters at the event acknowledged Robertson’s sexuality was bound to feature in the leadership contest, but insisted it was a non-issue.

Robertson himself seems determined to downplay it as much as possible, hoping he’ll be judged on his merit rather than his choice of life partner.

Above all, he wants to be seen as your average Kiwi bloke.

Nokise summed up the sentiment nicely when introducing Robertson as the man who could inspire a new vision for the Labour Party.

“Grant’s our mate.”

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