Labour’s challenges

September 18th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Three days in the water and Team Cunliffe has struck its first snag.

The snag is the abdication of deputy leader . Labour’s new leader and the party’s MPs, including Mr Robertson, did their best yesterday to put a positive spin on the surprise development.

MPs were “joining together” and “putting the party first”, Mr Cunliffe said.

The new line-up featuring finance spokesman David Parker as deputy leader was the “strongest” that could be put forward, said Mr Robertson, who has replaced Trevor Mallard as shadow leader of the House. However, the reality is that the new leader has lost an opportunity to heal the wounds created by the internal feuding that has bedevilled the party since its 2008 election loss.

Whether Mr Robertson declined overtures from the Cunliffe camp, as the bush telegraph suggests, or Mr Cunliffe preferred Mr Parker as his deputy is beside the point. If Mr Cunliffe did not offer Mr Robertson the job he should have.

After a three-way primary contest for the leadership laid bare the divisions between MPs, and the divisions between MPs and the wider party, Labour not only needs to talk unity, it needs to display it. The best way to achieve that would have been for the two main contenders for the leadership – Mr Cunliffe and Mr Robertson – to present a united front to the world.

I understand that if Robertson had clearly stated a desire to be Deputy, Cunliffe would have appointed him. But he was hesitant and not keen – presumably to keep future options open.

That may be an indication Mr Robertson is fearful of becoming entangled in the wreckage should the Cunliffe experiment capsize.

It may also be an indication that Mr Robertson has not yet abandoned his own leadership ambitions.

Whatever the case, Mr Cunliffe has grounds for concern.

Remember that while the members vote for the leader, it is the caucus that has the sole job of sacking one.

Team Cunliffe has successfully rounded the first mark but one hull is lifting out of the water and there are signs some of his crew are thinking about abandoning ship. Anticipate developments.

The best tweet yesterday was about how a capsized Mallard was sighted in San Francisco Harbour :-)

The Herald editorial:

Grant Robertson’s decision to spurn the deputy leadership does not bode well for the Labour Party under its new leader. David Cunliffe had intimated his support for Mr Robertson in the clear hope of reconciling the caucus to the result of the party election.

Mr Robertson, preferred by 16 MPs to 11 for Mr Cunliffe and seven for Shane Jones, had given every impression in the campaign that whatever the result he was unlikely to rock the boat. Now he is making waves.

His decision is a declaration that he does not wish to work too closely with the new leader. Instead he will be Labour’s shadow leader of the House, a role that may let him range widely of his own accord.

The decision suggests he has not put his leadership ambition aside for the time being. If he was content to wait he would have continued in the deputy role, an ideal position for keeping your name to the fore and proving yourself capable in the leader’s absences. But an ambitious and honourable deputy is also supposed to give the leader unconditional support. That perhaps was the obstacle for Mr Robertson continuing in a job he has reputedly done well.

It is hard to interpret the decision as anything other than a lack of confidence, and a desire to keep future options open.

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34 Responses to “Labour’s challenges”

  1. Harriet (4,972 comments) says:

    “…..MPs were “joining together” and “putting the party first”, Mr Cunliffe said…..”

    And that’s the fucken problem – you lot fucken first and everyone else is second.

    Didn’t fucken learn from Aussie labor did they? :cool:

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  2. Harriet (4,972 comments) says:

    “….Grant Robertson’s decision to spurn the deputy leadership….Mr Robertson, preferred by 16 MPs to 11 for Mr Cunliffe…”

    Well Robinson at least learnt something…..not to look like Juliar…………for now! :cool:

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  3. nasska (11,525 comments) says:

    Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition seem destined to remain only a source of tragic comedy & the subject of speculative editorials.

    However, the voters of NZ have managed without an effective opposition for nearly five years so I guess we’ll get by for another four.

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  4. Cunningham (844 comments) says:

    I am surprised he didn’t go with a female deputy. Kind of makes them look stupid when they harp on about 50% female representation yet both leader and deputy are male.

    The real issue though is going to come in the election campaign when they are going to have to explain all the promises (like living wage for all pub sector workers and contractors) they made and how to pay for them. If they follow through and make it a policy, it could scare the middle ground. If not then it looks like the caucus don’t believe in what their leader proposed. National can have a field day on the election campaign hammering them on this.

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  5. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    The gender of the deputy is of secondary importance to their skills and experience. The caucus and shadow cabinet is pretty balanced and the party overall is too. Since Labour had a female PM for 9 years, I don’t think there’s too much of a political risk heading into the next election.

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  6. Cunningham (844 comments) says:

    Paul Williams (798) Says:

    “The gender of the deputy is of secondary importance to their skills and experience.”

    but in other positions within Labour skills and experience do not mean as much? Skills and Experience (and being a team player) should always trump anything else. We’re talking about running the country FFS.

