Simeon Brown, Arena Williams spar over new Labour leadership

Thu, Jan 26

National's Simeon Brown and Labour's Arena Williams joined Breakfast today for the first political panel of 2023, butting heads over what the change in Labour's leadership really means.

As young members of their respective parties, both in their early 30s, Brown and Williams told Breakfast's Jenny-May Clarkson about their beginnings in student politics - where they both met.

But when asked about the change in Labour leadership from Jacinda Ardern to new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, their views diverged greatly.

Williams described being struck during Ardern's final political speech as Prime Minister at Rātana with the realisation that her era wouldn't last forever, and that she changed the game for leaders with families worldwide.

She expressed optimism about Hipkins as leader, saying his agenda of "persuasion and unity hit the right notes".

Brown, however, did not believe much had changed with a new leader. He said the Labour Party "spend the last year focus-grouping a new slogan" when "what New Zealanders want is a plan".

Williams disagreed, saying Hipkins has brought a narrower focus on issues such as cost of living.

"While we're seeing these global pressures on rising prices... we also need to be focused on how we raise people's incomes, how we get people through every week - that's the economy for ordinary families," she said.

"But this is not a new problem, Brown responded. "Christopher Luxon's been talking about this ever since he became the leader over a year ago... and it's taken till January 2023 for the Labour Party to actually wake up that [sic] this is a problem they need to address.

"We've said we're going to provide tax relief to middle income earners, we're going to stop the wasteful spending, we're going to reduce the burden on business - that's our plan, Labour's just come up with a slogan," he said.

"What we saw from the first opportunity for Luxon to set out his political agenda for the year was a divisive speech at Rātana," Williams pushed back.

"It was a speech about race relations, and that's not what people are going to be focused on this year."

Brown disagreed, "raising issues is not divisive, it's about having a conversation. We need to be mature enough to have a debate about co-governance and that's what Christopher Luxon was calling for."


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