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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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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Trotter on Labour Auslanders

October 4th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter blogs:

YOU JUST DON’T GET IT, do you Labour? You don’t understand, even now, what National’s done to you? Well, let me tell you. They have transformed you into auslander – foreigners, aliens, exiles in your own country. You’ve been excluded from the ranks of “the people”. You’ve been pushed outside the circle, beyond the Pale. You no longer belong among “us” – you belong with “them”.
And you’ve no one to blame but yourselves.
Labour will no doubt dismiss Chris’ views as a member of the VRWNLLWC.
Key’s message was simple: “It doesn’t matter where you were born, or what you parents did: you can and should aspire to a better life. National has no intention of molly-coddling you. Unlike Labour, we don’t regard you as suitable cases for treatment – but as sovereign individuals. What does that mean? It means you must take responsibility for your failures, but, equally, you have the right to enjoy the full fruits of your successes. National isn’t offering to carry you – you’re not children. But, we are offering to clear away all unnecessary obstacles from your path. Labour needs you as weak and pathetic victims; desperate for, and dependent on, the state’s largesse. National says: ‘Stand up. Be strong. Make your own future!’”
It was a potent message. Because Key was offering working-class Kiwis nothing less than the opportunity to stand alongside National’s rich and powerful supporters and be counted among the “real” New Zealanders. These are the New Zealanders who don’t rely on other people’s taxes to pay their bills. The New Zealanders who try, fail, try again – and succeed. The New Zealanders who believe that with guts and determination they, and just about anybody, can and will – “make it”
If you believed in these things, then you could stand among John’s people. If you didn’t – you couldn’t.
If you rejected the values of rugged individualism. If you placed your faith in the largesse of the state. If you looked upon the labour and laughter of ordinary people with “cold dead alien eyes”, and regarded them as “suitable cases for treatment”, then you weren’t one of “us”, you were one of “them”. Something odd. Something foreign. Something unconnected. Something incapable of attracting more than 30 percent of the popular vote. Something from somewhere else.
I can see that term catching on.
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Trotter on National and Labour

September 27th, 2011 at 1:07 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes at Stuff:

They weren’t the most important events of the past week. In fact, in a world racked by economic crisis and intractable conflict, they weren’t important at all.

But, as is so often the case with small, seemingly trivial events, they were highly instructive. They told us why John Key’s National Party will have to work very hard to lose the forthcoming election, and why – barring a miracle – Labour hasn’t the slightest chance of winning it.

So what is Chris referring to?

The first event involved a visit by the Prime Minister to Canterbury University.  …

Except for the sign that fourth-year mechanical engineering students had stuck to the “Mech Suite” window overlooking the PM’s arrival-point.

“John, mate,” read the sign, “come up for a yarn with your country’s future engineers.”

The Prime Minister spotted the sign and, yep, you guessed it, to the whoops and hollers of the (mostly male) students he came up.

But wait, there’s more. Not only did the PM come up, but he also agreed to match one of his larger and more terrifying DPS bodyguards against the students’ massive arm-wrestling champion, “Mad Dog”. …

What matters is that a) John Key was up for it, and carried it off with considerable aplomb. And b) The whole event is now available to the electorate via the internet. Just three days after it was first posted, more than 13,000 people had watched the YouTube clip.

Which is quite a lot for a 10 minute video.

And the other event?

In a posting headed “Bill English Funds Bryce Edwards”, the Labour caucus’ chief election strategist, Trevor Mallard, launched a vicious attack on the young Otago University academic Dr Bryce Edwards for his, at times, highly critical assessments of the Labour Opposition’s performance. …

It is difficult to know where to begin with this outburst.

That it was made by the caucus’s chief strategist raises a whole host of questions about the nature of the election campaign Labour is intending to run.

Does Phil Goff sanction this stuff? We can only hope that he does not endorse the sort of crude ad hominem arguments featured in Mallard’s posting.

We must hope, too, that Labour’s appeal to the electorate is fuelled by emotions considerably less disreputable than the petty spitefulness and partisan hostility which it displays.

To be fair, it is not all in Labour who act like this. But they sit back and enable it by having Mallard as their “chief strategist”.

And this is how they act in Opposition. It is worse when they are in Government, when they can actually use the powers of office to strike back at those who dare criticise.

