Labour’s woes increasing

September 23rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Rotorua Daily Post reveals that the former Chair of the Rotorua Labour Party voted National!:

A former Rotorua Labour Party spokesman says he has become disillusioned with the party and spent Saturday night celebrating with Rotorua MP Todd McClay.

Rotorua Weekender columnist and local businessman Fraser Newman said he had given up his Labour Party membership, saying the party had lost its way.

Mr Newman said he also voted for Mr McClay on Saturday saying he was an effective local MP who worked hard and had delivered for the city.

“It’s time for Labour to think about its future.

“Does it want to be a small left wing minority party or a centre-left party that appeals to middle New Zealand?”

Again this is from someone who was an electorate chair for them not very long ago.

And you know Labour has troubles when even Steve Maharey says the party has become too left wing!!

Labour moved left to secure what it assumed was its base and never moved back. Over six years it failed to effectively oppose the Government and propose a coherent policy platform that won the support of 40 per cent of voters. It persisted in arguing New Zealand was on the wrong track (which it may well be) when most voters thought the opposite.

In addition, it confused voters by vacillating between behaving like a major party and then like just the largest of a left grouping. When it began arguing that it really was a major party it was too late.

Maharey makes the point:

It should start by understanding that in New Zealand politics the foundation for victory is in the centre. A party seeking to form a stable, strong government has to have a message that appeals to around 40 per cent of these voters.

The Labour leadership contest forced the candidates to try and compete with each other to come up with the most left wing policies they could, to appeal to the base. Their strategy was to be hard left to energise the base and the million non voters. It totally failed as a strategy. They claim they were also trying to target centrist voters – but you know what – you can’t really do both – as the voters are not stupid.

Chris Trotter gets into the metaphors:

Overall, the image presented to the electorate was one of John Key as the embattled matador. Alone in the arena, he faced charge after charge from a seemingly never-ending succession of bulls. But with every twirl of his cape and flash of his sword, the pile of dispatched cattle-beasts grew higher.

The crowd cheered. The roses rained down. “Bravo!” shouted 48 per cent of New Zealand. “Three more years!”

As the dust of combat settles, the identity of the matador’s defeated attackers is revealed. Among them is the political corpse of the redoubtable Hone Harawira, his thick hide pierced by multiple lances. And, sprawled alongside this mighty bull of the North, his blundering sponsor, the massive German beast called Kim Dotcom.

Some distance apart lies the slim political carcass of the brave little steer known as Colin Craig – his wide-eyes still staring imploringly up at the crowd. (Missing from the pile are the bodies of those bulls whose horns actually drew the matador’s blood: Nicky Hager, Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden.)

But in all that vast arena, the most pitiful sight is that of the old bull called Labour.

Its ancient hide is pierced and bleeding; around its mouth a bloody froth. The matador’s sword has penetrated the unfortunate animal’s lungs and heart, but the poor creature still stands there, defiant. Panting noisily, quivering legs about to fold beneath its battered body, Labour seems unaware that its wounds are fatal. That it is dying on its feet.

And Stacey Kirk blogs on today:

So that press conference was a train wreck. Cunliffe says he takes “full responsibility” for Labour’s loss, but they may be hollow words to the caucus as he refuses to take the blame.

He won’t be apologising to his caucus, and he’ll be asking them to trigger a new leadership primary under their constitution.

He’ll effectively do that by asking them to pass a vote of no-confidence in him, (which many would probably gladly do) but then have every chance of regaining the leadership with the backing of the unions and wider party.

That would hardly bring stability to Labour.

And no less than five minutes after Cunliffe spoke of his “disappointment” in Labour MPs speaking to media on their strife, were two MPs speaking to the media – David Shearer and Phil Goff. (I’ve got videos clips of boths of those – I’ll post shortly)

The party is in disarray.

Time to order up a three month supply of popcorn!

UPDATE: John Armstrong reflects:

An extraordinary morning in the Labour Party’s wing of Parliament Buildings. There were only two words to describe things – absolute mayhem.

And that was even before Labour MPs had even begun their crucial post-election caucus meeting, at which there was expected to be some very blunt language during a preliminary post-mortem on last Saturday s crushing defeat.

David Cunliffe is fighting tooth and nail to hang on as leader. His chances of doing so would seem to deteriorate further with every wrong tactic and mistaken ploy he uses to shore up his crumbling position.

Time is Cunliffe’s enemy. He needs an early party-wide vote to refresh his mandate as party leader before the true awfulness of Labour’s thrashing really sinks in and his support among the mass membership and trade unions affiliated to the party which backed him in last September’s leadership ballot rapidly erodes.

Other senior figures like former leader David Shearer are arguing vociferously that the leadership question be left in abeyance until a proper and fundamental review of the party’s failings and the reasons for its dreadful showing in last week’s general election are thoroughly examined. The results of such a review are unlikely to reflect well on Cunliffe.

Cunliffe wants caucus to roll him now, so he can have a quick members ballot. But the craft ABCs won’t play along, and they have three months before they have to have a vote.

UPDATE2: The Labour caucus meeting has now been going for seven hours. Generally they last two hours. It must be brutal in there.

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Trotter on Labour’s electorate MPs

July 28th, 2014 at 8:32 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

Well, I say “Labour” but, really, the hoarding facing us was all about Phil Goff. It was his ugly mug and buck-toothed smile that confronted the viewer, and his name in bold sans-serif that somebody had helpfully placed a big tick underneath. Oh sure, right down the very bottom you could, if you squinted hard enough, make out the Labour Party’s slogan “Vote Positive”, and yes, there was even an exhortation to “Party Vote Labour”. But, seriously, nobody driving by is going to have time to register anything other than the local MP, Phil Goff, is soliciting their vote.

I’m told this is happening all over the country. That the hoardings erected by Labour electorate MPs are, overwhelmingly, self-promoting. Not the party (unless you have very good eyesight). And certainly not the Leader. (God forbid!) In spite of delivering the worst result in 90 years, the so-called “election strategy” of 2008, promote the candidate – not the party, is being idiotically repeated – by the same idiots!

Chris means 2011.

The fundamental message of the MMP system: Only the Party Vote matters! is, once again, being studiously ignored by MPs whose only concern is to retain their seniority in Labour’s faction-ridden caucus.

What this will produce, just as it did in 2008, is the absurdity of Labour plummeting to 27 percent in the Party Vote, but capturing 32 percent of the Electorate Vote. Had those figures been reversed on Election Night three years ago, Phil Goff would now be Prime Minister.

Well depends where they pick the party votes up from.

That Phil Goff is promoting himself alone, that his leader’s image is being relegated (as his own was in 2008) to the back streets, adds up, in my opinion, to just one bleak message.

Labour is heading for the worst defeat in its 98-year history.

We can only hope.

Danyl McL has also noted that very small Labour logos on the billboards.

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Trotter calls for Labour to expel some of its MPs

June 11th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

Like the Castle Street Branch of the 1980s, the Labour Party of 2014 boasts a narrow left-wing majority. That majority, after changing the party rules, elected David Cunliffe as its leader and is in the process of constructing a binding policy platform for the next Labour Government. At first glance, then, the lessons of the 1980s appear to have been learned.

All but one – and that the most important of them all. Majorities mean nothing outside the only Labour Party institution that truly matters: the parliamentary caucus. If you cannot control the caucus, then you simply cannot reassure the party that its best efforts will not be rendered worthless through the calculated insubordination of a clique of rebellious caucus members.

This is especially problematic when these insubordinate rebels (most of whom are securely ensconced in safe Labour seats) believe it will be easier for like-minded politicians to protect “the policies this country needs” if David Cunliffe and all that he represents loses the forthcoming general election.

Butcher’s gambit is as powerful today as it was 25 years ago.

What are Cunliffe’s options? Obviously the option of splitting the Labour Party and forming “NewLabour” – the Labour Left’s choice in 1989 – is not available to the party leader. Which leaves the other option put forward by Matt McCarten back in 1988.

“It seems obvious to me now that the right-wing MPs have put their hands up and threatened the party”, Matt told Labour’s president, Rex Jones. “So we should call a special conference of the party and expel them … The Labour Party made a mistake selecting these people so sack them. Throw them out and let them stand against us. They’ll lose and the Labour Party can rebuild itself.”

Chris should name the MPs that he thinks should be explled!

