Are Robertson’s leadership ambitions over?

November 26th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes in the Manawatu Standard:

Half a century ago, Richard Nixon addressed the media after narrowly losing election for governor of California.

The defeat was all the more bitter for Nixon since, just two years earlier, he had missed out in one of the closest presidential elections in history.

Dejected, he assured reporters that they wouldn’t have “Nixon to kick around any more” as he declared the end of his public career.

In just six years, however, Nixon was elected president.

Not sure Grant sees that as a good precedent though!

We should keep this in mind as we consider Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson’s latest disavowal of ambitions to lead the Labour Party.

Having been beaten twice in his quest for the leadership, Robertson says his aspirations are over and that he intends to give the new leader his full support.

We should take Robertson at his word. He has put his name forward to lead Labour twice now – and has lost both times. That would demoralise anyone.

I’m sure Grant is committed to his new role.

Robertson retains a following within the Labour caucus, the permanent bureaucracy and the media. He has been accused of using that platform to destabilise at least the last two leaders. By any measure, he will be a natural rallying point for dissent.

The conventional wisdom is that Little should appease Robertson’s loyalists by allowing him to retain a large degree of independence and influence within caucus.

This would be the path of least resistance. In the short term, it would also bring plaudits as a unifying gesture.

However, it could also prove to be Little’s undoing. Such a settlement would hold while things were going well.

Once things got rough, however, the peace could quickly fall apart.

What happens if Labour’s prospects still look bleak by 2016?

What if Little has a period of rough polling, poor media performances and strained caucus relations? Does Robertson just forget the leadership?

In the end the party’s performance will determine how united they stay.

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Little and NZUSA

November 25th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

In my 2009 profile of Andrew Little for NBR I said:

I first met Andrew Little when he was President of the New Zealand University Students Association in the late 1980s.

The organisation was in crisis and at risk of dying. Andrew helped save it, and a reform package was implemented that reduced a staff from 14 (a president, six vice-presidents and seven staff) to a staff of around four (two co-presidents and a couple of staff). The new leaner meaner NZUSA stopped campaigning for Nicaragua, and started focusing on student education and welfare and has been a much more effective beast since.

A former NZUSA insider corrects my memory. He e-mails:

First, the reform of the New Zealand University Students’ Association was in 1986 (Simon Johnson was VUWSA President and Bidge Smith was NZUSA President). I think that Andrew was Sports Officer at VUWSA and was a delegate to NZUSA Councils that year.. 

You are correct there was one president and six vice-presidents and an additional two researchers and a “typing pool”. They described themselves as the Typist Liberation Front (TLR) – i am not making this up.

The reform happened at the 2006 August Council and NZUSA had one President and one vice-president – not the two co-presidents as you stated. 

Although Andrew was involved sort-of in the reform of NZUSA but it was acutally as VUWSA President in 1987 and therefore on the Federation Executive and then as 1988 and 1989 NZUSA President that Andrew was critical in making a full success of the NZUSA reforms that you highlight in your article.

I’m grateful for the clarification. A 28 year old memory can be faulty.

Coincidentally Grant Robertson’s thesis for his honours degree was on the 1986 restructuring. He labeled them a step to the right!

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How the Labour MPs may vote

November 17th, 2014 at 3:57 pm by David Farrar

Have had a number of discussions over the last few days with various Labour people on the leadership. Everyone expects Little will win, but will it be on the first ballot, and how will the members, unions and caucus vote.

Below if my best estimate of where the Labour MPs loyalties lie. However this may not be reflected in the actual vote. With a Little victory highly likely, some Labour MPs may vote tactically and give Little their first preference to minimise any stories on him being elected with little Caucus support.

