Vernon Small at Stuff reports:
As expected, yesterday Mr Shearer summoned his MPs to Wellington for an urgent vote today in an attempt to force Mr Cunliffe to “put up or shut up”. …
Party sources said once he received the expected unanimous backing from MPs he would dump Mr Cunliffe from the top 20 and send him to the “unranked” back benches.
Some in the caucus are calling for his close supporters to also be demoted, which could mean bad news for shadow attorney-general Charles Chauvel and energy spokeswoman Moana Mackey.
MP Sue Moroney, seen as in the Cunliffe camp, said she would back Mr Shearer.
But no-one would say what they would do in February’s vote.
“I don’t think there has been any challenge issued, actually.”
Before Mr Shearer had sought her backing, no-one had asked for her support for a leadership bid.
She had seen no evidence of disloyalty by Mr Cunliffe.
“I’m quite surprised at the level of the attack on David Cunliffe . . . in the last 24 hours,” she said.
There’s a fair few in Labour arguing that it is unreasonable to expect any MP to state how they will vote in a secret ballot in three month’s time. Having said that, I think Cunliffe could have chosen words that would not have been so destabilising, yet left him wriggle room.
Former Labour Party General Secretary Mike Smith says there was clearly a coup planned:
My first indication that something was up was the rising temperature of comments on the Standard, culminating with anonymous posts days before the conference calling for Shearer to stand down. I don’t know if the posters are Labour members or not, but it now looks like an attempt to destabilise Shearer days before his first conference speech. …
The next intimation I had that something more was afoot was when I turned up at the Conference on Friday night to be told that the affiliates meeting had ignored the Party Council’s recommendation for what may trigger a leadership vote across the Party, and supported a motion from Northland and Te Tai Tokerau to turn the long-standing majority confidence vote, held at the start of each year, to an endorsement vote with a 60% threshold.
This was quite unexpected by the Party leadership but as became clear in the debate the following day, not unexpected by some in the unions, a few caucus members and some of the electorates. …
Cunliffe refused to rule out a February challenge. If it walks like a duck…
I was the first to say that the three posts (and one column) calling for Shearer to go were orchestrated. Quite a few doubted that. I’m pleased to see Mike Smith saying that he also saw it as part of a destabilization attempt.
A pro-Cunliffe view comes from “Blue” at The Standard:
The ABC club would have us believe that David Cunliffe has ‘openly undermined’ both David Shearer’s leadership and Phil Goff’s before him.
They appeal to the need for a ‘unified team’ and want David Cunliffe shot at dawn for supposedly threatening it.
These attempts to rewrite history are amusing but factually inaccurate. We all know who undermined Phil Goff’s leadership and it wasn’t David Cunliffe.
It was Grant Robertson and Trevor Mallard who made the decision to keep Phil Goff off the Labour billboards at the last election, openly admitting during an election campaign that they considered their leader a liability. Phil Goff’s stumble in the ‘show me the money’ debate was no one’s fault but his own – he got caught out not having done his homework on a flagship policy and only the most determined denier of reality could try to pin that one on anyone else.
We also know who has been undermining party unity during David Shearer’s leadership, and again, it isn’t David Cunliffe. It’s the ABC club who ring up Duncan Garner for a giggle about how much they hate their own colleague.
I think the great winner from all this has been Grant Robertson. He has kept entirely out of this, allowing the two Camp Davids to go to war against each other. If Shearer’s leadership becomes unviable at some stage then Robertson is poised to take over.
Grant has huge sway within the party. His supporters are in all the influential positions on the NZ Council and the like. If he had taken a call in the debate and argued against the 60% threshold for a vote in February, then I believe that would have made the difference in what was a very close vote. But he was smart and has kept his name away from all the infighting – making him the unifying choice in future.
A more experienced leader would have dismissed any suggestion he should try to “call out” a challenge with an early vote. When a leader wins – as usually happens the first time – the question does not go away. It merely leaves the party divided and ensures the discontented faction will choose its moment to make another bid.
The damage is long lasting. The Cunliffe faction will be seething at the fact that Chris Hipkins so publicly slammed David Cunliffe and accused him of undermining both Goff and Shearer. They understand that such a public denunciation means that Cunliffe can never have a meaningful role again under Shearer. You can’t say someone has been backstabbing leaders for the last four years and then rehabilitate them.
But if at some stage Cunliffe did become Leader, then MPs such as Hipkins would be unable to continue in a senior role also. Having called Cunliffe a backstabbing fink, he could never serve under him. This is why it is so very rare for MPs to openly denounce each other. They have to work together day in day out – sometimes for years to come.
What will be fascinating to watch next year is what new rules get agreed to for selections and list ranking.
UPDATE2: Zetetic at The Standard names names:
For the past four years, Labour has been controlled by a clique of 3 has-beens and 2 beltway hacks: Goff, King, Mallard, Robertson, and Hipkins.
This old guard clique led Labour to its worst defeat.
Trevor and Grant ran the campaign. Goff and King fronted. Not sure what Chippie did!
A year later, with their second choice frontman as leader after they ignored the members’ will, Labour’s still below its 2008 result and on track for another defeat. (Funny story, since the start of the year, Hipkins has been telling all and sundry in all seriousness that ‘if these trends continue’ Labour will win in a landslide in 2014 – I parodied him here – now, take a look at the real trend)
Oh Chippie is the polling guru!
The Douglas clique at least had an ideology they were working for. This clique what do they stand for? What are their values other than power for themselves? The failure of Labour to define a value set over the past four years is a reflection of this clique’s lack of values.
The membership voted no confidence in the old guard on Saturday. In retaliation, they’ve gone nuclear on the membership. The response of the old guard has been to unleash a nasty side that many who watch Labour politics have known about for some time, but never thought we’d see expressed quite this openly.
Next year’s conference could be fascinating.
The attacks on Cunliffe usually take the form of what we’re seeing right now, with unnamed ‘senior Labour MPs’ telling media Cunliffe is a ‘fink’ and an ‘egotist’ and calling for him to be ‘cut down’. This talking campaign has been going on since beore the last election and I know because I’ve heard it from the old guard’s proxies more times than I care to count. Mostly this doesn’t surface publicly, except for the odd stuff up like when Goff and King went to Garner to shop a story that Cunliffe was despised by the caucus in an effort to undermine his position. It’s been relentless.
Most people assume it was Trevor. Interesting speculation that it was Goff.
They’ll try to take him down today with an open ballot leadership vote – a Stalinist tactic that will hurt them next year and will be fruitless today because Cunliffe has launched no challenge and today’s vote will be unanimous. Their goal is to get Cunliffe and the membership out of the way so that when Shearer is replaced – it will be an open field for Robertson
While I doubt there is a lot I agree with Zetetic on, I agree with him that the real end goal is Robertson succeeding unopposed. Not so sure it will work.