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Trotter calls it early

March 13th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

UNLESS SOMETHING HUGELY DRAMATIC HAPPENS between now and polling day, 20 September, the General Election of 2014 is all but over. The National-led government of Prime Minister, John Key, looks set to be returned for a third term by a margin that may surprise many of those currently insisting that the result will be very close. What may also surprise is the sheer scale and comprehensiveness of the Left’s (especially Labour’s) electoral humiliation.

That’s a bold prediction. I don’t believe in calling a result until around 10 pm on election night :-)

With most opinion pollsters recording three-fifths to two-thirds of voters saying the country is “heading in the right direction” it is clear that the run of generally positive news stories about the New Zealand economy are rebounding to National’s advantage. To those with secure paid employment and/or comfortable incomes, these reports offer no compelling reason for a change of government.

That is a strong factor. And worth comparing to other countries. In NZ 63% say the country is heading in the right direction, followed by 38% only in Australia, 35% in Canada, 33% in the UK and just 31% in the US.

In terms of political leadership, National is especially blessed. Most New Zealanders like John Key. In spite of his enormous wealth, he strikes a staggeringly large number of voters as an “ordinary bloke” who shares their values and understands their aspirations. His stand-up comedian’s ability to use humour as both sword and shield generally frees him from the onerous duties of detailed explanation and justification.

I’m not sure it frees him from that, but I agree most people like him, and it is amusing to come across people who not only dislike him themselves (which of course si expected) but they can’t work out how anyone anywhere can like him.

Labour’s leadership problems are the mirror-image of National’s. David Cunliffe is not yet understood or, sadly, much liked by the electorate. He simply doesn’t come across as an ordinary bloke – quite the reverse in fact – and the pollsters have yet to detect the sort of wholesale buy-in to the Opposition leader’s values and aspirations that presages a decisive shift in ideological allegiances. Neither is Cunliffe helped by his bizarre propensity to withhold politically relevant information from the public. Nothing arouses a journalist’s fury faster than a politician’s failure to supply the whole story.

Indeed, as others have also found.

Mr Key’s strategy of making haste slowly on these little things while seeking an electoral mandate for the big things (like partial privatisation) goes a long way to explaining his government’s enduring lead in the opinion polls.

It’s called taking the public with you, so change can be enduring.

All of which brings us down to the day itself.

 Month after month of favourable polls; a leader careful to build his footpaths where people walk; policies which voters either hardly notice or readily endorse; and a war-chest more than equal to the challenge of exploiting all these substantial advantages will not only have National’s supporters in a triumphant temper, but they will also have induced a profound demoralisation among their opponents.
 
Election Day 2014 – barring that big surprise – will, therefore, likely see National’s supporters marching proudly, as to a political coronation, while Labour and Green supporters, convinced they’ve already lost, deliver John Key an unparalleled National victory and the psephologists a record low turnout.
Again, I think this is premature but we’ll get some idea if Chris is right i the next few months.
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Views on McCarten

February 28th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

The New Zealand Left suddenly finds itself in the position of the dog who caught the car. For years, slagging off the Labour Party as a bunch of neoliberal sell-outs has been one of the Left’s favourite pub and parlour games. But now, with one of this country’s most effective left-wing campaigners just one door down from the Leader of the Labour Opposition, the Left, like the bewildered pooch for whom the fun was always in the chase, has finally got what it wanted and must decide what to do with it.

Yes, it is a huge victory for the far left.

If Cunliffe and McCarten are allowed to fail, the Right of the Labour Party and their fellow travellers in the broader labour movement (all the people who worked so hard to prevent Cunliffe rising to the leadership) will say:

 “Well, you got your wish. You elected a leader pledged to take Labour to the Left. And just look what happened. Middle New Zealand ran screaming into the arms of John Key and Labour ended up with a Party Vote even more pitiful than National’s in 2002! So don’t you dare try peddling that ‘If we build a left-wing Labour Party they will come’ line ever again! You did – and they didn’t.”
 
Be in no doubt that this will happen – just as it did in the years after the British Labour Party’s crushing defeat in the general election of 1983. The Labour Right called Labour’s socialist manifesto “the longest suicide note in history” and the long-march towards Blairism and the re-writing of Clause Four began.
Not sure comparison to Michael Foot are helpful to Labour.
The Dom Post:

So the dinosaurs are back. Richard Prebble returns to run ACT’s election campaign. Matt McCarten returns to become Labour leader David Cunliffe’s chief of staff. The ironies are multiple. These two were the chief brawlers in the brutal and byzantine ruckus within Labour over Auckland Central in the 1980s.

A generation later the two will once again be on opposite sides of the political war. 

Not opposite sides. Prebble is campaign manager for ACT, not National. McCarten is chief of staff for Labour.

Mr McCarten is a similarly divisive figure, and already his old comrade Mr Anderton has said he won’t work for Labour this year, apparently because of Mr McCarten. Labour is billing Mr McCarten’s return as a symbolic healing of the rifts in the Left-wing family, but clearly the rifts do not heal easily.

What was interesting is that Cunliffe said he was sure Jim would still be supporting Labour, and then Jim said he won’t be while McCarten is there. What is surprising isn’t Anderton’s views, but that no one spoke to him in advance and hence Cunliffe said something that was contradicted an hour later.

The Herald:

But that presumes Labour’s existing voter base also favours a move to policies aimed at attracting the lost tribes of the left. There is a risk surely that some working, non-unionised, moderate social democrats will see a Labour Party raising taxes, advancing union interests, expanding the state and redirecting wealth to support beneficiaries and the poor as altogether less appealing.

Most non voters are proportionally under 30. I’m not sure a return to 1970s policies will be appealing to them.

Labour’s result in 2011 was its worst for generations. Its poll rating now, under Mr Cunliffe, has not increased much at all from its early-30s standings under David Shearer, despite promising expanded paid parental leave and a baby bonus for all those earning up to $150,000 a year. 

In August 2013 when Shearer was Leader, Labour’s average poll rating was 32.4%. In February 2014 their average poll rating is 32.2%.

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Trotter on Key

August 16th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

UNDERESTIMATING JOHN KEY is a serious mistake. Helen Clark did it in 2008, and Key knocked her out of the ring. He did the same to John Campbell last night.

When is the Left going to come to terms with the fact that John Key is National’s toughest, smartest and most dangerous leader – ever? Defeating “The Candidate from Central Casting” was never going to be easy, but our consistent failure to grasp the brute reality of Key’s clear superiority – when compared to just about every politician the Opposition can throw at him – is turning his defeat into a near impossibility.

Defeat is far from impossible. In theory a Labour/Greens/NZ First/Maori/Mana combination is within striking distance of governing.

However I do agree that many on the left under-estimate Key constantly. They forget his performance vs Cullen in 2005, Clark in 2008 and Goff in 2011 – each a 30 year veteran of Parliament.

We are, after all, talking about a politician whose popularity seldom dips below 40 percent in the Preferred Prime Minister ratings. We are looking at a National Government which, in 2011 increased its share of the Party Vote to an unprecedented 47.3 percent. And that was three years after it had been elected with an MMP record-breaking 44.9 percent. Why don’t we “get” how extraordinary this guy is? Since when does a prime minister’s (let alone a government’s) honeymoon last five years?! 

Simply because it is not a honeymoon. The actual honeymoon lasted around nine months.

Think about the televised encounter between John Key and John Campbell on last night’s Campbell Live (Wednesday, 14 August 2013) and then consider the Prime Minister’s tactics in the light of the following observations about political debate:

“This is the very first condition which has to be fulfilled in every kind of propaganda: a systematically one-sided attitude towards every problem that has to be dealt with … When they see an uncompromising onslaught against an adversary, the people have at all times taken this as proof that right is on the side of the aggressor; but if the aggressor should go only halfway and fail to push home his success … the people will look upon this as a sign that he is uncertain of the justice of his own cause.”

The source of these observations? Mein Kampf – by Adolf Hitler.

Another politician who was seriously underestimated by his enemies.

Chris often takes the hyperbole a step too far. In this case, it is several steps too far.

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Trotter on the Garner source

July 17th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris trotter writes at Stuff:

Labour MPs have accused Garner of “making up” his story about a coup being under way against Shearer. But only a moment’s thought is required to expose this accusation for the nonsense it is.

