Tamihere on Labour

August 28th, 2011 at 9:54 am by David Farrar

writes in the Sunday News:

is now polling on average around 30%.

How did it come to be in such a difficult position? A number of factors ensure it does not present itself as a viable alternative Government.

The first was the takeover of the Labour Party machine by Helen Clark supporters Margaret Wilson, Ruth Dyson and Maryann Street from 1991. The full takeover occurred in 1993 when Clark secured leadership of the Parliamentary Labour team. The control of any party or organisation by one leader ensures new talent will always find it hard to make ground.

Politics is the opposite of normal good practice, where you bring on merit and talent as a survival and succession method.

I’ve noticed there are two sorts of leaders in politics. Those who try to bury potential successors, and those who promote them.

Another factor which can solely be attributed to Clark and her lieutenants was the destruction of any overt, robust, healthy contest of ideas. Instead of debating a cohesive and comprehensive ideology that defined what modern Labour stood for and how it was going to advance and implement that, Clark saw this very necessary conversation as a challenge to her leadership. The notion of left and right-wing factions in the party was done away with.

The Labour Party was broken up into a number of interest groups, in effect powerful lobby groups that chose the lacklustre party list. The interest groups are the women’s division, the gay division, the Pacific Island division, the Maori division – you get the picture.

Labour’s list in 2008 was bold and got in some needed new talent. However their 2011 list is indeed lacklustre.

17 Responses to “Tamihere on Labour”

  1. Whaleoil (705 comments) says:

    2008 Bold? Surely you jest? The list is pretty much the same as the 2011 list which you describe as lacklustre.

    [DPF: In 2008 they put new candidates ahead of many sitting MPs such as Tizard, Burton, Okeroa, Gallagher etc. In 2011 they may only get one new list MP]

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  2. Inventory2 (12,357 comments) says:

    @ DPF – “new talent” is stretching it a bit when one thinks of the likes of Carmel Sepuloni, Carol Beaumont, Rajen Prasad and Raymond Hu’o…

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  3. kowtow (13,192 comments) says:

    Feminist Socialist Party of New Zealand. Gelding Macht Frei.

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  4. Monique Watson (1,294 comments) says:

    Labour is no longer a political party, it’s a ‘cult’. I use that term loosely to describe a movement which has no internal debate and appears to ousiders to have a rigid ideology and inflexible rules. There is ‘the right way’, and you are either trying to conform as closely as you can to the ‘ideal’ or you will be doing it the ‘wrong way’ and will be kept at arms length from the self-appointed ‘dream team’. Marry personal conviction and charisma in a leader and you have the single most identifiable hallmark of a cult: one person who seems to have the final say over everything and to whom everyone ultimately answers to. IE Clark. The core group is at first unassailable because they have the absolute conviction their way is the only way and it is only a matter of time that mass conversion to their way of thinking occurs, until that point they be the caretakers of the rigid ideology that is ‘the only way’.

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  5. jaba (2,181 comments) says:

    I have the list of MP’s with me. Labour have so few who deserve their position (job) .. stunningly bad. And yes, many National MP’s are below average .. I won’t mention the Greens as it wouldn’t be fair

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  6. Grant Michael McKenna (1,165 comments) says:

    Talent either means the ability to do something well or [colloquially] a sexually attractive person. They aren’t the first, so it must be the second that DPF is referring to. My tastes are different, but as my wife fell for me, who am I to criticise the vagaries of human sexuality?

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  7. tvb (5,509 comments) says:

    All leaders need to deal with an over ambitious colleague. I always felt that John Key allowed the accommodation saga to deal a blow to Bill English but not a fatal blow. But then Bill English should never lead the National Party again. His incompetence was one reason i ceased active involvement in the National Party. But I ask what really is the point of the Labour Party?? It seems to be its position these days is the defend their sacred cows. Sure they promote social change – usually for the better. There is no doubt Helen Clark was an exceptionally skillful manager of the difficult coalition that is modern day Labour. However she has not nurtured talent very well and the Party is in bad shape – though not as bad as the ALP in Australia.

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  8. s.russell (2,072 comments) says:

    I completely agree with Tamihere on his second point, but only partly on the first.

    I do not think that Clark et al tried to crush rival talent. Quite the reverse in fact (and unlike Muldoon and Peter Fraser). The talent problem was a consequence of the ideology problem.

    Post Rogernomics Labour went on a crusade for ideological purity and sought to purge itself of all politically incorrect thought. The right wing was amputated and all internal debate stifled and eventually made impossible because there was no-one in there who thought outside the prescribed limits – just as Tamihere described.

    That is the source of the talent shortage. Labour limits its recruitment to those who have the correct ideology, which is a very narrow field. They did try to get the best people possible within that field, but it simply did not (and does not) have a deep reserve of talented people.