The preferences appear to be:

Andrew Little

  1. Lees-Galloway
  2. Sepuloni
  3. Cunliffe
  4. Little
  5. Moroney
  6. Rurawhe

David Parker

  1. Davis
  2. Henare
  3. Nash
  4. Curran
  5. O’Connor
  6. Parker
  7. Shearer
  8. Tirikatene

Grant Robertson

  1. Ardern
  2. Clark
  3. Faafoi
  4. Hipkins
  5. Woods
  6. Cosgrove
  7. Robertson
  8. Twyford
  9. Dyson
  10. Goff
  11. Mallard
  12. King

Nanaia Mahuta

  1. Wall
  2. Mahuta
  3. Salesa
  4. Whaitiri
  5. Sio
  6. Williams
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Assessing the Labour Leadership Candidates

November 17th, 2014 at 1:16 pm by David Farrar
Little Mahuta Parker Robertson
Internal Attributes
Unite the caucus Well placed to do so, as few enemies. Cunliffe endorsement did not help him though Would unite the caucus, but against her, not with her Well respected. Would be given a fair go Would have very loyal support from majority of caucus, but resentment from a few
Establish competent Leader’s Office Would recruit mainly from unions which has problems Very unlikely. Has little personal networks, so would leave to his deputy Robertson has huge networks and would attract a very talented staff
Satisfy the activists Most likely to be given support from the activist base Has gone down well with some activists Unlikely to motivate many Would have huge loyalty from many, but also huge resentment from Auckland ones especially
Attract donors Little had a constructive relationship as EPMU head with many businesses and could do okay here. Unlikely to attract any outside Maori organisations Very credible with business and would rebuild finances Unlikely to attract donors unless Cullen and Palmer agree to become party fundraisers for him
Manage the parliamentary team Little has not made a big impression in Parliament, but did well in growing and managing EPMU Unknown Has been a competent deputy who does much of this for the leader Robertson is hugely experienced and would by far be the best parliamentary team leader
Develop and stick to a political strategic plan Little shows signs of this with his campaigning on removing issues that distracted core voters Unknown Generally good at focusing on important issues Robertson tends to forget the bigger issues of the economy, and go after the scandal of the day.
External Attributes
Media appeal Reasonable relationships with journalists No strong relationships with journalists Rather boring Robertson is very close to many in gallery and would get favourable coverage
Match Key in House Little has been solid in the House but never spectacular Did not perform well when on front bench A solid performer in the House but unlikely to bother Key The only Labour MP who can cause trouble for Key
Likeability Rather dour Rather sour Bland Projects likeability – someone you want to spend time with
Hold own in debates Little is a competent debater Unknown, as has rarely been on TV, but did well last time she was on Won’t get a knock out, but won’t stuff up Formidable and tricky
Have economic credibility Little does have some economic credibility from his EPMY days. He was a welcome change from the old style unionists who only striked, and often struck sensible deals with employers Unlikely Mahuta will be seen to have economic credibility Parker has strong economic credibility Robertson’s employment record has been purely public sector which makes economic credibility challenging for him
Appeal to Waitakere Man Little is from provincial NZ, and EPMU work kept him in touch – but proposals like reverse burden of proof in rape go down like cold sick Mahuta could do quite well here – she is down to earth and relatable Too nerdy Too Wellington
Appeal to Maori Little has no special appeal here Mahuta is effectively a Tainui Princess, and well connected and respected No special appeal No special appeal.
Appeal to Pasifika EPMU background can help Mahuta has significant support here No special appeal Sexual orientation is an issue for some
Appeal to unionised workers Little well ahead. No special appeal Wants to increase their retirement age – not popular with union workers Robertson struggles here.
Appeal to urban liberals Little is effectively an urban liberal, but hides it well, so should retain support from them Unlikely to appeal to urban liberals Parker has some appeal Robertson is King of the urban liberals
Appeal to Auckland Little has little profile in Auckland. Would need Ardern as his Deputy if he wins. Unlikely to appeal to Aucklanders Parker has built up some respect in Auckland Robertson seen as alien to Auckland, hence why he named Ardern as his preferred Deputy
Lift Labour to 30% so they lose less badly Little should safely be able to get Labour back to 30% Hard to see Labour becoming more popular with Mahuta as Leader Hard to see Parker doing better than Goff Robertson should safely be able to get Labour back to 30%
Lift Labour to 35% so they can win if Winston will let them Difficult to see Little attracting an extra 10% of the vote Will not happen Will not happen Robertson has an interesting back story (his father etc), very good communications ability and an association with Clark which could bring some former Labour voters back. Make take more than one term but could get Labour back to mid 30s
Lift Labour to 40% so there can be a Labour/Green Government No No No No

So this is my honest opinion of the four candidates. They all have some strengths, and none of them look like they have the potential to be a game changer (Shearer and Cunliffe had the potential to be, they just didn’t manage to do it).

