Trotter on Cunliffe’s muzzling

, like Brian Edwards, is aghast at the muzzling of David Cunliffe. He writes in the Dom Post:

David Shearer’s decision to muzzle his rival, David Cunliffe, is deeply worrying.

Right now, there’s nothing Labour needs more than an open debate about its future.

That its leader and the coterie of courtiers with which he has surrounded himself were willing to go to the extraordinary lengths of preventing Labour’s spokesperson on economic development from appearing on TV3’s The Nation reveals how ruthlessly Shearer’s faction intends to stifle all dissent.

Shearer’s petty, politically self-destructive decision can only be interpreted as Cunliffe’s punishment for delivering a speech to his New Lynn electorate’s women’s branch highly critical of Labour’s fraught, 25-year association with neo- liberal economics.

Clearly, the disparity between the Labour leader’s three uninspiring “positioning” speeches, and the compellingly radical content of Cunliffe’s April 29 address, had rankled.

The disparity is probably what was worrying his staff. What if Cunliffe went on The Nation and shone?

According to Garner, Cunliffe’s critics described his speech as “stupid and foolish”. Labour’s “Leadership Group”, advised of The Nation’s invitation, then weighed the issue and decided Cunliffe should not appear. The Nation failed to change their minds.

This sort of overt factional squabbling has not been seen in the Labour Party for more than 15 years. Throughout Helen Clark’s record-breaking reign as leader, open dissent was almost always cast as treason. …

Labour’s full recovery as a vibrant, creative and politically relevant organisation cannot be secured except by a radical opening-up of the party. Interestingly, recent reports about Labour’s organisational restructuring exercise suggest this may be happening.

The party’s constitutional review committee is rumoured to have recommended that rank-and-file members be given a deliberative voice in the choice of party leader, as well as an effective veto over sudden, caucus-inspired, leadership spills.

Unsurprisingly, it is also rumoured that Labour’s caucus is doing all it can to prevent such changes coming into immediate effect. The party’s annual conference in November promises to be a bloody affair.

I’m tempted to register as media and attend with popcorn 🙂

Courtiers make poor campaigners. As Game of Thrones addicts know, power is not always to be found among the wielders of swords.

As often as not it lies in the hands of eunuchs and whoremasters: the manipulators, tricksters and casters-of-shadows who keep their daggers hidden and seldom venture beyond the palace gates.

Heh, as a former parliamentary staffer I might fall into that description. I’d prefer to be a whoremaster than a eunuch I have to say 🙂

If Shearer believes the country will be best served by turning the Ship of State’s tiller hard to starboard, then let him say so, and let him and his faction spell out clearly what the policy implications of such a rightward shift would be.

Cunliffe has made it clear that he believes a sharp leftward turn to be in order. How exhilarating and liberating it would be, not simply for the Labour Party, but for the whole country, to see this debate played out.

How depressing, therefore, to learn that, instead of welcoming Cunliffe’s offering, his jealous courtier colleagues described it as “stupid and foolish”.

I think the time for that debate was when there was a leadership vacancy.

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