Garner has confirmed that his informant was a member of the Labour Party caucus. Presumably, he or she was someone who had vouchsafed information to Garner in the past – information which had proved to be reliable.

The maelstrom of criticism into which Garner has been unceremoniously pitched, since his predictions of last Thursday night were proved wrong, provides the strongest argument as to why he would not have tweeted without feeling extremely confident about the rumour’s veracity.

(Just to make sure, however, he sought and received confirmation from a second Labour Party source.)

That Garner was given what the Americans would call “a bum steer” should tell him (and us) that the atmosphere in Labour’s caucus is becoming increasingly toxic.

Is the source the same one who told One News and Three News staff Shearer had two months to improve?

So, why did Garner’s coup rumour fail to stack up? Let’s go through the explanatory options.

1) Some sort of leadership coup was on, but Garner’s tweet alerted Shearer’s supporters and the organisers were forced to abort. (Despairing Labour MPs may simply have been gathering sufficient signatures to persuade their leader to go gracefully and preserve the party from a debilitating civil war.)

2) No coup was imminent, but Garner’s source considered it vital that Shearer be forced to endure yet another destabilising round of media speculation concerning the viability of his leadership. (So vital that they were willing to abuse and lose Garner’s trust.)

3) For reasons of their own, Shearer’s backers decided to undermine Garner’s journalistic credibility by deliberately misinforming him that a coup was under way.

My pick is No 2.

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Trotter on left vs right

July 15th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter comments on Stephen Franks’ blog:

I once concluded an editorial in the NZ Political Review with the following observation:

“There is a paradox here. Conservative political culture, whose raison d’etre is the preservation of social inequality and economic exploitation (not to mention the institutional violence these things create and upon which ruling class power rests) tends to produce individuals of considerable personal charm and genuine liberality. While radical culture, which sets its face against the violence and injustice of entrenched privilege, all too often produces individuals who are aggressive, intolerant and utterly indifferent to the suffering which their relentless quest for justice causes.

“In short, the Right treats humanity like cattle and individual human-beings like princes, while the Left loves humanity with a passion but treats individuals like shit.”

Somewhere there must be an algorithm that delivers the best of both worlds.

I’m still looking.

I think there is more than an element of truth to this. It should go without saying that the above is a generalisation and of course not true for many many people. But I have observed that while the left does have much greater passion for humanity and the like, on an individual level the same passion and concern does not always come through.

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All about the man ban

July 6th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Lots of commentary on Labour’s proposed man ban.

Colin Epsiner writes at Stuff:

Oh dear. I really didn’t think it was possible for Labour to top its own goal over the Sky City corporate box debacle. But it has. 

After a week where the Government ought to be on the back foot over the GCSB saga, Auckland’s nutty property market, and the death throes of one of its coalition partners, Labour has come out with a policy so politically barmy it makes you wonder whether it really has any interest in winning the next election. …

David Shearer has – after initially stating the policy had “some merit” – realised he’s dealing with a political bomb and come out against the policy, saying he favours targets rather than quotas. Senior Labour MPs Phil Goff, Shane Jones, and Andrew Little immediately recognised the damage the proposal would do and have denounced it too. 

But it may be too late. This idea needed to be taken out and quietly shot before it ever saw the light of day. From now until it’s debated at Labour’s annual conference in November, Labour’s opponents will have a field day. 

The Opposition needs to be talking to the electorate about jobs, housing, incomes, and hip-pocket issues. Not navel-gazing about its gender balance. The public, to be frank, doesn’t give a toss whether Labour has 41 per cent women MPs or 50 per cent. They just want good candidates and good policies. 

Adam Bennett at NZ Herald reports:

No Labour MPs other than Manurewa’s Louisa Wall will publicly back a proposal to have women-only selection short lists for some electorates to boost female MP numbers.

After his initial reluctance to comment earlier this week, party leader David Shearer has now come out against the proposal.

Outspoken male MPs Shane Jones and Damien O’Connor panned the idea in no uncertain terms, warning it risked driving away socially conservative blue-collar voters.

Of Labour’s 34 MPs, only Ms Wall has been prepared to publicly support it since it was revealed on Thursday.

Eleven, including Mr Shearer, have said they don’t support it or are yet to be convinced.

But is David Shearer not a member of the NZ Council that has proposed this?

So either he got rolled at the NZ Council meeting, or he has flip-flopped and was for it before he rages against it.

Fran O’Sullivan supports it though:

Congratulations to Party Central for putting gender equality ahead of diversity when it comes to the ranking criteria for selecting the next crop of Labour MPs.

Quaintly, the notion that a 21st century political party might opt to use its selection process to try to make sure that as many women as men represent us in Parliament has been met with howls of derision and barely disguised outrage.

That’s just on the Labour side of politics. Let’s point out here that the most vocal MP opponents (Yes, I am talking aboutyou, Shane Jones and you, Clayton Cosgrove) are only there themselves by virtue of their list rankings.

John Armstrong writes:

When you are in a hole, you can rely on Labour to dig itself into an even deeper one beside you – as it did this week with its shoot-yourself-in-both-feet potential change to party rules to allow women-only candidate selections.

This was not solely political correctness gone stark-raving bonkers. Apart from alienating one group of voters who have drifted away from Labour in recent years – men – such a rule change would be just as insulting to women in insinuating they could not win selection on their own merits.

The proposal should have been kiboshed by the leader the moment he saw it. That he didn’t – or felt he couldn’t – points to deep schisms in the party.

The message voters will take from Labour’s warped priorities is that of a party which cannot get its act together in the snoozy backwaters of Opposition, let alone in the blazing sun of Government.

There is a reasons this never emerged under Helen Clark. She would have strangled this before it was born, even if she privately backed it.

Bryce Edwards has collected some of the best tweets on this issue. Here’s a few:

Bernard Orsman ‏@BernardOrsman

The ‘man ban’. Can things get any worse for Labour. PC madness. @nzlabour

James Macbeth Dann ‏@edmuzik

David Shearer is against the quotas. That should guarantee they get passed

Perfect Mike Hosking ‏@MikePerfectHosk

The Labour Party manban makes no sense at all. It’s like saying “drinkable organic wine.”

Patrick Gower ‏@patrickgowernz

Labour Party wants a quota system for MPs based on gender etc – not merit. Apparently this isn’t a joke.

Michael Laws ‏@LawsMichael

Labour’s next caucus rule – seats reserved for the disabled, the mentally ill, overstayers, gays, vegetarians, the over 70s, the under 20s.

Philip Matthews ‏@secondzeit

@harvestbird Over a couple of beers with my mates building a deck, we decided that the manplan has set progressive politics back decades.

Julian Light ‏@julianlight

Went for a coffee this morn but was refused service. Not enough women had bought a coffee. Seemed about as fair as Labour’s policy #manban

Aunty Haurangi ‏@_surlymermaid

Upside to the #manban : Less likely John Tamihere will get an electorate seat.

Keeping Stock ‏@Inventory2

Sean Plunket describes the #ManBan as “a completely co-ordinated attack by the Labour Party on itself”; and he’s spot on.

Ben Uffindell ‏@BenUffindell

@LewStoddart More women MPs just for the sake of more women MPs is not a noble goal. Sexism lies in the population at large.

Cactus Kate ‏@CactusKate2

50% of houses should b owned solely by women n we should hv zero interest loans 2 fund this #manban

Finally we have Chris Trotter:

AMIDST ALL THE CLAMOUR of its detractors, the true significance of Labour’s “Man Ban” has eluded most commentators.

Yes, the proposed rule change has undoubtedly damaged Labour’s election prospects.

Yes, there are many more important issues the party would have preferred the news media to focus upon.

Yes, it is further evidence of a party with no reliable political grown-ups in charge.

Yes, Labour’s opponents will dine out on it for months.

And, yes, it’s the only thing the 2013 Annual Conference will be remembered for.

But, the “Man Ban” is also proof of something else: that the distance separating Labour’s rank-and-file from Labour’s Caucus has grown as wide as the gulf that once separated the “old” Labour Party from the “new”.

The conference in November should be spectacular!

 

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Trotter on Greens

June 22nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

“Why has Russel Norman abandoned the Greens attempt to legitimate QE as a sensible means of stimulating the New Zealand economy?”  

With this thoroughly retrograde decision, Russel has brought to a needless and sudden halt his near faultless eighteen month performance as the Opposition’s most astute economic critic of the National Government.  