If I was a Labour Party member and wanted to maximise the chances of winning at the next election I’d rank Grant Robertson first. Also even if he doesn’t win, he has the best skill set to rebuild the party organisation team and parliamentary team so they are less dysfunctional – and this would help the leader after him.

My second preference would be Andrew Little. Andrew was hugely impressive as EMPU General Secretary and a pretty good Labour Party President also. However he hasn’t been a star in Parliament. He may rise to the occasion, if given the leadership (which seems likely), but his record in New Plymouth shows his electoral appeal may be limited.

Prior to them both entering Parliament, I had said that Robertson and Little are potential future leaders.

The third preference would be David Parker. He’s a better Deputy than Leader though.

The last preference would be Nanaia Mahuta. I have nothing personal against her, but when she has had front bench opportunities such as being Education Spokesperson, she doesn’t seem to have been highly effective. I suspect her candidacy is more about becoming Deputy Leader.

I expect Andrew Little will be the winner tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if he gets 50% on the first ballot, and if not, how the preferences flow.

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Auckland Pacific Labour ranks Robertson last

November 15th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Auckland Pacific Labour have said:

The Auckland Pacific Sector of the New Zealand Labour Party met last night to discuss and rank the Labour leadership candidates. After much debate and discussion it was carried by a unanimous vote that the leadership candidates be ranked in the following order:

#1 – Nanaia MAHUTA
#2 – Andrew LITTLE
#3 – David PARKER
#4 – Grant ROBERTSON

Rating Robertson last is ridiculous. But fair to say that it looks very difficult for him to win.

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Robertson’s plan

October 11th, 2014 at 9:04 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Grant Robertson has made his pitch for the party leadership, signalling a crackdown on banks, supermarkets and power companies and a plan to rebuild the party.

As he moved to counter the momentum building behind former party president Andrew Little’s bid, Robertson formally filed his nomination yesterday, signed symbolically by Maori MP Rino Tirikatene and Mana MP Kris Faafoi.

He is expected to launch his campaign in Auckland next week aiming to reverse the 2011 leadership launches where David Cunliffe overshadowed him.

As rumours swirled in the party that Cunliffe may withdraw, given Little’s hit on his union base, Robertson yesterday promised ‘‘a three-year programme to rebuild and reconnect the Labour Party as the driving force for progressive change’’.

The rumours over Cunliffe withdrawing have been around for weeks, but I’ll believe it when it happens.

But he defended key policies, saying Little had ‘‘possibly got ahead of himself’’ by questioning plans for a higher pension age, centralised wholesale power prices and a capital gains tax.

It’s a good thing, not a bad thing, if the different contenders put forward different policy programmes.

He endorsed aspects of former MP Shane Jones’ criticisms of supermarkets as one way to address issues that mattered to voters.

‘‘New Zealanders pay way too much for food  …  in a country where we produce enormous amounts of food. We need to look at supermarkets in the sense of the duopoly and what needs to change in the Commerce Act and how do we protect consumers,’’ he said.

foodinflation

I remind people of this graph, when Labour start talking food prices.

Low pay in supermarkets was also a problem.

‘‘We say to the supermarkets, ‘you’re in our society this is how we want it to be’.’’ 

Does anyone else see the problem here? In one breath you say food prices are too high and in the next that you want to increase costs for supermarkets.

He said Labour did not make the argument for lifting the minimum wage, which he agreed with.

‘‘But when he went into workplaces  …  you could see the workers there were worried that their boss couldn’t afford the minimum wage.’’ 

Smart workers.

But Labour first needed to build confidence and lift its vote to 40 per cent. It was easy for National to run a scare campaign about the Greens or Internet-Mana when Labour was on only 25 per cent, he said.

Yep. People don’t worry that much about the coalition partners when the main party is strong, but when the main party is weak, then it is more of an issue.

Lifting the vote from 25% to 40% is no small thing. That’s convincing 360,000 New Zealanders to change their vote to Labour.