Trotter concludes:

All elections have a “tone”: a mode of address to the voting public which (largely unconsciously) “cues” their response to the competing parties.

If we compare and contrast the tone of the YouTube clip of the PM’s visit to the Mech Suite, with the tone of Mallard’s Red Alert posting, picking the election result becomes a cinch. Sometimes, little things generate big consequences.

I recall Chris wearing a red Labour rosette in the lead up to the last election. Now Labour probably dismiss him as a member of the VRWNLLWC.

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Trotter on Broadcasting/Media

September 26th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter, in a thread at Red Alert, proposes a media policy for Labour, being:

1) Establishes an hypothocated Broadcasting Fund large enough to sustain an independent, publicly-owned, free-to-air television and radio network, with statutory obligations to deliver quality, locally-produced content to all New Zealanders.

I actually am reasonably supportive of this aim. We currently pour $230 million a year into public broadcasting, and a BBC-style broadcaster could be affordable with that money. However the challenge is to stop it becoming a mouth-piece for the left, as so many public broadcasters do. As they are taxpayer funded, they have an incentive to support parties that wish to increase taxes.

The idea of a dedicated fund, so it is not directly taxpayer funded has some merit. What I would do is sell off TVNZ entirely, and use the proceeds from it to establish such a fund.

2) Prohibits the cross-ownership of media platforms (i.e. a newspaper cannot also own a radio station, or a television network – and vice-versa).

3) Restricts the private ownership of the news media to New Zealand citizens – who will be barred from owning more than a single media outlet (i.e. one newspaper, one radio station, one TV station).

When you take these two together, it would kill off almost every newspaper in NZ. Making money out of a newspaper is getting very difficult. Fairfax and APN manage it because they can share resources and copy. If you implemented Comrade Trotter’s manifesto then I’d say the number of newspapers in New Zealand would shrink to around three or four.

Chris would have every single radio station, newspaper and TV station owned by a different New Zealander. My rough count is we have close to 100 newspapers and 200 radio stations. I suspect many of those would disappear lacking owners willing to risk hundreds of thousands of dollars on them.

4) Creates a Media Complaints Tribunal with wide powers to ensure fairness, balance and accuracy in all forms of media.

Good God. I hate to think. Will it have the power to actually take over news-rooms to ensure “fairness” or just to imprison journalists who do not do what the state tells them is fair?

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Trotter on Urerewa 17

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

A very insightful post by Chris Trotter on what went wrong in the Urewera case.

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Trotter endorses Key for second term

August 20th, 2011 at 1:02 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

It is, perhaps, the greatest achievement of John Key’s first term in government that the breakdown in social cohesion that Rob Campbell feared  and which we have just witnessed on the streets of England  has not taken place on our own.

For this the prime minister merits high praise.

What kept us together was his inspired decision to bring the Maori Party into his government. Had he not done so: had he simply relied on National’s natural allies in ACT; things could have been very different. The Maori seats, for example, would have been slated for abolition. This move, alone, threatening as it did the very existence of the Maori Party (and leaving them with dangerously little to lose) would have tested New Zealand’s social cohesion to breaking-point. Serious political disturbances  up to and including terrorist violence  could very easily have torn this country apart.

Simply for sparing us that terrible scenario, Mr Key deserves a second term.

I never thought I would see the day where Chris Trotter endorsed a National Prime Minister for re-election.

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Trotter on Labour

April 6th, 2011 at 9:05 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes at Stuff:

Nature abhors a vacuum – and so does politics. With Labour’s front bench and the party’s ruling council both declining to deal decisively with Phil Goff’s inadequate political leadership, Left-leaning voters have been given a powerful incentive to look elsewhere for progressive representation this November.

Not since the early 1990s has Labour provided its competitors with such a huge opportunity to enlarge their electoral support base. …

So long as Labour demonstrates both an appetite for power and the means to attain it, a solid majority of Left-leaning voters will remain in its camp. In such circumstances, Labour’s potential allies, the Greens and NZ First, must be content to trawl for votes at the political margins – scrabbling for the 10-15 per cent of the electorate whose electoral needs Labour cannot, or will not, meet.

But the events of the past fortnight suggest that Labour possesses neither the appetite nor the means for winning power. On the contrary, its caucus and council appear quite blind to their party’s growing leadership deficit. With electoral defeat now regarded as inevitable, the No 1 priority of Labour’s front bench is how to emerge from the post-election bloodletting at the head of the pack.

