Succession Questions: The Arden Accession

March 7, 2017 in General

So, former Labour List MP Maryan Street won’t be back on the Labour Party ticket at the end of this electoral contest. What does that have to say about the question of succession within ‘rainbow’ political representatives in New Zealand?

During the current parliamentary term, three rainbow MPs have left Parliament- Charles Chauvel, Kevin Hague and now Maryan Street. In the case of Chauvel, there was a United Nations career beckoning, while Kevin Hague is now chief executive of the environmental Forest and Bird Society lobby group, and after Labour’s total party vote share fell short of her list place in 2014, Maryan Street has since become leader of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society End of Life Choices pressure group, bringing practical experience within mainstream politics to that movement. Whether or not that is going to be enough to compensate for the absence of medical allies for the euthanasia ‘reform’ movement is a moot point, although with the New Zealand Nurses Organisation’s recent profession of liberalism on this issue, the unanimous opposition of the organised medical profession and its cachet of professional expertise and authority may be breaking down. To be sure, there are strong voices amongst the disabled LGBT community who don’t agree with the formulation that euthanasia ‘reform’ is a ‘progressive’ reform and question what they call the demonisation of dependency within the pro-euthanasia movement, as well as its continuing representation of disabled people as abject, isolated and wanting to end their ‘wretched’ existence.

However, the examples of Hague and Street suggest that LGBT individuals are not one-dimensional people- we have other interests and commitments, such as environmentalism and (both sides of) the euthanasia debate. And as more of the LGBTI legislative reform agenda is accomplished over time, there will be less incentive for collective representation apart from issues in which we will need to declare a concrete stake and evidence-based proof of residual, indirect and distributive discrimination, such as housing needs. One hopes that Labour and the Greens are going to appoint suitably qualified LGBTI individuals to prominent places on their party list and within winnable constituency seats, as Labour has just done with Willie Jackson and Phil O’Connor to replenish the depleted Labour and Green rainbow caucuses. And it would be an excellent idea for National to emulate the more proactive stance of the British Conservative Party when it comes to LGBT classical liberals, for that matter. That said, we do move on from LGBT legislative reform to our other interests. I find that diabetes activism takes up as much of my time as LGBT political activity these days, for instance. At some point in the intermediate future, I might decide to step down from my position as Gaynz.Com politics and religion correspondent and pay some more attention to other issues that I care passionately about.

It would be dismissive not to note the sudden but not wholly unexpected resignation of Deputy Labour Leader Annette King and her replacement by Jacinda Arden, Labour’s new Mount Albert MP, widely tipped as a future parliamentary party leader on March 1. This surprised no-one, given that King is now in her seventies and may have been waiting until Ardern acquired the greater legitimacy that constituency seats confer on leadership candidates, as well as political experience. For whatever reason, King judged that the time for her deputy leadership was over. In doing so, she has cleared the way for Ardern’s succession to the deputy leadership and if Labour and the Greens do not win the forthcoming election, may then become leader in Andrew Little’s stead. As with Stephen Joyce, Paula Bennett and National, the top two parliamentary positions are occupied by future party leaders, ensuring smooth succession if it becomes necessary. However, my points still apply when it comes to rainbow candidate selection and succession elsewhere in the Labour (and National) caucuses.

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