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Robertson is nominated

October 10th, 2014 at 1:49 pm by David Farrar

The choice of nominees is interesting. Kris was a strong Shearer supporter and Rino is a member of the Maori caucus, and voted against same sex marriage. While one can read too much into these things, I suspect the choices were made to show Grant can unify and appeal widely.

I noted that it is dated today. I do wonder if it was actually signed around six months ago? :-)

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How will Cunliffe go?

September 26th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes:

David Cunliffe’s resignation from the Labour leadership is certain. It is only the matter of his going that is yet to be decided.

In the old days he would have been gone already.

Tuesday’s brutalising caucus was a coup in all but name. It showed Cunliffe no longer has any authority over his caucus, who can outvote him at will. They already have, over his choice of Whip.  

A leader who can’t control his caucus or win a vote cannot credibly front National as the Leader of the Opposition.  But under Labour’s rules a coup is no longer a simple numbers game in the caucus.

If it were, Cunliffe’s rival Grant Robertson would already be leader.

He has had the numbers to roll Cunliffe for more than a year.

Yep. But even if there was not the issue of a membership vote, Robertson is wary of having a non unified party behind him.

Robertson’s supporters could force a vote of no confidence in Cunliffe, but that effectively puts the decision in the hands of the wider party and Labour’s union affiliates. In a vote, they could decide to re-install Cunliffe over a hostile caucus. They did so the last time the leadership was put to the vote, a year ago.

Whether they would do so again after the chaotic scenes of recent days remains to be seen.  Camp Cunliffe are convinced they would.

It appears Camp Robertson are not sure enough of their ground yet to put it to the test. Otherwise they would have forced the confidence vote on Tuesday and got the leadership ball rolling.  

That suggests Cunliffe may have sufficient leverage still to negotiate a dignified exit  – one that would give him a senior role in Robertson’s caucus, with no loss of face for him or his supporters.  Neither side was talking up that option yesterday.

But wise heads are surely counselling both sides that the last thing Labour wants on top of its humiliating election loss and this week’s damaging fallout is a divisive and draining leadership race.

I think it would be silly for Cunliffe to contest the leadership, as he clearly has lost the confidence of his caucus.

However I think it would be better for Grant to have a party wide leadership contest, between himself and David Shearer.

Grant would win, but it would allow the party to unify behind him, as they will have had their say. He may face sniping from activists and left bloggers if he is put in by caucus with no say from members.

Also Grant is well to the left of Shearer. It would be help unify the party to have a clear centrist and a clear left candidate, as once their choice is made, people can respect the direction the party will then take.

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Can’t blame Grant

August 4th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Robertson sleeping again

To be fair to Grant, it is pretty difficult to stay awake when David Parker is speaking!

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The return of Shearer

July 18th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour would get an immediate lift in the polls if it dumped leader David Cunliffe, a new poll suggests.

The stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll reveals that Cunliffe may have become Labour’s biggest liability, with a significant number of voters saying they would be more likely to vote for Labour if someone else were leader.

Click here for full poll results in graphics.

The effect is sizeable, making a 13.5 percentage point difference to Labour’s vote.

Although a similar effect is seen on National when asked the same question about John Key, it is much smaller.

The finding will plunge Labour further into crisis after yesterday’s poll result cementing Labour’s support in the mid-20s.

Privately, Labour and the Greens now acknowledge that it would take an unprecedented swing against National to force a change of government on September 20.

Some Labour MPs were yesterday privately canvassing leadership options, even at this late stage.

But they believe Labour would be even more severely punished by such an outward sign of panic.

Labour’s focus now has shifted to protecting its vote from further erosion, and preserving the seats of some of its up-and-coming stars, including Andrew Little, seen as a future leadership contender, and former teacher Kelvin Davis.

I think a change of leader 64 days before the election is unlikely, but it is correct Labour MPs are talking. They had their annual conference and their big education announcement, which should have given them a boost, and they’re still polling below what they got in 2011. The problem for them is that the phone is off the hook for many voters.