Trotter is right, that this is a great opportunity for the Greens especially.

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Trotter on New Left Party

February 5th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter is very sceptical of a new left party:

No, the people I worried about (and I was not alone) were the 50 to 60 Trotskyites, Maoists, “Permanent Revolutionaries”, Treaty fanatics, hard-core feminists and uncompromising environmentalists who would climb aboard this new political vehicle like Baader-Meinhof terrorists boarding a jet-liner.

Chris is referring to the founding of the New Labour Party.

A crucial element in the success of Jim Anderton (ex-Labour) and Winston Peters (ex-National) was the large number of experienced election campaigners who rallied to their side. These people didn’t have to be taught how to fund-raise, organise a canvassing drive or run an election-day system – they already knew.

“No worries,” say the promoters of a New Left Party, “we’ll just game the MMP system by recruiting Hone Harawira. That way we can avoid the necessity of winning 5 per cent of the party vote. If it’s good enough for Rodney Hide in Epsom, it’s good enough for us.”

Hmmmm? Not sure that’s the slogan you’re looking for, Comrades. Besides, if you really think an electorally poisonous bunch of eco-anarchists, Maori nationalists, unreconstructed 80s feminists and hard-core Marxist-Leninists are going to attract anything like ACT’s vote in 2008, then you’re away with the fairies.

However they will have McCarten, who is a very good organiser.

Just consider the stats: The combined 2008 vote of New Zealand’s Centre-Left parties (Labour Party, Greens, Progressives) was 975,734 or 41.62 per cent of the party vote. Altogether, the Far-Left parties (Alliance, Workers Party, RAM – Residents Action Movement) attracted just 3306 votes or 0.14 per cent.

It’s nowhere near enough, Comrades. Even if he won every vote in Te Tai Tokerau, Hone would still be on his own.

I think Chris overlooks one key thing. The number of activists on the left who are dismayed by Goff-led Labour.

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Whale interviews Trotter

January 23rd, 2011 at 11:42 am by David Farrar

An interesting interview with Chris Trotter by Whale Oil.

His thoughts on Labour are especially insightful:

On Labours “Get John Key” campaign:

“Com­pletely mis­taken, did not read the man at all well”

“One sus­pects that they despair of find­ing some other way through.”

On how mod­ern Labour can become more appealing:

“It does very well when it plays to the best, in New Zealan­ders, when it booths artic­u­lates and asks peo­ple to respond to the bright side rather than the dark side of the NZ way of doing things.”

“When they find some­one who can artic­u­late them, as they did with Michael Joseph Sav­age  as they did with Nor­man Kirk, as they cer­tainly did with David Lange, then they are very hard to beat, but if those two things are lack­ing, if they lack some­one who is able to artic­u­late that appeal to New Zealand’s bet­ter angels, to bor­row Abra­ham Lincoln’s famous phrase and if they aren’t dri­ven in a sense by adverse eco­nomic winds then Labour does find it dif­fi­cult his­tor­i­cally to win.”

On Phil Goff:

“He hasn’t demon­strated to date, either the rhetor­i­cal skills nec­es­sary to make that appeal, and cer­tainly to date he hasn’t been able to emote in a way that New Zealan­ders can believe.”

On Labour entic­ing bet­ter candidates:

[They need] “life expe­ri­ence which you cer­tainly don’t get in any great breadth on the ninth floor of the beehive”


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Trotter on Key

December 29th, 2010 at 12:56 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter examines John Key:

John Key’s greatest political gift is his levity. Which is not to say that the Prime Minister is inappropriately frivolous or comical – although he does have a politically endearing talent for self- deprecating humour. The word’s original meaning was “lightness”, and it is in this sense that I am using it.

In many countries Key’s light touch would not be regarded as an asset. When politicians become prime ministers or presidents in these much older societies they are expected to put on political weight, and to evince at all times a judicious seriousness. In short, they are expected to display gravitas, not levitas.

New Zealanders are more than a little ambivalent on the subject of levitas versus gravitas. On the one hand, we do not expect our leaders to embarrass us on the world stage. On the other, we don’t like leaders who put on too many airs and graces or talk down to us.