By abandoning QE, Russel has also deprived himself, the Greens, and any sort of useful ‘Centre-Left’ coalition government, of one of the very few means of mobilising the indigenous capital resources necessary to fund the job-rich, socially-just and “green” economic development New Zealand needs.  

Both the Greens’ and Labour’s promises: to put New Zealanders back to work; on a living wage; in clean, green and innovative export industries; while guaranteeing them and their families an affordable home; effective health services; and a progressive, child-centred education system; can only be achieved at the cost of billions of NZ dollars-worth of new state spending.  

What Chris Trotter is saying is that the policies of Labour and Greens are unaffordable, unless you printed more money to pay for them.

Russel’s QE proposal: Requiring the Reserve Bank to purchase government issued Earthquake Recovery Bonds to a sum equivalent to 1 percent of GDP (approximately $NZ2 billion) to both assist the Canterbury rebuild and bring down the value of the punishingly over-valued NZ Dollar; was one of the very few practical and non-inflationary funding options available to an incoming progressive government. By taking it off the table, what Russel is really telling us is that the Greens’ and Labour’s promises can no longer be paid for.   -

Trotter is right that their promises can no longer be paid for. What he is absolutely wrong on is saying QE is non-inflationary.

The Greens have always made it a point of political honour to be absolutely straight with the New Zealand electorate. If they intend to keep faith with that tradition, then their co-leader and chief economic policy spokesperson needs to step forward now and admit that, with QE off the agenda, the Greens’ promise to give New Zealand a clean, green and innovative economy can no longer by paid for and, therefore, will no longer be included in the Greens’ 2014 Manifesto. And, while he’s at it, Russel should also foreswear any ambition to be Minister of Finance in a Labour-Green government.  

I doubt they will do either. They’ll just hope the public don’t care of promises are affordable or not.

 

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Trotter on SNAFU

June 13th, 2013 at 1:30 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

Labour’s performance was equally demoralising. Listening to David Shearer’s opening speech, it soon became clear that he had requested the snap debate not for the purposes of elucidation, but solely for the purposes of persecution. Peter Dunne’s career is in tatters and his reputation is shot, but that is not enough for the Labour Party. Apparently, the party of the workers will not be content until Mr Dunne, like the traitors of old, is subjected to a prolonged, painful and very public execution. …

This cannot be achieved without revealing to the world the full contents of the e-mails exchanged between Mr Dunne and Ms Vance. 

Trotter notes:

The National Party’s Deputy-Leader, Bill English, could hardly conceal his delight at the prospect of Labour getting involved in such a fight. Responding to Shearer’s speech, the Finance Minister declared:

“Peter Dunne is a member of Parliament. OK. So this is the proposition of the Labour Party to the media now: any journalist who corresponds with any Minister in any Labour Government needs to know that their emails and voice messages will be open to scrutiny by the Prime Minister whenever they feel like it. That is the Labour Party proposition to the media. Well, let us just watch over the next couple of weeks. Those members might shout it in here, but out there they are going to be working very hard to get off that hook, because their relationship with the media is now at stake, and when you are in Opposition you need to be able to communicate with the media. You need to have free flow of information. You do in Government too, actually.”

Mr English’s boss put it more succinctly. Addressing the Press Gallery, The Prime Minister asked: “Do you guys seriously want me going out there foraging through your correspondence with my MPs and my ministers and other ministers and support parties? … I think that’s a step you would ferociously repel and be extremely vocal in your opposition to.”

Mr Key’s grammar is as tortured as ever, but it’s hard to disagree with what he is saying. Which really leads me to wonder what the hell is going on with Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. If Labour and the Greens can’t make a better fist of defending press freedom and the citizens’ right to privacy than the National Party, then some very serious questions need to be asked about their competency.

During World War II soldiers became so used to the Army getting things wrong that they coined the acronym “SNAFU” to describe its routine incompetence. I would hate to think that things were now so bad – particularly in Labour – that the party’s strategy for dealing with Mr Dunne could simply be written off as SNAFU:

Situation Normal – All Fucked Up.

They do seem to have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This should have been an easy win for them, but instead they over-reached, and looked ridiculous.
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The Labour “pack”

March 1st, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes in the Taranaki Daily News:

 I’m told there were six of them, and that they hunted as a pack. Their prey?

Delegates who had voted the wrong way.

Moving through the excited crowds at the Ellerslie Conference Centre last November, an angry group of Labour MPs was seen taking dissidents aside and telling them, in no uncertain terms, which way was up.

Leading the pack was Labour’s employment relations spokeswoman, Darien Fenton, and her grim lieutenant, Dunedin South MP Clare Curran.

No surprises there. Ms Fenton and Ms Curran were among the caucus members most alarmed by the Labour Party rank-and-files’ sudden outbreak of democratic distemper. The other members of the pack, however, came as a surprise.

I had never thought of Jacinda Ardern, Megan Woods, Kris Faafoi or Phil Twyford as attack dogs, but my sources assure me that they were there – chewing people out. So what?

The fact that Chris has enough information to name the six “pack” members shows how many people in Labour must be spilling details of their internal conflicts.

It was Chris Hipkins who drew me aside long before the dramatic conference floor fight to murmur conspiratorially: “Our problems aren’t external – they’re internal.”

The “enemy within” that Chauvel referred to.

Even from the media table, the animosity directed towards caucus members who spoke in favour of the rank- and-file’s resolutions (the most effective of whom, by far, was Leanne Dalziel) was unmistakable.

Dalziel has now been dumped from the shadow Cabinet.

The first thing all politicians learn how to do is count and the people backing Mr Shearer were fearful that a democratised party (with sufficient support in caucus) might decide to wrest the power of choosing the party leader from their hands.

They were terrified that they would then be saddled with the rank-and-file’s choice of December 2011: David Cunliffe. And it wasn’t Mr Shearer’s faction alone, who were counting heads.

Labour’s deputy leader, Grant Robertson, had as much to fear from the leadership question being decided early, by the party, as his boss.

Absolutely.

On November 20, Mr Cunliffe is demoted and his faction isolated. On February 4, Mr Shearer manages – just – to secure the backing of 60 per cent-plus-one of his caucus colleagues. On February 19, six days before the long- awaited shadow cabinet reshuffle, Charles Chauvel, a supporter of Mr Cunliffe, quits Parliament.

On February 25, Mr Shearer’s new lineup is announced. The Pack are well rewarded. Ms Fenton and Ms Curran both rise two places in the pecking order, while Mr Twyford goes up three to take a seat on the front bench.

Megan Woods enters the top 20 – a backbencher no longer.

Mr Little rises with her.

Mr Shearer’s chief swordsman, Mr Hipkins, climbs five places to claim the shadow portfolio of education from Mr Cunliffe’s running- mate, Nanaia Mahuta.

Ms Dalziel’s eloquence on behalf of rank-and-file democracy is rewarded with demotion to the back benches.

Mr Cunliffe remains outside the magic circle. In Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express all the suspects wielded the fatal knife.

Labour’s MPs seem equally impressed by the advantages of collectivised bloodletting.

Long may it continue.

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Trotter on the Shearer backstory

December 28th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter looks as the David Shearer backstory, and while it is one I approve of heartily, he seems less enamoured:

Some political observers have drawn comparisons between Mr Shearer and his chief antagonist, Prime Minister John Key. The young Labour activist, Connor Roberts, summed up the pair’s similarities and differences with his now famous quip: “John Key went overseas and made fifty million dollars; David Shearer went overseas and saved fifty million lives.”

This focus on Mr Shearer’s and Mr Key’s “overseas” experiences has led many to assume that both men were out of the country during the pivotal years 1984-1993. In Mr Shearer’s case, however, this is untrue. For nearly the whole period of the Fourth Labour Government (1984-1990) he was here, in New Zealand, studying, teaching and consulting. If he was a Labour Party member at any time during those tumultuous years, then he was a very quiet one. He certainly wasn’t among the ranks of those who fought against Rogernomics. He has, however, often spoken to journalists about his admiration for David Lange’s speeches.
 