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  7. Fentex (978 comments) says:

    Whether Mr Robertson declined overtures from the Cunliffe camp, as the bush telegraph suggests, or Mr Cunliffe preferred Mr Parker as his deputy is beside the point. If Mr Cunliffe did not offer Mr Robertson the job he should have.

    What an odd paragraph.

    Whether or not Robertson turned down an offer is beside the point that Cunliffe should have made such an offer?

    That’s nonsensical. It suggests a writer trying very hard to conjure a story with less than adequate dexterity.

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  8. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    Cunningham, that’s not what I said of course… that’s a strawman argument. The challenge for all political parties is to ensure a gender balance, then select people on merit. Labour’s well advanced on National.

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  9. Cunningham (844 comments) says:

    Paul Williams (799) Says:

    “Cunningham, that’s not what I said of course… that’s a strawman argument. The challenge for all political parties is to ensure a gender balance, then select people on merit. Labour’s well advanced on National.”

    I know it’s not excactly what you said but it is what the party think. They want to exclude candidates because of their gender. That is what the man ban is about! So in this case it is the primary consideration above ANYTHING else (including skills and experience).

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  10. Tom Jackson (2,553 comments) says:

    If Robertson white ants Cunliffe, he will never become leader. The members and affiliates would consider him poison if he did that, and would refuse to vote for him as leader. Without their support, he will never become leader of the Labour Party.

    Labour’s new leadership election process has effectively disincentivized the sort of behaviour that has caused the party trouble in the past.

    The message is: if you want to be leader, don’t put your personal interests or those of caucus above the interests of the membership.

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  11. Bob R (1,375 comments) says:

    I wonder if he sounded out Ardern?

    In any case I think Parker is a reasonable choice as Deputy. Seems a relatively safe pair of hands and won’t steal the limelight (in a way similar to having the more dour English as deputy to Key).

    I’ll be more interested to see his new front bench.

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  12. Doctor Who (52 comments) says:

    If Labour couldn’t find a woman for deputy they could have chosen Robertson.

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  13. Cunningham (844 comments) says:

    IMO we should strive to have the best possible people running the country regardless of their gender, ethnicity etc. I don’t care if that means more or less women. I just want the BEST qualified people in charge.

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  14. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    Tom, Robertson’s not doing that despite what the Herald divine from the ether or what David suggests. Robertson’s public statement are all unequivocal in their support for Cunliffe and Parker. Unequivocal. I don’t know on what basis the deputy position was determined – like all others around here, David included – but to suggest improper motive is ridiculous and obviously partisan… hardly surprising for this forum.

    Cunningham, you’re howling at the moon. I’m in the party, the candidate selection process does not look like you describe despite the various media reports. That said, I do think gender balance ought to be an important element of overall selection.

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  15. Tom Jackson (2,553 comments) says:

    I wonder if he sounded out Ardern?

    She would be a popular and shapely choice. A bit too young and lacking experience perhaps.

    Parker has arguably done better out of the leadership change than Cunliffe has.

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  16. Tom Jackson (2,553 comments) says:

    Fran O’Sullivan in today’s Herald is quite pro-Cunliffe.

    It’s far too early to say the bilateral economic consensus that has sustained international confidence in New Zealand has fractured.

    I’m guessing that she means here is that it has, and she’s repositioning herself.

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  17. Nigel Kearney (1,013 comments) says:

    >The challenge for all political parties is to ensure a gender balance, then select people on merit.

    This makes no sense. If you are selecting people on merit, there is no way to control the gender balance without rather drastic surgery. ‘Ensuring gender balance’ can only mean selecting less meritorious people because their gender is under-represented.

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  18. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    Nigel, I disagree. I think gender, like ethnicity, provide perspective and ought to be considered alongside profession, skills, life experience etc in determining the overall make up of the caucus (or at least the candidates). I don’t think there’s much point in debating this however as I suspect we’ll not agree.

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  19. Jaffa (94 comments) says:

    Selecting people on Merit has one problem.

    None of them have any Merit!

    So you may as well have half women, it makes no difference.

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  20. Than (473 comments) says:

    If Robertson white ants Cunliffe, he will never become leader. The members and affiliates would consider him poison if he did that, and would refuse to vote for him as leader. Without their support, he will never become leader of the Labour Party.

    Two problems with this theory. Firstly, it’s not like white-anting is an open activity the world can see. I agree if Robertson was perceived as white-anting Cunliffe he’d never win, but that simply means he would have to be sure not to get caught. This could also give other leadership hopefuls a perverse incentive to white-ant Cunliffe in the hope people would automatically blame Robertson, taking out two rivals at once.

    Second problem, it only applies to MPs aspring to be leader. If an MP realises they will never be leader but hope for a nice front bench position they may calculate that their odds are better with somebody else in charge. Right now Labour has half a dozen MPs in exactly that position.

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  21. Warren Murray (311 comments) says:

    T Mallard’s actions are better example of the divisions in the party. When the leader calls and you dont answer or dont call back, its obvious there remains some unresolved issues.