The major focus of Labour MPs is in fact on the leadership after the election. As I’ve reported previously they are terrified that Cunliffe won’t resign if Labour loses. Grant Robertson has the numbers to roll Cunliffe in caucus. He has had it for some time. But if Cunliffe doesn’t resign, and contests the leadership again despite being rolled by caucus, can Robertson win the vote of activists and unions? Cunliffe could well argue that he was never loyally supported by his caucus, and ask to be re-elected to have a mandate to do a purge.

Robertson’s fear is that he would lose again to Cunliffe, and this his chances of ever becoming Leader will be extinguished. And Grant is a cautious man. So the signal he has sent out is he will not stand.

So my understanding, from highly reliable sources, is that the decision has been made that instead David Shearer will stand again. His argument will be that he was never given a fair go, and that Labour would have done better if he had stayed on as Leader, than under Cunliffe. This will be difficult to argue against. Also Shearer is the one candidate whom Cunliffe can’t campaign against and accuse of disloyalty – because of course it was in fact Cunliffe who undermined Shearer. By contrast, Shearer has been publicly loyal.

Also Shearer has gained in confidence and performance since being dumped, as many have remarked. And crucially, he does not have such a high level of dislike.

So one can’t rule out a change in the next 64 days, but the more likely option is to try and minimise the loss, and then have Shearer challenge Cunliffe for the leadership in December.

However if the polls get much worse for them, then they may move. It will depend on if List MPs such as Andrew Little and Jacindaa Ardern look likely to lose their seats in Parliament. At the moment they are just back in on the average of public polls, and Labour picks up the electorate seats iPredict says they will.

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WWI Records

January 19th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Last week Grant Robertson said:

The failure of the Government’s digital archive programme is putting at risk a cornerstone project that is part of centenary commemorations of New Zealand’s involvement in World War One, Labour’s Associate Arts, Culture and Heritage Spokesperson Grant Robertson says.

“In December it was revealed the Government’s flagship $12 million digital archive programme had failed and was to be canned.

“One of the results of this is that a project to make the diaries, personnel and other records of New Zealand World War One veterans searchable online by the time the commemorations start is in jeopardy.

Are they? Archives NZ responded:

The acting Chief Archivist, John Roberts says people should be confident in the progress being made in making World War l records available on-line:

“The on-line plan was announced by the Minister in August 2013. No date for completion was stated, but we have been working towards having the information available by the anniversary of the start of the war.

“So far, 73,674 are on-line for public viewing. This is almost half (46%) of the total 160,740 records. A further 65,438 have been digitised, and are ready to go on-line. We are confident this will happen before the August anniversary of the beginning of World War l.  21,628 or 13% of the records are still to be digitised. These records are to be digitised and go on-line before the anniversary.

I’d take a bet that they’ll get them all done by August.

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Labour’s challenges

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

The Dom Post editorial:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever the case, Mr Cunliffe has grounds for concern.

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

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

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

The Herald editorial:

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

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

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

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

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

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Jones lashes Curran

September 11th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

One News reported:

MP Shane Jones has opened fire on one of his caucus colleagues as the Labour leadership roadshow is about to wrap up in Christchurch.

Mr Jones, one of three contenders for the leadership, has told ONE News that in a Labour Party he leads, Dunedin South Labour MP Clare Curran would be so far on the outer she would be sitting with independent MP Brendan Horan.

That’s a massively harsh statement to make in public, and it gives you some idea how toxic some relationships are within the Labour caucus.

“Either the moon in Dunedin was in the wrong phase or she’s casting around for a new job,” he told ONE News.

They had been doing a fairly good of pretending to be civil for the first week, but it is all unwinding now.

“What happens in David Cunliffe’s camp or Grant Robertson’s camp ought not to be fed via the Twitter, then exponentially spread up and down New Zealand, only to confirm that the Labour caucus is unfit to govern,” Mr Jones said.

So Shane thinks Labour is unfit to govern! Oh the next question time will be fun!

But the quotes are even more damning in this Stuff article about why Cunliffe stood down Jenny Michie:

“I’ve looked closely at that issue, I’ve made a decision to stand a person down from my campaign team just because I think maintaining the appropriate perceptions that we are a united party and a united caucus is really important,” he said.