This inability to get worked up about the core elements of neoliberal “reform”: labour market flexibility; privatisation; deregulation; monetary and fiscal discipline; explains his rather odd belief (for a Labour leader) that the contest between Left and Right is “a phony debate”. Such ideological agnosticism – explained away as good old Kiwi pragmatism – does, however, offer us a way into the most unusual and contradictory aspect of Mr Shearer’s entire career: his support for mercenary armies, or, as they prefer to be known these days: private military and security companies (PMSCs).
That reference I covered in Kiwiblgo in 2009 here and here.
That impression was intensified by Mr Shearer’s experiences three years later as the UN’s Senior Humanitarian Advisor in the West African nation of Liberia. Just across Liberia’s northern border, in the ravaged state of Sierra Leone, the PMSC known as Executive Outcomes had been employed under contract to the Sierra Leone Government. Shearer was deeply impressed by this mercenary army’s lightning-fast defeat of the Liberian-backed forces assailing the ruling regime.
A year later, in 1996, Mr Shearer was advising the UN in Rwanda. It was here, just two years earlier, that a brutal genocide had taken place while the United Nations watched – and did nothing. Trying to stitch the rudiments of civil society back together after a disaster on that scale cannot have been easy.
I think it is a good thing that Shearer used his experiences to learn that the private sector can have a key role in activities normally reserved for states.
This was followed by what might be called the John Le Carré phase of Mr Shearer’s career; his two-year stint (1996-1998) as a research associate at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) in London. Like its sister institute – The Royal Institute of International Affairs, also known as Chatham House – the IISS has always laboured under strong suspicions of being a sort of “front organisation” for Britain’s foreign affairs, defence and intelligence “community”. This was most clearly illustrated in 2003 when the IISS released a report strongly favouring the UK’s participation in a US-led invasion of Iraq. Like the infamous “sexed-up” report released by the Security Intelligence Service (MI6) just two weeks later, the IISS also warned against Saddam Hussein’s (non-existent) “weapons of mass destruction”. Since 2003 the IISS’s Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk has been Nigel Inkster – formerly the Deputy Director of MI6.
Sounds a cool place to work.

By 2003 Mr Shearer was back with the UN, this time in the Middle East. As the Head of OCHA in Jerusalem and then as the UN’s Humanitarian Relief Coordinator during the Israeli assault on Southern Lebanon and Beirut, he distinguished himself as a fiercely independent upholder of the UN’s mission. Few were surprised, therefore, when, in 2007, after four years of negotiating his way through the labyrinth of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ky Moon, named David Shearer as his Deputy-Special Representative in Iraq. He was also appointed Head of the UN Development Project Iraq. Holding these two very senior roles in the United Nations Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) Mr Shearer was almost certainly “in the room” when decisions about the use of PMSCs were being made. 

Lou Pingeot, author of the New York-based Global Policy Forum’s June 2012 publication Dangerous Partnership: Private Military and Security Companies and the UN, has compiled some useful statistics on the amount of money spent on PMSCs by the UN. “Using the highest available numbers,” he writes, “there is a 250 percent increase in the use of security services from 2006 to 2011.”
 
The numbers for UNAMI are particularly interesting. In 2007 UNAMI spent zero dollars on PMSCs. In 2009, when its former 2IC was back in New Zealand campaigning for Helen Clark’s old seat of Mt Albert, UNAMI also spent zero dollars. In 2008, however, the amount spent by UNAMI on PMSC’s was US$1,139,745.
Excellent – he practises what he preaches.

Mr Shearer’s position has been explained away as just another case of a good Kiwi bloke, impatient to get the job done, and not being particularly fussed about how things are made to happen – or by whom. And if the universal experience of mercenary involvement in “peace-making” was as positive as Executive Outcome’s foray into Sierra Leone, the argument might have some force. In reality, however, Executive Outcome’s success in Sierra Leone stands out as a very lonely exception to a much darker rule. 

The actual, on-the-ground, operational conduct of PMSCs over the past decade has demonstrated to the world just how dangerous it is to entrust the delivery of deadly force to individuals and corporations whose primary motivation is profit. Yet even in the face of the PMSCs’ appalling conduct in the Balkans and Iraq, Mr Shearer remains sympathetic towards private armies and mercenaries.
 
The Labour Leader’s on-going support for these private-sector problem-solvers speaks volumes – and very little is to his credit.
I disagree. Just because some private mercenary armies have done bad things, is no reason to have an ideological opposition to all private mercenary armies. We should judge them on outcomes.
UPDATE: A staff member in David Shearer’s office (Mike Smith) has complained at The Standard that a commenter there has referred to the Trotter story:
A good example showed up in the same Open Mike, where Karol referred us to Chris Trotter’s latest post on Bowalley Road, titled “Who is David Shearer?”, promising a post of his/her own on the matter.
I’m not sure it is a great strategy to try and tell readers off for what they mention in the general debate or open mike threads.
Trotter’s post reprises an old canard, obviously a product of the National Party opposition research team. that was first put up by David Farrar on Kiwiblog in 2009 when Shearer first emerged as a candidate for Mt Albert.
Mike is wrong here. The information on Shearer’s writings did not come from anyone in National, but in fact a leftwing (is there any other sort?) academic.
So we have Chris Trotter from the non-Labour left dredging up an old story originally planted on National’s behalf by Farrar’s Kiwiblog, and recently linked to by National’s Whaleoil. Now Karol, also from the non-Labour left, is apparently going to join them in another futile attempt to discredit Labour’s leader.
Oh dear, now Mike is sounding like a certain Labour MP who used to rant about the non-Labour left.
None of them have the interests of Labour at heart. It is an old problem for Labour, when the outside left links with the far right to drag Labour down. The right at least know that their only real opposition as a government is Labour; who would know what the others’ motive is.
Never mind that Chris Trotter actually campaigned for Labour in 2008. I saw him wearing a Labour rosette. But now it seems that the “non-Labour left” are akin to Judean People’s Front.
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Labour on electricity assets

July 24th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

Speaking to a group of corporate head-hunters on July 11, Mr Parker spelled out the details of Labour’s policy on foreign investment. Concerned to prevent “infrastructure assets with monopoly characteristics” from being sold to offshore buyers, Labour, in the run-up to last year’s election, drew up a “closed list” – to keep a “bright line” between “what is to be sold and what is not”. Among the infrastructure that was not to be sold were any electricity line, water storage or irrigation networks; seaports or airports; and public hospitals, schools, railway lines or roads.

Not included in Labour’s “closed list” were telecommunications networks and – amazingly – “electricity generators”.

According to Labour’s policy: “While the electricity market is on the cusp of becoming uncompetitive and exhibits monopoly-like characteristics, generation assets are diverse in nature, location and ownership.”

What this means is that although Labour went into the last general election on a policy of “no asset sales”; and in spite of the fact that its campaign advertising showed a vast banner displaying that very message being draped over a hydro-electricity generating dam, the party was unwilling to include electricity generators on the list of state-owned infrastructure that “ought to be run in the New Zealand interest” – and never be sold to foreigners.

Am I alone in thinking that Labour’s foreign investment policy fatally compromises its current campaign against asset sales? If the generation of electricity is an activity which properly belongs to the market, and if New Zealand’s electricity generation assets are “diverse in nature, location and ownership” and, therefore, able to be purchased by foreign interests, then I’m at a loss to know why the Labour Party is opposed to their partial privatisation.

In one sense you can argue that there is no contradiction. The foreign investment policy deals with assets owned by the private sector while the privatisation policy is about assets owned by the Government.

However considering the hysteria from Labour over minority share-holdings in some SOE energy companies, it is interesting to contrast that with their policy that it would be fine for (for example) a foreign company to buy all of Contact Energy or Todd Energy.

Also useful to contrast to their record in office. They claim they are now against any foreign investment in electricity lines companies, yet they approved the sale of the Wellington lines company.

At the end of the day, you have to wonder if Labour actually stands for anything, apart from wanting to be in power.

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Trotter on Shearer

July 9th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I’m starting to get the impression that Chris Trotter is not hugely confident in Labour’s ability to win. He blogs:

For a while, it looked as though Labour had found just such an emblem. David Shearer’s story, like John Key’s, begins with an ordinary bloke setting forth on a journey, during which he encounters all manner of monsters – from Somali warlords to murderous Israeli settlers – learning in the process the magic spells for opening the human heart to compassion, justice and reconciliation. He, too, returns to his people and, at the crucial moment, steps forward from the shadows to declare that he is the one destined to lay low the National Party usurper.

