I got an understanding of how good a candidate Labour Leader aspirant Grant Robertson was when he joined me on RadioLIVE last week. He was impressive, and handled all my questions and enquiries from my talkback callers over a range of policies very comfortably.
The main issue, however, for Robertson has nothing to do with his ability to be able to front over policy, which he does well - but everything to do sadly, with him being homosexual.
In his maiden speech in Parliament in 2008 he said, “I am proud and comfortable with whom I am, being gay is part of who I am, just as being a former diplomat, a fan of the mighty Wellington Lions, and a fan of New Zealand music and New Zealand literature. My political view is defined by my sexuality only in as much as it has given me an insight in to how people can be marginalised and discriminated against, and how much I abhor that. I am lucky that I have largely grown up in a generation that is not fixated on issues such as sexual orientation. I am not and neither should others be”.
Robertson is absolutely right. Unfortunately for him, though, that is still not the reality in this country. The opposition to homosexuality is still strong, whether people care to admit it or not. While things are certainly a lot better than they were when the homosexual law reform bill was passed into Parliament 30 years ago, do people really think that society has become comfortable with homosexuality?
Think for a moment... have we ever had an All Black who declared that he was gay? Or a Warrior player? Heck, we haven’t even had a Silver Fern declare she was gay - although Manurewa MP Louisa Wall who was a former Silver Fern, declared her homosexuality, but years later. Those are examples of how tough it is to come out, and I know a number of politicians and high profile people who refuse to come out for fear of condemnation and their careers being threatened.
That’s why I admire Grant Robertson. He is a man of conviction and courage, he has excellent pedigree having been a University Students President at Otago, a Diplomat and now an MP for six years. He is saying all the right things and has picked the party’s most popular MP Jacinda Ardern as his deputy. He has impressed in Parliament, being one of the few Labour MPs who has constantly been able to take the fight to National, he deserves his opportunity to lead.
Unfortunately for him, however, his party might not be ready just yet for this country’s first openly gay Labour Party Leader.
Willie Jackson and Alison Mau - weekdays from 12pm on RadioLIVE
source: data archive