Can you believe this. Cunliffe has said that it is only a perception that Labour is united, and that his actions are just about maintaining that perception!

The actual comments Michie made were, in my view, not in any way inappropriate. The question and answer was:

Rachel Okay, Grant Robertson Jennie says that he wants to be judged on his ability, not his sexuality. How do you think the socially conservatives might view Grant Robertson you know in the year 2013?

Jennie That’s right, I think it’s not a big a deal as it used to be. You know we now have gay marriage, and it actually went through without that much of a fuss, and the sky hasn’t fallen. Having said that I think we’d be naïve to imagine that there would be no resistance to a gay Prime Minister at this point. I think some people might have a problem with it, but I certainly wouldn’t.

Michie was asked a direct question. She did not bring the issue up. She was sacked for just telling the obvious truth – that of course some people would have a problem with a gay PM. Should she have lied and said that no-one would? She made clear she didn’t think it would be a big deal, but while same sex marriage passed with strong support, it did not have anywhere near unanimous support, and you’d have no credibility as a commentator if you denied that some people may have an issue.

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Bob Jones endorses Robertson

September 10th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Bob Jones writes in the NZ Herald:

I don’t know David Cunliffe but his parliamentary colleagues and the Press Gallery do and virtually to a man and a woman can’t stand him. By contrast Grant Robertson is enormously liked by everyone. That alone should decide Labour’s leadership, for as John Key demonstrates, likeability is a considerable electoral bonus. …

Throughout his career, everyone Abbott’s worked with, going back to university days, liked him enormously and remained staunchly loyal. Conversely, it took only a few months throughout his career for everyone around Rudd to detest him with a deep loathing.

This was the killer line for Abbott in one of the debates, where he said if you wanted to know about my character then ask my colleagues, and if you want to know about Mr Rudd’s, ask his colleagues.

I think Sir Bob over-states the case though. Rudd was hated by almost all of his colleagues. The antipathy towards Cunliffe is more measured and by a smaller proportion of his colleagues.

So, returning to Labour’s leadership contest, I believe Robertson is the standout choice for, as he attracts such warmth and respect from his caucus colleagues, inevitably he will from the wider electorate in the high-profile leader’s position, and will better achieve a united caucus than Cunliffe. …

If anyone can stir this apathetic lot it would more likely be the affable, rugby-playing Robertson.

All of this points up the foolishness of Labour’s candidate and leader selection mechanism. It stands in stark contrast to National’s democratic model in which the electorates choose their candidates and caucus their leader.

A strong endorsement for Robertson from Sir Bob, however not sure it will help him with the members vote!

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Labour candidates competing for anti-Key statements

September 7th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

First Grant Robertson borrows from Russel Norman:

John Key, Robert Muldoon, Kim Dotcom?

I am in the middle of a leadership contest but what I do know is that the first two of those people have such similarities; it would be very hard to choose between them.

So Grant also thinks John Key is like Sir Robert Muldoon. I’mm not sure if he is demented or just playing to the audience.

But Shane Jones goes one better:

Labour leadership hopeful Shane Jones says he wants to string up Prime Minister John Key with a bungy cord around a “sensitive spot.” …

“I’m going to tie a bungy cord around a sensitive spot and then I’m going to get those callipers and cut them and then the mercenary of capitalism can suffer what he deserves – a dead cat bounce.”

Imagine if say John Key had spoken about Helen Clark like that. He would have been denounced by every newspaper and media outlet in New Zealand.

Speaking from the Marshall Islands this morning, Key said Jones’ intentions towards him “sounds painful”.

“If they want to spend their time taking about parts of my anatomy or my personality they are free to do so. I don’t think it will win them a lot of votes,” he added.

Key is pretty much the opposite of Muldoon when it comes to dealing with with personal attacks.

 

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Clark and Cullen on the Leadership

September 4th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Several people have wondered who Helen Clark and Michael Cullen will vote for (as party members they get a vote) in the leadership.

Helen Clark is hard to pick. Grant worked for her for many years. Cunliffe was her choice as successor to keep Goff out (if she won a 4th term).

I suspect on balance Clark will back Cunliffe. He has ministerial experience, and was her chosen successor. She also understands the importance of Auckland. She may well think that Grant also has time on his side – they may both end up as leaders at some stage.

