How many will be sacked?

November 20th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

will be stripped of his portfolios and banished to the back benches for disloyalty today after a leadership vote in which Labour leader is set to win unanimous backing.

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 , 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 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 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.

UPDATE: editorial says:

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.

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32 Responses to “How many will be sacked?”

  1. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    Well that would seem to clear up, at least, that Zetetic is not Trevor Mallard.

    Grant’s plan, if indeed it is, hinges on Cunliffe not getting 13 (or even 12?) others around him in February. If he gets that many, Grant’s glittering career is over.

    He is either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid.

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  2. Ross Miller (1,704 comments) says:

    Fascinating stuff. Look forward to seeing how Ross69 et al will spin it …. perhaps something along the lines that it is all a Tory plot, financed by Julian Robertson, designed to destablise Labour to the point where it splis into ‘Olde’ Labour under Cunliffe and ‘New’ Labour under Shearer …. and on reflection that might just be on the money.

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  3. Stamper (32 comments) says:

    Correction:
    “The Cunliffe faction will be seething at the fact that Chris Hipkins so publicly slammed David Shearer –>> Cunliffe and accused him of undermining both Goff and Shearer”

    [DPF: Fixed]

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  4. Pete George (23,602 comments) says:

    I agree with him that the real end goal is Robertson succeeding unopposed.

    There’s much uncertainty but a few things that look likely as a result of all this.

    After next February, or March, or April (however long the probable leadership selection and voting process will take) whoever leads Labour will have very damaged goods to try and revive for the election the following year, and they will have a fractured caucus to try and manage.

    The Labour caucus was underendowed with talent before this latest stoush built up steam. This will further diminish as members of one faction (or more) will be relegated on the benches and will have less input.

    The Auckland membership and the Wellington power base will almost certainly keep up their battle of ideology and power through the candidate and list selection processes.

    Last year Brash crashed the Act party. That now looks relatively minor in comparison.

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  5. La Grand Fromage (145 comments) says:

    The anonymous authors at the Standard who have been white anting for Cunliffe will be furious.

    Mike Smith knows their real names so by writing that post he has confirmed that these clowns are Cunliffes henchmen (as DPF called it early on).

    Makes it pretty hard for Cunliffe to deny he was trying to make a move.

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  6. Mark (1,488 comments) says:

    You have to admire Labour when they decide to let underlying tensions hit the fan. They are far more interesting than National who are fucking boring when it comes to internal fighting and backstabbing. I am sure it goes on within National but Labour are so much better at it. The vitriol and nastiness is superb :) Even after this vote it is going to bubble away and the Conference vote on how the leadership is to be selected will bring the festering soul of Labour even more out into the public arena.

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  7. Pete George (23,602 comments) says:

    This escalating war consists of a number of convoluted battles.

    It’s not just Shearer versus Cunliffe, with Robertson hoping to rise out of the rubble (or rabble), with Little lurking.

    It’s left versus centre.
    It’s caucus versus rank and file, and caucus versus unions.
    It’s Auckland versus Wellington.
    Plus personal and factional skirmishes within caucus.
    It’s hard to know where the rainbow camp fit in amongst all this.

    And there’s absolutely no sign of anyone with the ability (and without the baggage) to unify and rebuild. Shearer dispelled any notion he could do that in his handling of the conference aftermath.

    It gives Greens an opportunity to pick up disaffected Labour support, so Greens might grow, but their chances of being in the next coalition government could be collateral damage.

    This megaclusterfuck makes National’s power retention job easier.

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  8. Pete George (23,602 comments) says:

    Mike Smith knows their real names so by writing that post he has confirmed that these clowns are Cunliffes henchmen (as DPF called it early on).

    And at the same time he bragged about knowing all their identities lprent was vigorously denying any connection. One of them must be fibbing.

    Makes it pretty hard for Cunliffe to deny he was trying to make a move.

    Some of his supporters are still trying the denial line – Mr Innocent versus the Duck Conspiracy.

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  9. Harriet (4,990 comments) says:

    ‘It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession.
    I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first’ – Ronald Reagan

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  10. Peter (1,714 comments) says:

    Perhaps HomeBrew will write a “song” about it.

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  11. Mobile Michael (452 comments) says:

    If Shearer survives until 2014, there will be a remit for the leadership to be voted on at Conference every 3 years after an election.