Except he hadn’t learned the spells, or, if he had, he could no longer remember them.
It’s as if Arthur stepped up to the sword in the stone, gave it a confident tug – and nothing happened. Instead of a sword flashing in the sunlight above his head, proof positive that he was “rightwise King born of all England”, the weapon stays exactly where it is, and the hero, with an embarrassed shrug, picks up a guitar instead.
There are, of course, many variations on the classic hero tale. Instead of acquiring forbidden knowledge and inheriting mysterious powers, the hero is often required to overcome a series of obstacles and/or eliminate a host of adversaries before completing his quest. In doing so he blazes a trail and lays a path for those who follow after him. Think of the Labours of Heracles, or Theseus’s struggle with the Minotaur, or Luke Skywalker’s destruction of the Death Star in Star Wars.
Does Labour have another hero? And, if it does, can we assume that the first obstacles and adversaries he must overcome are all inside his own party?
I wonder whom Chris might be referring to?
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Dom Post and Trotter on Urewera sentence

May 29th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

The facts, as set out during sentencing by Justice Rodney Hansen, are these: in January, September and October 2007 Iti organised, and the others participated in, a series of camps, or rama, near Ruatoki. During the camps semi-automatic weapons, sawn-off shotguns, and sporting rifles were fired. In addition, Molotov cocktails were made and thrown at one of the camps. When police terminated their surveillance operation, three rifles, two of them semi-automatic, were found under a tarpaulin at Iti’s Ruatoki house, four rifles and a semi-automatic shotgun were found in the boot of Kemara’s car and in a caravan he occupied, and a .22 rifle was found in a backpack at a Wellington campsite occupied by Signer and Bailey.

I think the Police said a total of 18 firearms were found, and none of these people were licenses to have them.

A crime committed in pursuit of laudable objectives is just as much a crime as a crime committed for base motives. Those who have rushed to defend Iti and his fellows should ask themselves how they would react if a group of white supremacists was found to be covertly preparing for guerilla warfare.

A point I also made. We should condemn anyone who mixes politics with guns. Europe bears the scars of such legacies.

The sentences are just. They serve as a warning not just to Iti and his fellows, but to others of all political persuasions that political activity must fall within the bounds of the law.

The rule of law depends upon all being equal before the law.

The deterrent factor is important.

Chris Trotter blogs:

The persons arrested as a result of “Operation Eight” were not held incommunicado, denied access to legal advice and tortured until they confessed. Nor were they tried and executed in secret. On the contrary, they were given a fair trial in an open court and only convicted on a number of firearms charges. Two of the accused were jailed for two-and-a-half years. Their convictions and their sentences are now being appealed.

 So, no. The “real life” Tame Iti is not the same as the fictional hero “Smith” played by Sam Neill. He was not fighting a murderous dictatorship. He was not being hunted down by US “advisers”. Nor were he and his followers being strafed and bombed by RNZAF Skyhawks.
What Mr Iti does appear to have been doing, however, was giving practical effect to the numerous discussions, extending over many decades, in which Maori nationalists and their far-Left Pakeha allies have weighed the pros and cons of organising a revolutionary Maori army.
Of course maybe there was another explanation, but we have yet to hear it – apart from the nonsense about peace activists wanting to work as security guards in Iraq.
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Trotter on Cunliffe’s muzzling

May 15th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter, 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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Trotter on Cunliffe

May 8th, 2012 at 10:30 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

 I drove home with three conclusions:

One: the deeply cynical and self-destructive folly of Labour’s caucus in refusing to make Cunliffe their leader.

Two: the MP for New Lynn’s singular and radical understanding of the need to steer Labour into the new, fast-flowing tides of historical change.

Three: that if anyone can persuade the quiet suburbs of New Zealand to accept and embrace the need for change; it’s David Cunliffe.

If Shearer does not last the distance, the battle between Cunliffe and Robertson will be massive. It will be Auckland v Wellington and more.

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The Cunliffe speech

April 30th, 2012 at 3:18 pm by David Farrar

David Cunliffe delivered a speech yesterday that has many Labour and left activists praising it. It is a speech well outside his area of economic development (He is Economic Development, not Finance spokesperson after Shearer demoted him), and is an effective state of the nation or state of the party speech. I have seen these speeches before, and inevitably when portfolio spokespersons give speeches like this, they are wanting a certain job. Some extracts:

You know that at the last election, the one that we lost so badly, nearly 1 million people didn’t vote. Over 800,000 people: a fifth of the population didn’t vote.

Now you know, there are lots of reasons that people didn’t vote, and there were even more reasons why people didn’t vote for Labour. Let me give you just a few.

The major reason that voters didn’t vote for Labour, and sometimes didn’t vote at all, is simply that Labour failed to inspire voters that it was a credible alternative to National. …

I want to be clear from the outset that this speech represents my own views and does not pretend to represent overall Labour policy. All policies are being reviewed in the post-election period. 

All the classic signs. “My personal views”. “Why we failed”. The implication is “Why we continue to fail”.

When the right-wing party says that it’s going to cut your leg off, voters want the left-wing party to say that it’s not going to cut your leg off. Voters don’t want to be told that the left-wing party is also going to cut your leg off, but cut it off a bit lower down and give you some anesthetic.

 I think that’s a major reason that nearly one million voters deserted us at the last election. It wasn’t because we failed to communicate our policies. Quite the opposite. Those voters saw that our policies – with the exception of asset sales – were mostly the same as National’s. So we can’t really be surprised at the result.

This is a clear call to arms for the left activists. Never mind the reality they were promising $70 more a week to beneficiaries and the like, and most commentator said their policies under Goff were more left-wing than even under Helen Clark. Cunliffe needs the left activist base. The activist base is always less moderate that the supporters. The average National activist is well to the right of a National Government, and the average Labour activist well to the left of a Labour Government.

But you’d never know this if you listened to John Key. Like a quack doctor whose cure has failed, his response is to double the dose until the patient is dead.

 Sorry, John, but let me quote Sir Winston Churchill:

“The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.”

No matter how many politicians and economists still defend the economic policies that led us into this mess, the truth is steadily showing itself.

The obligatory Churchill quote every leadership speech has.

Labour has a new leader with strong values, who’s focused on reconnecting with the voters and has the courage to stand up to bullies. It’s up to us, as a Party, to share with our leader, our hopes, our fears and our dreams, to reconstruct the Party from within, to reclaim our natural constituency of decent, ordinary New Zealanders who believe in fairness and hard work.

This paragraph is astonishing. It strongly implies that the leader does not already share their hopes, fears and dreams. It is a call to action for activists to back Cunliffe’s views and policies and insist Shearer implements them, with a clear implication about what may happen if he does not.

But we didn’t. And we don’t have to back away from creating policies that can turn us away from the economic insanity of the last three decades.

David Cunliffe was a Minister in the last Labour Government. He is now saying that the economic polices of that Government were insane. This is what you do when trying to position yourself as a new leader.

What I find surprising in this speech is not that Cunliffe is making a leadership style speech, but that he has done so in such an unsubtle way. Normally these things are much more subtle and coded. I have never seen an MP urge activists to “share” their views with the leader, in a way which suggests he is out of touch.

The other interesting thing is events of the last week. First we have top Auckland Labour Party official, Greg Presland, who blogged last Wednesday praising David Cunliffe. He implied the Robertson camp was behind the attacks on both Cunliffe and Shearer, and openly said:

Cunliffe may now be Shearer’s best chance of survival as Labour Head Office and the Beehive are filled with Robertson supporters. 

Now bear in mind to have your top Auckland official openly talk about the leader not surviving, and how it is is only the good graces of Cunliffe keeping him alive. In National such an official would be outski. Party officials should never ever talk about how the Leader is struggling to survive.

Then two days later on Friday Chris Trotter blogged:

I was wrong about David Shearer. I made the mistake of believing that a politician with a brilliant back-story couldn’t fail to give us an equally brilliant front-story. …

It’s time for the Labour Caucus to put an end to “the unfortunate experiment” and begin a new one. They could call it “democracy” – and stop taking their party for Grant-ed.

A clear attack on both Shearer, and Grant Robertson, which by omission suggests Cunliffe should be Leader.

Then another two days later, Cunliffe makes a “True Labour” speech, with Tumeke noting:

It was given by David Cunliffe at 2pm Sunday at the Blockhouse Bay Community Centre on his personal beliefs for the economic vision for Labour. 70 people were there by invitation including myself, Chris Trotter and Peter Davis and I have never heard the explanation of why Labour lost the 2011 election and what vision is necessary to regain that support with the passion and intelligence that Cunliffe brought to it. 