Michael Cullen has endorsed Grant. That is not secret. What is less well known is his severe dislike of David Cunliffe. Just last week he joked at a book awards function that David Cunliffe could not be there to pick up a prize for his book “Learning to walk on water – what I learnt from Jesus of Nazereth, and what he learnt from me”.

The fact he would so openly diss Cunliffe, seems to hark back to the Cabinet days when it was too obvious Cunliffe wanted Cullen’s job.

However his dislike appears to be even greater than Trevor Mallard’s. A source overheard a conversation last week where Dr Cullen was reported to be more vitriolic about Cunliffe, than he was about, well anything.

So Clark and Cullen may be backing different candidates. It is a sign of how divided things are!

UPDATE: I understand that Dr Cullen is not standing on the sidelines like Helen, but is actively lobbying on behalf of Robertson. This is helping him with some members, but others resent figures from the past being involved.

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A fair point

September 3rd, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Twisted Hive blogs:

Questions from the NZ Herald to candidates:

Q: Why is Labour not connecting with voters?

Grant Robertson: We’ve struggled to get a clear direct message that speaks to people’s everyday lives and to connect our values with the policies we are putting forward. I do believe we’ve got a good mix of policies, with more to come. The challenge is articulating them in a way New Zealanders say “my life will be better under a Labour Government”. I think I can do that.

Sorry Grant, can you explain to me how if you’ve struggled to get a clear message out, with the vast majority of the office staffed by your people, you will manage any better if you were Leader? As Deputy, and part of the strategic planning team since 2008 haven’t you already tried?

It is a fair point. Grant was a major part of the disastrous 2011 campaign, and as deputy leader can’t totally distance himself from the last 18 months.

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A win for Robertson

August 31st, 2013 at 5:03 pm by David Farrar

Just got back from Levin where they had the first of 12 meetings for Labour members and affiliates to hear the leadership contenders and ask questions.

Media were invited to the speeches part, hence why I went along. They initially said I could not report on it, as they get to decide who is and is not media. But then a compromise was done where I could report on it from just outside the building. I was more than happy with the compromise, as it was in fact nicer in the sun than in a crowded room.

Labour had around 300 people there, which is pretty impressive for a meeting in Levin. They’ll be pretty happy with that.

There are stories up on NZ Herald and Stuff on the speeches.

Shane Jones was first up. He used a couple of his previous lines, including taking on the $50 million gorilla which went down well. The key thrust of his speech was that he is the only candidate who can reclaim or recover the territory Labour used to have, which National now has. He spoke on the need for more regional development and said that does involve mining and drilling (not those exact words though). Called himself the embodiment of both old and new NZ, and related his mixed heritage.

He finished with saying that the real enemy was apathy (I thought it was the gorilla!), and had a classic line about how he wants Labour to get over 40% so that it doesn’t need a Green urologist to lift them up!

A good speech from Shane, which played to his strengths. I would be surprised if he got a lot of votes though. A reasonable level of applause at times, and at the end.

Second up was David Cunliffe. He started a bit subdued, but this may have been deliberate to avoid going over the top like at his campaign launch.  He spent most of the first half attacking the Government and saying that for 250,000 kids in poverty the Kiwi Dream is a nightmare. Lots of applause. He said the current kids may be the first generation to end up worse off than their parents and said Labour is the best hope for restoring the dreams.

He also borrowed from Helen, and called the Key Government corrosive. Then he showed he had done his homework by quoting regional unemployment stats and finally pledged to abolish the Kapiti Expressway if elected PM (not quite sure how that will help create local jobs!).

He also played to his strength by saying Labour managed economy well when last in Govt, and would do so again with him. said National focuses too much on welfare fraud and not enough on tax evasion, which was very popular. Tried to deal with the JAFA issue by saying he was born in the Waikato. He concluded by saying the red tide is rising and will take NZ forward. I almost expected them to start singing the international socialist song!

Overall a very good speech, that went down very well with the members there. One member tweeted that while he liked the speech, Cunliffe mainly repeated Labour policy and didn’t make the case for why he, not the others, should be leader.

