Young Farmers once ran a campaign to recruit members with the line you don’t have to be one to be one.
It came to mind again when I looked at Labour’s new line-up.
David Farrar analysed the new front bench and found half of the members are from Wellington, there’s not a single one from provincial New Zealand and none at all from Christchurch nor any from anywhere else in the South Island.
Where spokespeople come from shouldn’t affect their ability to get to grips with their portfolios but the dearth of talent outside Wellington and Auckland will handicap the attempt to reconnect with the whole country.
Of more relevance to their ability to develop policy is talent and they are all on a one-year trial to determine whether they are up to the challenge facing them.
Some have bigger challenges than others.
Having been involved in sectors relevant to their portfolios in their lives before parliament isn’t a prerequisite for spokespeople or ministers.
There are some areas when a fresh approach might even be an advantage. There are others where some prior knowledge and understanding would be helpful.
The smaller your caucus and the thinner on talent it is the more difficult it is to match MPs with portfolios in which they have relevant experience. The task Andrew Little obviously faced in allocating positions reinforces the dire straits in which the election and the lack of renewal left the parliamentary wing of the party.
The glaring gap in the CVs of too many in the line-up is private sector experience, among them is the new finance spokesman Grant Robertson.
Several of the policies Labour promoted before the last election showed a party far more interested in spending other people’s money than is good for the economy and the wealth creation and jobs which depend on it.
A finance spokesman with real life experience in the private sector and who has risked his own capital might be more predisposed to a more disciplined approach to policy development than one who hasn’t.