Many journalists have remarked that when Key became PM, they thought it was inevitable his behaviour would change – that he might stop answering certain queestions because they were beneath him, might start talking in the third person etc etc – but as most would testify he treats people and media much the same today as when he was Opposition Leader.

Key is certainly a very wealthy man, but that fact alone does not condemn him in the eyes of most New Zealanders. After all, he did not inherit his money – he made it himself, by deploying the skills he was born with to their best effect. Indeed, the Prime Minister’s humble background; the fact that he and his sisters were raised in a state house by their widowed mother; only serves to reinforce his fellow citizen’s confidence in the universal attainability of the New Zealand dream.

A large pile of cash in the bank does, of course, possess the power to levitate just about anyone up, up and away from the daily drudgery of earning a living. For many people, however, the levity money confers can be personally devastating. It either breeds a sneering sense of superiority, or crippling feelings of guilt and/or obligation.

But, Key’s public conduct reflects neither of these classic responses.

His wealth does not appear to have had any malign effect upon him. Miraculously, he has risen above even this.

Hence why Michael Cullen never got much resonance with his rich prick comments.

The Prime Minister is not a connoisseur of fine art. He doesn’t attend the opera. He has penned no books, made no scientific breakthroughs, climbed no mountains, written no songs.

He does not mix with artists or intellectuals, nor does he espouse with any noticeable fervour the grand, all-encompassing ideologies and religions of mankind.

He is, however, a husband and a dad with two teenage kids. He does like to watch the rugby. He turns a mean steak on the family barbecue, and he drinks his beer straight from the bottle – just like hundreds of thousands of ordinary Kiwi blokes.

And more to the point when he does, it looks natural – not some desperate PR plot to make him look like a man of the people.

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Trotter on Mana

November 24th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

Analysing last weekend’s Mana by-election results, I’m wondering if we might be witnessing another seminal political moment. Like the 1972 general election, it is possible that the closely- fought Mana contest holds some crucially important lessons for the major parties.

At the most superficial level, the result was a clear moral triumph for the Government and its very effective candidate, Hekia Parata. In a country only slowly emerging from recession, in an Opposition- held electorate perfectly positioned to send the Government “a message”, it almost beggars belief that the by-election campaign ended with a 14 per cent swing towards the governing party.

A moral triumph indeed. Heh it reminds me of the caption that my brother’s rugby team had on their team photo. It was “Played 15, Won 11, Moral Victories 4” :-)

Indeed, without radical Left-wing trade unionist Matt McCarten’s last-minute entry to the by-election race, it is entirely possible Parata would have won the seat.

Umm, that is an unusual interpretation.

His challenge to Labour was to give on-the-ground, practical expression to the progressive policy ideas announced at its annual conference by campaigning – as he did – on low wages, inadequate housing and the urgent need for job creation.

Labour’s candidate, the woefully inexperienced television journalist Kris Fa’afoi, wasn’t equal to that challenge, but McCarten’s sudden intervention was sufficiently worrying for the Labour hierarchy to pour everything it had into the Mana campaign.

It was this massive intervention that ensured Fa’afoi’s victory – albeit with a sharply reduced share of the popular vote.

I think Labour were always going to pour everything into the campaign, but McCarten’s candidacy may have cemented that.

To the cynical observer, McCarten’s 3.6 per cent share of the Mana vote might seem derisory. But then, so did the 2 per cent share won by Values in 1972. Besides, there are moments in politics when, as Key told Parata’s jubilant supporters on Saturday night, “losing is winning”.

Hopefully Labour’s “got the message” McCarten was sending it throughout the campaign. That, if it is to successfully counter Key’s (obviously still effective) appeal to aspirational Kiwis, it has to maintain the sort of on-the-street presence for which McCarten and his radical Unite union are justifiably famous, and which, ultimately, is all that rescued Fa’afoi from catastrophic defeat.

But, even more important than getting Labour out on the street, McCarten’s candidacy – like Values’ campaign in 1972 – should remind Labour that getting people to vote is only half the battle; the other half is giving them something to vote for.

What you mean no GST on fruit and veges is not enough?

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Endorsements for Parata

November 13th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

On The Nation this morning they reported that there is a real split in the Pacific Island vote in Mana, which has traditionally been very strong Labour. They interviewed Liz Tanielu the head of the Teaaomanino Trust which is the biggest pacific island service provider in the region. She says she traditionally votes Labour but that Faafoi is an outsider, and she is angry they could not find a single local to stand, while Hekia has been active for some years in the electorate and “walks the talk”, and that the by-election should not be a party vote but a vote on who will be the best MP.