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  12. kiwi in america (2,456 comments) says:

    Peter George
    Pretty spot on. I lived through the last major Labour public blood letting which back then was left vs right, Rogernomes vs those who claimed to have never support Douglas etc etc. This is another less ideologically separate version of the old left vs right fight of the 80’s – by that I mean at least with Douglas and Prebble they were fair dinkum right wingers vs just a perception of where one sits on the Labour Party’s internal ideological spectrum.

    When it comes to Robertson and his plans or otherwise – when asked to choose whether something like this is a conspiracy or a cock up, the cock up wins every time. Robertson probably had the sense to see this as a gold medal clusterfark and keep his head down. He may yet win by default.

    Shearer has enough sense to know that power lies in the centre and so he’s trying to find a place between National and the Greens. That strategy would work if the Nats were as right wing as Labour says and thinks they are (and conservatives wish they were) but Key is too clever for that and has staked a claim very slightly to the right of the centre of NZ politics and is content for an ACT replacement like the Conservatives to take up the vacant space on the solid right. Had the Greens stayed ideologically where they were under Fitzsimmons and the old guard then there was space for Labour to be on the centre left and use that as a foundation place to snipe votes off National. National staying firm and close to the centre and the moderation (at least publicly) of the Greens has squeezed the ideological space left for Labour to grow its vote. In order to be the dominant party of a centre left government it needs to take votes off National and the Greens.

    The activist base of Labour is well to the left of its caucus whereas the National caucus is more broadly representative of its wider party (thanks to its selection process for electorates being dominated by local party members) and so Key faces far less tension from his extra Parliamentary wing of his party. Shearer is trying to modernize Labour (along the Tony Blair lines) to be credible enough in the eyes of middle NZ to steal enough of the centre off National whereas his party wants to out flank the Greens on the left. An examination of the remits submitted at the Labour Conference tells all you need to know about the ideological tension in the party. Cunliffe is merely the caucus champion of the left. The maneuverings over the Constitutional changes were all designed to strengthen the power of the left. He can bide his time, watch the polls sink (thanks to the ructions), allow outrage over his demotion to fester at the grass roots and strike in February when he will find the 14 votes he needs to trigger the party wide vote.

    Shearer will win this battle but he will lose the war. The ructions serve as cover for National to recover its footing, improve its political and message management and become easy fodder for Key when Parliament resumes.

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  13. Paulus (2,633 comments) says:

    Whoever contests the next Election in 2014 as Labour leader can be dismissed 3 months after the election anyway -even if he is Prime Minister at the time.
    Union Rules remember – do what we say – we changed the rules last week to suit us, not the Parliamentary Labour Party.

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  14. tvb (4,432 comments) says:

    Maybe Shearer has to demote Cunliffe but he would be well advised to leave it there.

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  15. Reid (16,523 comments) says:

    The activist base of Labour is well to the left of its caucus whereas the National caucus is more broadly representative of its wider party (thanks to its selection process for electorates being dominated by local party members)

    The lefties are always much more into factions than conservatives. It’s in their DNA. In the Liabore Party you’ve got LGBT, Unions, The SisterHood, Maori, PI. Most of these are powerful, PI possibly not but the others are all very influential and many belong to more than one. It’s like collecting Merit Badges to them. But it creates operational friction, factionalised decision making and incoherent policy blends because there is no one over-arching strategy. The factions won’t accept one. It’s only when someone like Hulun comes along and makes everyone get in behind, that it comes together. And no leader in current sight is capable of doing that to the current caucus, are they.

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  16. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    My predictions:
    http://nowoccupy.blogspot.com/2012/11/i-said-it-theres-gunna-be-reshuffling.html

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  17. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    This ‘narrative’ of yours David is a bit patchy. Link here, head-fake there, allusion somewhere else.

    A less complicated ‘narrative’ could be that Grant’s loyal because he is, Hipkins has been stroppy ’cause he’s the Whip. Jus’sayn.

    [DPF: I'm not saying Grant is not loyal. I am saying he is protecting his future interests. The vote was so close, I think Grant may have swung it. Chippie may be the Whip but I think the open denunciation of Cunliffe for undermining not just Shearer but also Goff is going to be one of those things that will make it hard to move on from]

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  18. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    Grant’s loyal because he is

    You might want to check with David Parker on that. He thought so too…

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  19. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    bhudson, that’s stretching it.

    My observation of that particular race was that as the numbers moved around both Grant and David Parker changed their positions.

    I actually can’t think of a recent or comparable situation where that hasn’t happened on either side of the NZ parliament. Remember the parade of leadership changes in National in Opposition?