    This is a deep long-term problem for Labour. Having deliberately shut itself off from middle NZ, it will be very hard to re-connect. They will need to face up to the problem, recruit a new generation of MPs who have real middle-NZ values, and move itself towards the centre. But they cannot do that until middle NZ becomes interested in Labour again, and they are not because Labour is so far left. Catch 22. Until they can find a way out of this Labour is doomed to brief 3-year periods in office as a relief team while National regroups after its decades of power – just like the 50s and 60s.

    And as yet, Labour does not even recognise how badly it has mutilated itself.

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  9. Lee C (2,987 comments) says:

    I think Clark neatly summed up her legacy with that immortal line: ‘It’s roger and out for me.’

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  10. immigant (950 comments) says:


    That post just explained to me, why despite my socio economic standing, the NZ Labour party offers me nothing, forcing me as a sane voter to turn to alternatives. Me and most of NZ. Sane NZ. Sane NZ that can read and write good.

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  11. Other_Andy (2,678 comments) says:


    Excellent analysis.

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  12. gravedodger (1,703 comments) says:

    Tamahere in the last para you quote did not list the remnant 19th century based union division who are currently making, through little andy, a hopefully last ditch play for power.

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  13. RKBee (1,344 comments) says:

    The goal posts have moved .. NZ politics today is not about party politics left or right.. its about the people themselves.. JK understands this.. he appeals to all middle NZ left and right. Thats what Labour and the rest of them have failed to understand… some even in National.

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  14. side show bob (3,476 comments) says:

    Poor socialists, it’s not a man drought that plagues their ranks it’s a butch lesbian socialist drought.

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  15. wreck1080 (5,009 comments) says:

    I always thought JT would be more a fit in national .

    Labour are in a shocking state. I suspect it is partly due to the lack of life skills of their members. How can someone profess to knowing about the working ‘man’/’woman’ when you’ve only ever bummed around at university doing bunny courses.

    Of course, labour is no longer about the hard workers of NZ – they are about banning smacking, banning showers, nanny state politics in general.

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  16. southtop (263 comments) says:

    JT would be a better fit in National given that National is now a better fit in Labour than in the old National.
    One can postulate that this is due to the MMP environment but with National forgetting it’s founding principles they have left no room for the current bunch of ideologically challenged pretenders managing the current Labour brand.

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  17. kiwi in america (2,686 comments) says:

    Superb analysis and one I’ve posted about several times. Having been part of the Rogernomics activist wing of Labour that was driven out, I can attest that the venom and antipathy directed at us was deliberate and systematic. Clark’s crew set out to undermine Mike Moore in so many ways that victory in 1993 was made even more difficult and despite those handicaps (Lange undermining Moore on the tax issue 2 weeks out, the sisterhood resisting Moore’s then world leading voter identification and election day turnout system, the refusal of key activists and unionists to assist with canvassing and and key electorate voter ID, the outright hostility shown to the Leader and his staff tasked with winning the campaign and the moles and spies like Lloyd Falk and Trevor Mallard who worked for or with Moore but reported to Clark – the list goes on and on) Mike came within 300 votes in Selwyn of one of the most remarkable political comebacks in NZ political history.

    It was the most dreadful depressing spectacle and meant that any and all initiatives including practical day to day prudent financial management suggestions made by anyone from the right/Rogernome or Moore camps were not only dismissed but were virulently opposed for no other reason than the ideology of the proposer being no longer acceptable. I recall the very last Regional Council meeting I attended before I resigned in disgust. The Regional Council owned a rather profitable boarding house that had excellent occupancy and provided a stable income stream. Certain safe Labour seats and a seat soon to be occupied by prominent Head Office person and sisterhood member were way behind on their dues. The sisterhood deemed that these arrears needed to be fixed so that Head Office would have more money and they used their influence at the meeting to force agreement to the sale of this asset and that the proceeds from the sale be used to prop up these useless electorates who could not pay their way. Two electorates (including the one I belonged to) were prudent and always paid their dues in fact we paid ours in advance at the beginning of each year to be above reproach. Our voices of prudence and reason were shouted down – I’ll never forget having to endure a blistering verbal public attack from a prominent member of the sisterhood and later a cabinet minister in the Clark Government who dismissed my public plea to hang on to the revenue generating asset because it was like selling the family silver with a broadside about my support for the 4th Labour Gov’ts asset sales programme. It was at that moment that I realized that the lunatics had taken over the asylum. Moore’s loss in ’93 and the various ugly machinations of the coup to topple him sealed my decision and I returned my annual renewal form to head office with an expletive written all over it along with my letter of resignation.

    Labour has successfully completed the task that it began back in the early 90’s and the net result is a virtually unelectable rabble of sycophantic lefties.

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