Shearer bucks party's drive for female quota

TRACY WATKINS COMMENT
Last updated 05:00 05/07/2013

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OPINION: How bloody will the row over Labour's proposed female quota get? If the party's MPs have got any instinct for survival, very.

The proposal is set to pitch David Shearer against the party's ruling council, which is championing it in direct opposition to the Labour leader's platform of shedding the party of its "too PC" label.

Mr Shearer took the leadership vowing to stamp his authority on the party's list ranking and MP selection process, which had long rankled with the Right-wing faction of the party as pandering to too many special interest groups.

When West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor lambasted Labour's list as "a gaggle of gays and self-serving unionists", he was speaking for that faction.

However, far from Mr Shearer tempering the list selection process, it looks as if the Left wing intends to assert its authority over him. No wonder then that Mr Shearer's initial response yesterday was to duck for cover.

To come out swinging would turn it into a test of his leadership. And with the caucus looking increasingly disenfranchised from many of the rank and file, there is no guarantee it is an argument that he would win.

The party is still licking its wounds from last year's annual conference, where there was fractious debate over the process for deciding the leadership and a push for female quotas on local electorate committees.

After seeing which way the wind was blowing politically, Mr Shearer appeared ready to come out today and oppose the "man ban". That may put him back on the side of public opinion.

But it will buy him a fight that will either strengthen his leadership, or weaken it.

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