Cunliffe launched a personal vision of what I’d call ‘True Labour’, a renouncing of the neo liberal agenda and an explanation that the reason a million enrolled voters didn’t bother to vote Labour was because despite a few policy differences, Labour was still the lighter shade of blue. 

Now I am sure this is all a coincidence because I am a trusting sort of person. But someone more cynical and suspicious than me might wonder about the timing of all this.

UPDATE: Am sure this David Cunliffe campaign website is also a coincidence and is really aimed for the general election in 31 months time.

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The unfortunate experiment

April 27th, 2012 at 8:58 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

CONFESSION, THEY SAY, is good for the soul, so I have a confession to make. I was wrong about David Shearer. I made the mistake of believing that a politician with a brilliant back-story couldn’t fail to give us an equally brilliant front-story. Well, as Sportin’ Life tells the true believers in Porgy & Bess:

 “It ain’t necessarily so.”
And, now I (and I suspect you) know it ain’t so. David Shearer is a thoroughly likeable, thoroughly decent bloke, and his record at the United Nations is truly inspirational, but, come on, let’s face it: he ain’t anybody’s kind of leader.
David Shearer, like David Lange, is a creature of the factional and personal animosities dividing the Labour caucus. Bluntly: he was put there by an unholy alliance of right- and left-wing MPs to prevent the Labour Party’s choice, David Cunliffe, from taking the top job.
Personally I think people are over-reacting. It has only been three months since Parliament resumed this year. But stories like this become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But those two speeches showed not the slightest trace of “big picture” thinking. On the contrary, they showed every sign of having been inspired by an Auckland-based focus-group, and composed by a Wellington-based committee. The only picture they painted was one that revealed Labour’s deficiencies. That not only did the party lack leadership, but it also lacked ideas. 
This is the problem you get when Labour doesn’t know what it stands for, apart from opposing National.

So, what have we learned from this debacle? What has Labour learned?

If by “Labour” you mean its caucus, I would say absolutely nothing. If you’re talking about the party itself, nothing it didn’t know already: that Caucus picked the wrong guy.
It’s time for the Labour Caucus to put an end to “the unfortunate experiment” and begin a new one. They could call it “democracy” – and stop taking their party for Grant-ed.
I read this as a pretty clear sign that if or when Shearer falls, Robertson will not become Leader unopposed. You can see this in the Waitakere News blog by Mickey Savage who says:

Nothing good will come of this activity.  It is damaging to the party.  Despite National being in disarray the polls are static.  Labour is not moving upward.  A hint of disarray is the worst thing that a party can show.

And interestingly Cunliffe may now be Shearer’s best chance of survival as Labour Head Office and the Beehive are filled with Robertson supporters. 
This continuous attack on Cunliffe and the current undermining of Shearer show the same techniques being used and suggest strongly that the same “mastermind” is behind this.  In the interests of the party and of the country they should stop. 
MS does not say who this mastermind is, but by process of elimination there can’t be many choices. The Shearer v Cunliffe leadership contest was a fairly friendly good natured affair. I’m not sure a Robertson v Cunliffe contest will be.
In related news, Tracy Watkins at the Dom Post reports:

The Labour leader’s office appears to be in turmoil after David Shearer’s chief of staff abruptly left Wellington.

Former Labour MP Stuart Nash, who has been in the job just a few months, was seen leaving Parliament yesterday after a meeting with Mr Shearer’s incoming chief of staff Alistair Cameron. He later confirmed that he would be working on projects from his home in Napier for the next couple of weeks. He is due to finish on May 31.

Mr Nash rejected suggestions he had been “frogmarched” out of the building or given orders to clear his desk but his abrupt departure coincides with rising conflict in the Labour Party over Mr Shearer’s continued poor polling and lack of a clear strategy.

It is highly unusual for there not to be a cross-over period, and for one COS to leave before the next one starts – especially if the outgoing one has no job to go to.

Some of that conflict has been laid bare in leaks to a Right-wing blog that could only have come from either senior MPs or highly placed members of the leadership team.

Or both :-)

UPDATE: And by coincidence David Cunliffe has a column in the Herald on how NZ needs better leadership.

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Trotter on Crafar sale

February 3rd, 2012 at 12:04 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes at Stuff:

At the risk of being branded a “traitor”, I’m declaring my support for the Crafar farms sale. Not because I like seeing productive New Zealand farmland pass into the hands of foreigners, I don’t.

The reason I’m in favour is because I believe New Zealanders should keep their promises and fulfil their undertakings.

In 2008, this country ratified a free-trade agreement with the People’s Republic of China. It was hailed as the most important foreign policy and trade achievement of the 1999-2008 Helen Clark-led government. Not only was it the first such agreement to be signed between China and a Western-style democracy, but it also offered New Zealand businesses immense economic opportunities. …

It was all the more perplexing, then, to hear Opposition leader David Shearer declaring his and the Labour Party’s opposition to the sale. It’s simply inconceivable that Mr Shearer is unaware of the MFN prohibition against denying China the same right to buy land as the nations that bought upwards of 650,000 hectares of our national patrimony exercised when Helen Clark was Prime Minister, and Mr Shearer’s friend (and former boss) Phil Goff was the Minister of Trade.

To avoid the inevitable charges of rank hypocrisy and populist opportunism, Mr Shearer needed to accompany his statement opposing the sale with an announcement that Labour was committed, immediately on regaining office, to repudiating the New Zealand-China FTA and tightening up the legislation regulating overseas investment.

I’m still waiting for those other shoes to drop. And, frankly, I think I’ll go on waiting. Why? Because I simply don’t believe Labour is about to abandon its long-standing commitment to free trade. Nor am I confident Mr Shearer is any more willing to court the fury and retaliatory trade restrictions of the Chinese government than Mr Key. Both are well aware that this country’s future prosperity is inextricably bound up with China’s.

I actually see the deal as an exciting one. A partnership between Shanghai Pengxin and Landcorp has huge potential opportunities. The combination of their market contacts and capital, and our land and expertise could be golden.

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Squashed

January 18th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Despite the considerable union influence within his party and calls for him to offer support to Maritime Union members, new Labour leader David Shearer has kept quiet on the matter.

Yesterday Labour industrial relations spokeswoman Darien Fenton, who has been spotted on the picket line at the port, said her party was not taking sides in the dispute.

“We’ve been hoping that the parties will settle this, that they’ll find a way through this.”

You’ve been on the picket line, and now you’re saying you’re not taking sides? I think someone has squashed Darien.

Ms Fenton said Mr Shearer had been in regular touch with both sides, “and he’s in contact with me and we’re all discussing it regularly”.

“Our strong view at this point is it’s not helpful for politicians to get involved.”

Apart from being on the picket line?

I suspect that strong view is Mr Shearer’s.

Chris Trotter did an open letter to Shearer yesterday urging him to wade in:

Ultimately, isn’t it about answering the question: “Who is strong enough to stop the stone-throwers?” The men and women who formed the Labour Party in 1916 decided that the answer to that question was the State. If the State could be made to stop working for those who already exercised power, and began instead to work for those who were powerless, then a political party seeking to put an end to poverty, war and injustice would have a fighting chance.
Labour was formed to create a State that wasn’t neutral; a state that never stood on the side-lines when working people were being threatened and abused. Labour was about intervention: constant, massive, intelligent and creative intervention on behalf of the weak and against the strong.
It’s time to bid farewell to the white sands and the Pohutukawa blossoms, Mr Shearer, and come on down to the Auckland wharves. It’s time to cast aside the gathered cloaks of a spurious and culpable “neutrality” and place yourself and your party between the stone-throwers and their victims. It’s time to end the silence.
Chris writes beautifully, and his wonderfully penned missive almost had me wanting to rush down to the picket line. But the reality is that this is not a romantic battle between the forces of oppression and victims of oppression.
Shearer has made the right call staying out of it. If he rushed in, he would look like a puppet, not a principled politician.
And I’m not sure defending the right of people to be paid for 43 hours but only work 28 hours, is quite the same as being against the stoning of Christian martyrs, or seeing starving kids in the Sudan scrabbling over scraps of food.
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Trotter calls for Shearer/Cunliffe ticket

December 9th, 2011 at 9:28 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

Now Mr Shearer was a serious contender, but his new front-runner status came at a price. Like David Lange before him, he was no longer his own man. Labour’s spent forces, the MPs epitomised by the politically exhausted figure of Trevor Mallard, were now wrapped around Mr Shearer like supplejack around a totara. And they were clinging to him for only one reason: survival. Their arch-enemy, Mr Cunliffe, had long ago read their use-by dates. That’s why the ABCs couldn’t allow him to win.