Then they had on Api Malu, who was representing 40 pacific island church ministers. He says they are looking for people who have worked with them, and that Hekia Parata has impressed a lot of people, and the leadership with what she has done.

Also on the show, Tariana Turia endorsed both Hekia Parata and Matt McCarten as candidates who would make effective MP for Mana.

By coincidence in the Dom Post this morning, Porirua Deputy Mayor Liz Kelly also endorsed Hekia:

Porirua Deputy Mayor Liz Kelly has backed National Party candidate Hekia Parata to win the Mana by-election.

Her prediction will cause ripples as Labour’s Kris Faafoi has been favoured to take the seat, which is viewed as one of Labour’s safest. The party has always polled strongly in the Pacific Island and Maori communities.

Local leaders suggested yesterday that Mr Faafoi’s lack of experience is seen as a drawback.

Ms Kelly, an independent councillor, said Ms Parata’s work in the electorate had not gone unnoticed. “The feedback I’m getting is that Hekia is very popular … There is a lot of support because she’s been working the whole time.”

Mr Faafoi was a “nice guy” but “there’s no history” with the electorate and some voters resented that.

And a local community leader:

Samoan community leader Paula Masoe said Ms Parata had won over a lot of Pasifika supporters. “She’s a hard worker and we respect people who work hard for our community. I’m really happy that someone like Kris put their hand up. But it’s not time for him yet. I don’t want the sweat of our people to be put on someone who’s not ready yet.” …

Experience was valued in the Pacific Island community, she said. “It’s not about having someone who is Pacific Island there, you’ve got to have somebody who is able to carry the huge responsibility and he probably will. But not yet.”

There was a “strong feeling” among local voters that Mr Faafoi was imposed on the community by the parliamentary Labour Party.

“Labour needs to look at themselves because we don’t want to be treated like the poor relations. When they look at putting someone in to speak up for us I’d like to think that they’ve considered a whole lot of other people of our community that have been involved in Labour.

And also in the Dom Post, Chris Trotter effectively endorses Matt McCarten in his weekly column:

I asked Matt if he’d heard of Slavoj Zizek – the Slovenian socialist currently setting the cat of principle among the fat, pragmatic pigeons of the European Left.

“I’m busy, Chris,” he chuckled, “of course I haven’t.” “Well, Matt”, I replied, “Zizek is challenging Europe’s social democrats to stop looking over their shoulder at the European Central Bank; to govern “as if they were free”.

“Maybe that’s what you should ask the Mana electors, Matt. To stop looking over their shoulder at Labour. Could be your slogan: ‘Vote – as if you were free’.”

And in the NZ Herald, Audrey Young says Parata should be promoted to the Ministry:

Pansy Wong’s resignation from the Cabinet a week before the Mana byelection presents Prime Minister John Key with a golden opportunity.

He has the chance to add fresh blood to his ministry without the usual resentments around reshuffles and a chance to show Mana the calibre of National’s Hekia Parata. …

promoting Parata before a byelection – even to a minister outside Cabinet – would tell the Mana electorate something of the calibre of the National candidate.

It is clear that some traditional Pacific Island Labour voters are saying they people should vote for the best MP, not for the party. They are right – this is how MMP works.

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Trotter on The Hobbit

October 27th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

How did a tiny union’s attempt to improve the lot of its members end up convulsing the entire nation?

Oh that is easy. The second they called for, and got, a global boycott of The Hobbit.

The left time after time after time ignore this rather salient point. They talk just about wanting to negotiate.

A global boycott of a film is the nuclear bomb of industrial negotiations. If you use it, then it causes massive damage.

What NZ Actors’ Equity tried to do here would scarcely have rated a mention in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland or Australia. Actors, film technicians, specialists of every kind in those countries negotiate with the big film studios all the time.

Again, Chris entirely misses the point. Negotiations are common – global boycotts are rare. And even worse, the global boycott was instituted based on a demand that was illegal for the producers to agree to.

Only recently, Irish film- makers successfully concluded an industry-wide collective agreement. Ireland, you’ll recall, was identified by Sir Peter Jackson’s people as one of the places to which location shooting for The Hobbit might be shifted.