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  20. Reid (16,523 comments) says:

    Remember the parade of leadership changes in National in Opposition?

    Yes but we don’t want to talk about those Paul, we want to talk about your ones, they’re much more fun.

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  21. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    An over-weight, gay, Wellington trougher, that used to work for Helen Clark. Will NZ really vote this guy Prime Minister?

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  22. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    Yes but we don’t want to talk about those Paul, we want to talk about your ones, they’re much more fun.

    You don’t to widen the discussion any ;). You tell your favourite story about Shipley, I’ll tell you mine about Sowry? Go on, it’ll be fun.

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  23. kiwi in america (2,456 comments) says:

    Correct Reid – Clark was an ideological fellow traveller with almost all on the left. She convinced them that secretly she was one of them but that even though she’d put on an acceptable centrist face, she would work hard to impliment as much of their agenda as she could. The right of Labour had been neutred by her ruthless campaign of marginalisation and the shutting out of pretty much any candidate the right favoured in the selection process in the run up to 93, 96 amd 99 elections. She allied with her sisterhood buddies in the head office heirarchy to ensure that, by the time she became PM in 99, she had the bulk of caucus on her side – only a handful of electorate MPs with enough financial members to ensure parity of their local LEC representatives on the selection panels to keep them selected, could not be manipulated by Clark and Simpson.

    It goes further than that. Having been on the inside of Labour for years and now mingling amongst more people of a centre right perspective, one of the reasons for the intense power struggles inside parties of the left is because for a good percentage of them their political activism is their LIFE. More on the left are childless and/or in relationships with fellow left leaning activists. Furthermore they believe in activist government and so the levers of power are more desirable to them as they feel impelled to pursue power to grab and use that power to direct spending to their preferred constituents. They see themselves as protectors of the poor – modern day Robin Hoods – taking from the rich to give to the poor. That whole dynamic is intoxicating and so it drives the ideologues who believe it to set aside reasonableness when power is in their grasp and to deal with ruthlessness anyone even inside their own party who might be perceived as getting in the way.

    On the right people are less obsessed with politics with a majority of people of that pursuasion being consumed more by the mundane family things of life like raising kids, watching the footie, serving in the community and a higher percentage, especially here in the US, have religious involvements that bring satisfaction. Whilst the right still seeks power, those who run for office on the right bring a broader deeper life view and with that comes a perspective that is more in line with the wider community. Political operatives on the right tend to be less ideological and more pragmatic seeking agreeable win win solutions and so there are fewer toes to be trodden on inside their parties and greater capacity for compromise. National tends to draw from a wider range of professions and from small/medium businesses whereas the left in NZ mostly recruits from a narrower base of trade unionists, academia, social services and lawyers.

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  24. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    that’s stretching it.

    No Paul, what is stretching it is to suppose that Grant has any real loyalty at all. Parker had shown no inclination to withdraw his nomination until Grant dumped him in exchange for the deputy leadership.

    You certainly can trust Grant. But not for his loyalty…

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  25. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    bhudson, your stating as fact what you believe, that’s a fallacious argument. I don’t have a problem with you disagreeing with me, but your statements are simply opinions, that is unless you really are David Parker?

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  26. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    Paul

    I’m sure Grant can make a public and explicit denial of him switching his allegiance to Shearer in return for the deputy leadership, if he has an issue with that perception existing. Better yet, he could refute the suggestion that he did – that would require him providing proof to that effect.

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  27. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    bhudson, have you stopped beating your wife? See my point?

    You’re making assertions, they’re opinions, they’re no more credible than anyone else’s…

    David’s piece at least had reference to something outside of his own thoughts (unlike kiwi in america’s comment which clearly is exclusively from his/her own head).

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  28. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    Indeed Paul. It had reference to other peoples’ opinions

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  29. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    Chippie may be the Whip but I think the open denunciation of Cunliffe for undermining not just Shearer but also Goff is going to be one of those things that will make it hard to move on from

    And yet you’re surprised the Party’s got misgivings about Tamihere? Isn’t that a little disingenous?

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  30. DJP6-25 (1,388 comments) says:

    kiwi in america 1:09 pm That’s a very good summary. It’s always good to see the enemy having a problem or two.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  31. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    Prosser, “the enemy”, really? Hell, I’ve spent more than a few years opposing various National administrations, but I’ve never thought of them as “the enemy”, some of them I quite like on a personal basis.

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  32. Ancient Dan (47 comments) says:

    Kiw in america has it summed up. A power hungry bunch of misfits gives you these results.

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