But, if Mr Cunliffe cannot defeat Mr Shearer, he can, at least, defeat Mr Shearer’s backers. A rejuvenated, restructured, or, to borrow Labour stalwart Jordan Carter’s term, “refounded” Labour Party cannot be created by a glove-puppet.

Glove-puppet is too harsh a term, but Trotter is right that there is concern that Shearer with his relative inexperience and less alpha male personality could become the front guy for basically the same old group of MPs who entered Parliament under the 4th Labour Government and should have no part in the 6th Labour Government.

If Mr Cunliffe cannot beat Mr Shearer, then he should, over the next 72 hours, think very seriously about joining him. It’s not too late for the best qualified candidate to contact the most popular candidate; set up a meeting; and make a deal. Mr Key and Mr English did it – why not Mr Shearer and Mr Cunliffe?

Together, they’ve more than enough strength to tear off and make a bonfire of all that parasitic caucus supplejack. Together, they could bend the arc of history towards a Labour victory. Together, a new power curve could hurl their fighters skywards heading for the National fleet.

Cunliffe has gone out of his way to say that Shearer would be on his front bench, but Shearer won’t make the same commitment (on the basis he won’t commit to anyone). However media reports have made it pretty clear that the intention is if he wins, that Parker is Finance Spokesperson and Robertson Deputy, hence demoting Cunliffe. I think this would be a mistake.

I’m not saying that if Shearer wins that Cunliffe should be his Deputy. But I am saying he should at a minimum keep him on as Finance Spokesperson and have him part of the inner team. They would be a good combination.

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Trotter calls for an end to unions joining Labour

December 3rd, 2011 at 10:58 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

WHAT MUST LABOUR DO to be welcomed back by ordinary Kiwis? What are the things it has to find, and what must it lose?
The first thing it has to lose is trade union affiliation. The big private sector unions still associated with the Labour Party: the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) and the Service and Food Workers Union; must be cut loose – and soon.
I write those words with a heavy heart, because it was the affiliated union vote that elected me to the New Zealand Council of the Labour Party way back in 1987. In those grim years unionists were the backbone of the opposition to Rogernomics. They kept the flame of the true Labour faith flickering through the party’s darkest days. And it was the block-votes of the trade union affiliates which kept Helen Clark’s political machine ticking over so reliably for the 15 long years it controlled the party.
Even so, it’s time for them to go.
Many people do not realise that several unions do not just support Labour by way of donating money and staff time, but are in fact members of the Labour Party, with significant powers. I am of the view that political parties should only have natural persons as members, and all members should have equal voting strength. This is normally referred to as “one person, one vote”.
National does not allow businesses (or associations of businesses) to join the National Party, to vote at conferences, to help rank the party list and to vote at candidate selections. There would be outrage if (for example) the Auckland Chamber of Commerce got to vote on who should be National’s candidate for (eg) Tamaki or Pakuranga. And could you imagine the outcry if National had a representative from Business NZ sitting on its list ranking committee.
But the days when unions constituted a genuinely representative social, economic and political force are long gone – and with their democratic credentials has gone the rationale for the role they continue to play in the Labour Party. In the private sector workforce barely one worker in ten is unionised. The constitution of the public sector-dominated Council of Trade Unions swept away the democratic traditions which had animated the local trades councils and concentrated all power in the hands of a gaggle of union officials at the very summit of the organisation.
What’s more, the “electorate” responsible for electing these top officials has shrunk alarmingly. In more and more unions leaders are elected not by a postal ballot of the rank-and-file, but by a few score of hand-picked delegates at the union’s annual conference. What were formerly the powerhouses of working-class democracy; and the generators of workers’ power; have become self-selecting oligarchies, against which all dissent crashes and burns.
The Labour Party rules give significant power to unions that join Labour. There are five unions that have affiliated and they have 75,719 members between them. Their voting strength is based on what percentage of their members voted to affiliate. This info is not public but let us assume it is 75% on average which gives them 55,000 notional members.
Those 55,000 notional members are divided up amongst the 70 electorates based on the Labour Party vote (ie if an electorate gets 2% of the overall Labour Party vote, then the union voting strength in that electorate is 2% of 55,000 or 1,100 notional members. On average 55,000/70 is 785 members per electorate. As you can imagine, this is vastly more than the actual number of individual members. Based on current union numbers and assuming a 75% voting strength, the average electorate committee would have unions entitled to 14 delegates on the LEC – EPMU 6, SWFU 4, DWU 2, RMU 1, MU 1. The maximum size of an LEC is 30 members so at an electorate level unions can easily dominate should they wish to.
At the annual conference which sets policy, unions get 3 votes for the first 1,000 members and then 1 vote per member after that. So based on 55,000 notional members they get 115 votes. Certainly not a majority, but still a very significant bloc.  It is equal to around 29 electorates.
In terms of selection meetings, unions have multiple routes of influence. If they dominate the LEC, they can get two of their own elected to the selection committee. They can also get any of their members who live in the electorate to attend the selection meeting and vote for one of their own from the floor to join the selection committee. And they can also dominate the floor vote for preferred candidate, which counts as one of seven votes on the committee.
The affiliate unions also have significant representation on regional list ranking conferences.
If Labour wants to do the working-class a big favour it will purge its party of these oligarchs and welcome workers into the party as ordinary rank-and-file members. Who knows, if enough of them join up, they might even be able to persuade Labour’s MPs (including those who owe their positions on the Party List to the machinations of the Affiliates Council’s wise old heads) to rebuild New Zealand’s trade unions to Twenty-First Century specifications – most particularly by requiring them to operate, from bottom to top, as inclusive, transparent and recognisably democratic institutions.
This is the democratic way to do it. Don’t give union bosses card votes where they can outvote individual members. Don’t allow someone to turn up to and vote at a selection meeting who has never participated in the Labour Party previously. Unions can and should encourage their members to join and get involved in Labour, but the unions themselves should not get rights of representation in a modern democratic party. I strongly believe that only natural persons should be eligible to join a political party – not unions and businesses.
Almost everyone in Labour is saying they are unhappy with the 2011 list ranking, where some of their more talented new MPs were given lower rankings than other MPs with union support and backgrounds. Will anyone in Labour be bold enough to agree with Chris Trotter and call for reform of their candidate selection and ranking rules?
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Trotter on Mana

October 11th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter blogs:

For a while there it looked as though the Mana Party just might turn into something worthwhile – a second chance for all those who were dismayed to see the Alliance crash and burn over Afghanistan back in 2001-2002.

But, no. Mana’s announcement that Kereama Pene, a minister of the Ratana Church, is to contest the Tamaki Makaurau seat has put an end to all that.
Mr Pene is a flamboyant character who has, at one time or another, been a supporter of the Mana Motuhake, Labour, Destiny and Maori parties. He is also on record as saying the Prime Minister, John Key, is “ a person who should be admired”.
Not content with singing the Prime Minister’s praises, Mr Pene has also publicly declared that: “National is actually the group that have done most of the great things for Maoridom over the past 20 years.” Identifying (erroneously) the Treaty Settlements Process, the Waitangi Tribunal and the Kohanga Reo Movement as National Party achievements, Mana’s Tamaki Makaurau candidate told the NZ Herald: “You’ve got to give praise where its due.”
These statements show Mr Pene to be, at best, a dangerously naive political novice, or, at worst, a ticking time-bomb, guaranteed to explode at the worst possible moment. His remarks have deeply compromised the Mana Party at a time when political journalists are already discussing its lack of momentum, and its failure to capitalise on Leader Hone Harawira’s success in retaining the Te Tai Tokerau seat. …
Too late now. Mr Pene’s selection is proof positive that not only is Mana’s talent pool woefully shallow – so, too, is its political judgement.
I almost hope that Mana gets more than one MP into Parliament so we can see them start to infight.
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