In many ways, the Labour Party conference last weekend was a triumph. A set of issues mean it doesn't feel like that right now, but in the longer term it will be seen that way.
I work in the Internet arena. It's decentralised. Hierarchy doesn't matter much. Ideas rise or fall on their merits. People's views are treated with respect, and everyone can have a say.
It is those aspects of the Internet revolution - how it works and how it changes us - that keep me interested in it - and in politics.
The 'net is changing society. Along with the '68 revolution and the era of the babyboomers, and the massive liberalisation they brought about, New Zealand has much less time for authoritarian leaders than it used to. Collaboration, working together, the demise of hierarchy and bossy management, all these changes are real. Wider choice and respect for our voice - as consumers and as citizens - is part of New Zealand's reality today.
Yet the two main political parties have remained stuck in the past. Labour and National are caught in the old ways of doing things. A small elite at the top in charge; the rest of us there as servants to carry out the wishes of the elite - pawns, all too often, in a game of thrones.
This weekend just gone, Labour started to catch up with New Zealand.
Important reforms gave party members a say on leadership choice and on policy direction. The ability to campaign properly in an MMP environment was enhanced.
Most important was the attitude in the conference. I don't mean the hysterical fringes, or the debate that turned into a proxy for other issues. I mean the broad consensus of what the tone was and what people thought they were doing.
Delegates, by and large, carried through fundamental reforms mostly unanimously. From David Shearer and Grant Robertson, Moira Coatsworth and Tim Barnett, through regions and sectors to electorates and branches and members individually, the door that was opened by last December's leadership hustings and — more emphatically — by changes in New Zealand society, wrought a new settlement in the NZLP.
I know that because of the overlay of leadership debate, the changes we made don't grab attention. But I also know those changes were overdue, are irreversible, and that most of the debate had *nothing to do* with the 'contemporary anxieties' Andrew Little referred to. Anxieties, I might add, that were substantially lessened by the content and delivery of David's leaders speech on Sunday.
The changes we made this weekend are big, and they clash head on with the culture of the Parliamentary Labour Party. That part of Labour is very accustomed to being in charge, on its own terms. The shock to the system this weekend will have been severe for some MPs and for some party grandees.
My advice to people feeling like that is simple: calm down.
Like anyone else, I know Labour needs strong leadership, and that divisions and splits help the Nats and hurt us. That should go without saying. That won't change with a more Democratic party, unless the party decides it does not want to win elections.
What is going to change is the 'on their own terms' part of the leadership equation. Members - including the whole leadership - have decided that power is to be shared. Caucus dominance will always be real, but the previous absolute right of the Parliamentary wing to make all the key decisions for all of us is now a part of the past.
It's a positive thing. The chatter on the conference floor wasn't *against* anyone: it was *for* the ideal of a more open, more pluralist, more vigorous Labour Party. Anyone who feels attacked by what happened, in that sense, needs to reflect and to deal with the change.
That's the sharp end of democratisation. That is what happened on the weekend. That is what Labour people should celebrate. That is what we are all going to need to come to terms with.
If we fail to, then we are in for a rocky road. The wide support for reform should — must — translate into wide support for its implementation, to unify the party and the movement around the new politics that found its voice this weekend.
The alternative doesn't bear thinking about.
I don't want to say a lot about what has happened since. My focus is on making those policy reforms work, and contributing to the management job we now have in pulling Labour together again.
One thing is for sure: we changed the game last weekend. In the long run, Labour will be the stronger for it.