Why would you shift location filming to a country that already has an industry- wide collective agreement because workers in your own country were attempting to negotiate something very similar for themselves?

It doesn’t make sense.

It does make sense. Chris needs to talk to people in the industry – as I have.

Warners and he like are fairly relaxed about whether a country’s film industry is unionised or non-unionised. Under both these scenarios, they can calculate the cost of doing business.

What they don’t want to be anywhere near, is a country which is non unionised, and a union is trying to unionise the entire acting industry (despite miniscule membership), and wants to use your film as the vehicle for doing so.

This is not rocket science.

Unless the entire controversy has been manufactured; unless all that we have witnessed since September 28, when Sir Peter Jackson launched a very public broadside against the actors’ union, is a cleverly spun fiction. A tale replete with noble hero (Sir Peter) and evil villains (the unions) designed to exculpate its authors from any and all blame for taking The Hobbit offshore.

Chris ignores the obvious answer, which I supplied, and which he could get by talking to any producer. Instead he turns to conspiracy theories.

Also happy will be that permanent combination of anti-union interests. Thanks to The Hobbit controversy, the CTU’s “Fairness at Work” campaign lies dead in the water.

Not thanks to The Hobbit. Thanks to Helen Kelly who disastrously changed the focus from  Simon Whipp to the CTU. Bad enough she became the de facto spokesperson for the union, but she then personally insulted Peter Jackson.

I especially enjoyed the irony of Sir Richard Taylor’s Weta Workshops-organised “Save The Hobbit” rallies on – of all days – Labour Day.

The irony was wonderful but again Chris is wrong. They were not organised by Weta Workshop. They were organised by an Auckland actor – D Mark Harrison, on his own initiative.

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Trotter on drinking age

August 27th, 2010 at 4:08 pm by David Farrar

An excellent column by Chris Trotter:

THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE DEBATE on “What should we do about our drinking problem?” one very important issue has been consistently overlooked.

The constitutional, political and moral objections to “down-sizing” the rights of 18 to 20-year-olds.

Eighteen and nineteen-year-olds have the right to vote in local and general elections, perform jury service, join the armed forces, make a will, sign a contract, and purchase alcohol. …

When it comes to the other rights, responsibilities and duties of citizenship, however, 18 and 19-year-old New Zealanders are legally recognised as responsible adults.

This raises a couple of very serious question. Having admitted 18 and 19-year-olds to the ranks of adult New Zealanders, is it constitutionally, politically and morally justifiable to cast them back into the ranks of non-adults when it comes to purchasing alcohol?
That is the correct way to look at it. Can one justify stripping a right of adulthood from 18 and 19 year olds?
How can prohibiting their participation in a social activity in which all other New Zealand adults are free to engage without legal sanction possibly be right?

I would argue that it is neither right nor justifiable. Once specific political and social rights (like the right to vote or the right to purchase alcohol) have been given to a group of citizens they cannot be taken back without placing the rights of every other citizen in jeopardy.

Were the White Americans living in the Deep South justified in stripping their Black neighbours of their civil and political rights in the latter half of the 19th Century? Did the Nazi Government of Germany have the right to strip German Jews of their citizenship in the 1930s?

Both of these cases involved the persecution of a politically friendless minority whose morals, capabilities and behaviour were openly despised and derided by the majority.
While some of the comparisons used by Chris are extreme, he has hit on a key principle – you do not strip a minority of their rights.
It dismays me that so many MPs are saying they will decide this issue, based on the majority opinion of their electorate. It is an unprincipled cop out. As very few voters are still aged 18 and 19, of course the majority will say without hestitation they should lose the right to purchase alcohol. But MPs have a role to protect the rights of the minority.

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Trotter endorses Cunliffe

August 11th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

Is it possible that Chris Carter is right? Would Labour have a better chance of winning the next election under a new leader?

Is Phil Goff really the best, or even, as most political commentators emphatically insist, the only option available? And if, as those same commentators contend, Labour cannot win under Goff’s leadership, does that mean Labour cannot win, full stop?

A few days ago I would have conceded (albeit reluctantly) that those commentators were more likely to be proved right than wrong. And I use the word “reluctant” advisedly, because I count myself among Goff’s long-time supporters. As long ago as February 2008 I was urging the Labour caucus to persuade Helen Clark to step aside in favour of her defence minister.