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  22. laworder (292 comments) says:

    Talking of Labour’s challenges…

    I just had cause to ring Labour HQ in Wellington in order to redirect Mum’s mail from them as she has Alzheimers (she is a long standing member). Every option ended in voicemail – even the reception and the donate now options…. not a good look if you are trying to get people to donate or join up. Understandable for a small non profit, but for an organisation with aspirations to run the country??

    Regards
    Peter Jenkins
    http://www.sst.org.nz

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  23. OneTrack (3,107 comments) says:

    Paul Williams “…, you’re howling at the moon. I’m in the party, the candidate selection process does not look like you describe despite the various media reports.”

    Then tell us about the #manban – electorates in which Labour will ONLY stand women – maybe a woman was the best candidate – you will never know. Shearer’s gone, hence his promise is gone.

    Cunliffe says he wants 50% of his Chorus to be women. Shouldn’t he have started now?

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  24. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    The challenge for all political parties is to ensure a gender balance, then select people on merit.

    So merit is secondary to gender.

    Way to promote women for their physiology rather than the value they offer. At what point to you introduce discrimination based on breast size, or subjective physical attractiveness?

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  25. emmess (1,428 comments) says:

    I don’t know about anyone else but I can’t stand Parker, I dislike him even more than Cunliffe.
    He is a slimy little weasel, I think my dislike of him came about due to all that crap he spouted when he was Climate Change? minister.

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  26. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    bhudson, I’ll say it again but then leave it; gender balance and merit are not mutually exclusive. The caucus should resemble the country.

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  27. Zapper (1,021 comments) says:

    Paul Williams gives us a masterful example of how the left think very little of women (and other “minorities” – although I’m pretty sure women aren’t a minority). They can’t achieve based on merit so we must help them. And the left do this while convinced in their own minds that the right discriminate based on factors other than merit. It’s amazing.

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  28. David Farrar (1,897 comments) says:

    Paul – I remember when you assured us all that Grant would never be disloyal to Shearer, and of course as well all know it was Camp Robertson that axed him in the end.

    Grant’s not a bad guy, but he is of course a politician.

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  29. kiwi in america (2,454 comments) says:

    The recipe for forging party unity post a leadership change is easy to follow. Clark cuddled Cullen close after he and some Labour front benchers toyed with ousting Clark in mid 1996 due to poor polling. They forged a lasting political alliance that lasted for 3 successful elections. Ditto Key and English. Its not rocket science. Cunliffe should’ve made the offer to Robertson quickly and with no strings attached and with a ‘bury the hatchet’ attitude. If Robertson refused to accept then Cunliffe could say with deep regret that that was the case. Instead he danced around the topic which says a lot about what was and wasn’t said. Robertson would be wise to keep his powder dry but had he been offered the position without conditions and with magnanimity, then he ran the risk of appearing churlish. Instead we have a Claytons unity – all designed to grin at the cameras and paper over the real tension still simmering.

    The body language in the House yesterday of all but Cunliffe’s key lieutenants said it all – after Cunliffe’s caucus/chorus confusion and failure to come close to besting Key after building up to the PQ clash with chest thumping media comments after winning the leadership, the ABCs must be muttering “we told you so” already. And that’s before Key, Collins, Joyce, Brownlee and Ryall begin to slice and dice all the promised left wing policies and pro union legislation the Labour party are now fully expecting under a Cunliffe led Labour government.

    Labour entered uncharted territory by electing a leader that the wider party and unions backed strongly but only 1/3 of caucus saw fit to back. We only have to look at the huge influence unions had in UK Labour by electing Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock to see how that dynamic worked out.

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  30. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Paul Williams

    Look at Julia Gillards cabinet, 9 women, bloody hopeless, not because they were women but because they were bloody hopeless.

    If you insist on putting hopeless people in positions just because they have tits rather than because they have ability, you deserve every bit of ridicule that comes your way.. But you should not be talking up equality and then do nothing about it. Silent t will pay this.

    At least Tony Abbot has had the guts to go with ability. people want stable well lead government, not undergraduate politicking.

    Cunliffe will come unstuck, his chicks aren’t going to tolerate what he’s done, the hags will make his life miserable. Which I think is wonderful

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  31. Paul Williams (878 comments) says:

    David, I don’t know that at all. I remain convinced Grant was a loyal deputy throughout.

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  32. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    I remain convinced Grant was a loyal deputy throughout.

    Yes. Right up until the cheque arrived in the mail!

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  33. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    I’ll say it again but then leave it; gender balance and merit are not mutually exclusive.

    Sure, but not a soul can take that at face value until you review and address your earlier statement:

    The challenge for all political parties is to ensure a gender balance, then select people on merit.

    Your statement was that they most certainly are mutually exclusive – gender comes first without consideration of merit and only once that is achieved do you consider merit.

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  34. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    I remain convinced Grant was a loyal deputy throughout.

    Harbour bridge for sale.
    Nigerian Prince has millions to give away.
    Politicians are not self serving.
    et al………………….

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