But now Chris says:

Everything we have seen since the 2008 election points to a deadlocked Labour caucus in which no one faction possesses the numbers – or leadership – to give either the party, or the country, the clear new direction it so desperately needs.

There’s only two ways that Labour’s factions can resolve this impasse: the first is to wage a long and bitter war of attrition and agree to follow the last politician left standing; or to swallow their pride and, ignoring the factions, elect as leader the person best equipped both intellectually and presentationally to lead them to victory in 2008.

Last Saturday morning, on TV3’s The Nation, David Cunliffe demonstrated conclusively that he is that person. Articulate, good- humoured, open to new ideas and smart enough to turn them into credible policy, Cunliffe looked every inch the leader Labour needs to win.

The conventionally wise insist that he lacks sufficient allies to mount a successful challenge. But, from the perspective of Labour’s deadlocked caucus, Cunliffe’s absence of factional baggage may yet prove to be his most telling political advantage.

I blogged a month or two ago that I believe David Cunliffe will be the next leader, because he s acceptable to all factions. One Labour person somewhat unkindly (but perhaps accurately) said he is no one’s first choice, but everyone’s second choice.

However I still stand by my prediction, that Goff will remain leader until after the 2011 election.

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Trotter on Tuhoe

August 7th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

An armed band of about 150 terrorists enters an isolated village in a country torn by civil war.

The men defending the village, accepting the terrorist leader’s assurances that they will not be harmed, surrender their weapons.

One man refuses, telling the terrorist leader: “If I hand over my gun, you will kill me.”

Shots are exchanged, the man falls.

The terrorists then start slaughtering the defenceless villagers – mostly women and children. Forty are killed – many hacked to death with bayonets and axes.

Meanwhile, outside the village, local farming families are also being attacked and killed.

About a dozen men, women and children are murdered: some bayoneted; some shot in the back as they fled. Their homesteads are looted and set alight.

Having completed their grisly raid, the terrorists take refuge in the nearby mountains.

What would be your best guess as to what happens next?

If you said a small army made up of professional soldiers and local volunteers headed into the mountains in pursuit of the terrorists, you would, of course, be correct.

And if the commanders of that small army discovered that the local inhabitants of the mountainous region into which the terrorists had fled were providing them with food, shelter, ammunition and new recruits?

What would your best guess be as to their next move? If you said they’d probably “unleash hell” on the local inhabitants, then, once again, you’d be quite right.

Now, when and where did this terrorist raid take place? Last week in the mountainous border region separating Afghanistan from Pakistan? Not even close.

The incidents I’ve just described took place in and around what is now Te Urewera National Park in April, 1869.

The “terrorists” were Te Kooti’s “Hauhaus”. The village was Mohaka. The local tribe which gave Te Kooti and his men shelter was Tuhoe.

THE Waitangi Tribunal has so far released more than a thousand pages of historical research into the Tuhoe people’s claim to Te Urewera.

But you’ll not find anything on those thousand pages remotely resembling the Mohaka massacre as I have described it.

There is a peculiar reticence on the part of the tribunal’s historians to acknowledge that the war which spilled over into the Tuhoe people’s territory in the 1860s and 70s was a civil war.

Chris, as I understand it, is not saying Tuhoe did not suffer grievous wrongs, and is not saying there should not be a settlement as compensation.

His issue is that the professional historians are not providing the full historical context for what happened.

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More on China incident

June 21st, 2010 at 11:10 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key telephoned the most senior minister in the visiting Chinese delegation to apologise for the scuffle during the arrival of Vice-President Xi Jingping at Parliament.

I can understand why the PM felt it was necessary – because the screaming yelling protester was not just a member of the public, but a leader of a parliamentary party.

But having said that, I don’t think it was appropriate for the PM to apologise. He is not responsible for Norman, and by doing so may confuse the difference between the Government and the Parliament.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has also called for a full report on the incident from his ministry and he would like to see a protocol developed between the Speaker and protesting MPs for future visits.

This I think is a very good idea. The right to protest must be protected, but this doesn’t mean you allow protesters to get within a couple of metres of visiting VIPs – even if an MP.

If Norman had not been advancing on the Vice-President, this incident probably would not have happened. As a contrast Chris Trotter remembers Rod Donald:

My abiding memory of this remarkable man – my friend – Rod Donald, will be of him standing alone at the foot of the parliamentary steps, his face a mixture of sadness and defiance, holding up the forbidden Tibetan flag. It was a noble protest – and all the more effective for being conducted not by some raggle-taggle band of New Age anarchists, but by a senior Member of Parliament and party leader, dressed proudly and patriotically in his best, New Zealand-made, suit.

No advancing on the Vice-President, no shouting, no scruffling. That is the way to do it if you want to be an MP making a protest.

I am no fan of China’s repression. I think there should be protests when their VIPs visit. If the Greens had organised a Free Tibet protest outside Parliament, I might have even gone along to it.

Now having said that, it is clear that engagement with China is the only sane course of action. Refusing to trade or talk to them would be stupid. The trick is getting the balance of engagement and protest right.  And broadly you expect the Government to engage and civil society to protest. There is a time when Governments also protest – but that tends to be in response to specific events.

UPDATE: Colin Espiner blogs:

I know it’s fashionable to hate the Chinese, and everyone wants a free Tibet.

So much so you’d think they were handing them out in Weetbix packets.

But while I’ll probably get into trouble with the Left for saying this, I’m sorry, but Green Party co-leader Russel Norman was an embarrassment to himself, Parliament, and New Zealand with his protest against the Chinese vice-president’s visit last week. …

When I heard that Norman’s flag had been “trampled” I thought that was a bit on the nose, too, so I took a look at the video.

Strange how none of the many cameras there – both still and TV – managed to capture the so-called attack, or the flag trampling.

What they did capture, though, was an MP behaving in a way that no self-respecting member of Parliament with any dignity should behave.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully support Russel Norman’s right to have his say. This is a free country, unlike China.

But sometimes, I think the RIGHT to free speech and EXERCISING it are confused.

For example, I can walk down the street and tell someone I don’t know that they’re fat. I have that right. But to do so would be impolite and irresponsible.

One of the deals of having freedom is the responsibility that comes with it over how you use it.

A point well made.

If Russel Norman was a private citizen he’d be banned from the steps of Parliament as a protester. He’d be behind the gates further down, where he could yell and scream to his heart’s content.

But he’s not a private citizen. He’s a member of Parliament. An employee and a representative of the people.

That meant Norman got to go right up to the Chinese VP, yell in his face, and wave a flag at him.

Unless the video I saw has been doctored, I saw Norman lunging at the VP and then yelling “give me my flag back” after one of his security guards grabbed it.

Colin makes the same point I have made – it was a long way removed from what Rod Donald did.

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Is Phil phucked?

March 22nd, 2010 at 12:08 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter comments on his blog about the career prospects for Phil Twyford:

His enemies in the EPMU, combined with his possession of a penis (and, increasingly rarely for a Labour MP – a pair of balls) have reduced his chances of securing a solid political base to something approaching zero.

Those same handicaps also put his position on the 2011 Labour List in doubt.

Clearly, being an intelligent and compassionate human-being, with an impeccable background in the voluntary/humanitarian sector, counts for far less in Labour circles than having a few union mates and a vagina.

Now it is tempting to this Chris is being a but harsh, but look at this extraordinary comment on Phil Twyford’s own Facebook page. Twyford said:

My colleague Carmel Sepuloni is the new Labour candidate for Waitakere. My congratulations to her. She will be fantastic going up against Paula Bennett. Commiserations to my fellow nominees Hamish and Ann. I’m very disappointed. I was excited about the chance to take on Bennett. But it was not to be. Good though for Labour to have a robust contested selection.

Very gracious. Then Labour activist Greg Presland left a comment saying:

Commiserations Phil. We have to fine a place for you, There should be another westie seat next time. Altenatively, Northcote and Coleman is the next most marginal Auckland seat. I am sure you could do it.

A reasonable suggestion, especially as Twyford stood on the North Shore last election. But then Twyford’s colleague, Darien Fenton, comments:

Well, Greg, we should have a conversation about Northcote. Other people, including me, have been working hard there.

Good God. Now remember this is on Phil Twyford’s own Facebook page, and he is being warned off Northcote by one of his colleagues who has the two essentials Trotter refers to.

UPDATE: The Herald also asks the same question over Twyford’s future.

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