Finally they/we heard from Grant Robertson. He started low key but got people warmed up with a joke about how John Key had said the leadership contest is a reality TV show. he pointed out reality TV shows are popular and that John Key has his own show, called You Are The Weakest Link – which of course they loved.

Grant obviously decided there is no way he was going to let Cunliffe be seen as the candidate of the left, so he pledged in quick order full employment, a living wage for all and a 50% female quota for caucus. They cheered and cheered.

The living wage commitment was specific – he will give a date by which every state agency must pay every employee at least a living wage (over $18 an hour) and also every contracted company to them must do the same. This is basically a 40% pay increase for every cleaner. By no coincidence, the room was full of Service and Food Worker members, many of whom are no doubt cleaners.

Grant also pledged to repeal National’s employment law changes, which again went down well. Then he had another line on how Steven Joyce thinks economic development is a night out at Sky City.

Grant’s use of humour to attack Key and Joyce is, for my money, an effective strategy. Just calling them evil uncaring people won’t convince anyone but the base. Humour used effectively though can undermine.

Then at the end Grant spoke on the need to win the next election at all costs, and how Labour needs to be unified to do that, and he is the person who can lead and unify the party.

I thought at the end of it, that Grant clearly was best on the day. Cunliffe was very good, but Robertson excelled. he got the mix of policy, rhetoric, humour and “why me” just right. Cunliffe did a great attack speech, but didn’t make the case so effectively for why it should be him.

The danger for Robertson is that if Cunliffe clearly outclassed him at the first debate, or two, then the uncommitted MPs and unions would swing behind Cunliffe as the likely victor. I think he did more than enough to keep the contest very finely balanced.

After the speeches, they went into committee for the Q+A. Amusingly they kept the doors open so one could hear everything said outside if you tried to listen to it (I didn’t).

Chatted to a few people afterwards, and the consensus seemed to be that Robertson performed the best. However 11 more meetings to go.

What really struck me was how far left Grant was prepared to go to head off Cunliffe. This is in fact quite good for National. If Grant wins, he is on record at pledging to effectively increase the minimum wage to over $18, and to have a gender quota for caucus, plus full employment. I love how he pledges 40% pay increases plus full employment! What will be interesting is if Cunliffe tries to match these pledges. He did unilaterally announce the scrapping of the Kapiti Expressway so by the end of their campaign, I hate to think what they will be promising – all motorways closed down, rail for all, jobs for all, and $29 an hour minimum wage!

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Small on Robertson

August 30th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

If the party believes it can win by an incremental improvement, replacing an inarticulate but decent man with a safe pair of hands who can front John Key without making any major slips, then it will choose Grant Robertson.

If it thinks it just needs to remove the negative and turn the focus back on the policy mix and the broader front bench, aiming to pick up a percentage point or five to allow it to form a Left-wing government, in harness with the Greens on 10-14 per cent, then the Wellington Central candidate is its man.

But if it thinks it needs to take risks, that whatever the policy mix a showman, an impresario is needed, then it will opt for David Cunliffe.

If it thinks a slow and steady climb is beyond it and the Labour Party needs a jolt, a risk – even one that could backfire and kill off its chance of a victory in 2014 – then the MP for New Lynn is the “peacock or feather duster” option it will choose.

This is pretty much what I have said also. Robertson is the safer option, but Cunliffe has greater potential reward – and risk.

Mr Cunliffe has clearly made the early running.

While Mr Robertson chose a low-key launch, including an interview in a strangely empty studio, and the third wheel Shane Jones took an even more random approach, Mr Cunliffe went for the doctor.

His launch, with cheering fans, his team of supporting MPs and a tub- thumping speech, could not have made the risks and rewards of choosing Mr Cunliffe clearer.

It made a far greater impact and will have energised his supporters, including his social media crew.

But it sailed dangerously close, if not over, the line between upbeat hoopla and a cringeworthy revival meeting lacking authenticity.

What you thought of the launch probably varied by your interest in politics.

To hardcore left activists, the launch was the Messiah in action. They loved seeing the chosen one in action. And there is a fairly large segment of the NZ population that would respond to a forceful charismatic speaker saying he is going to tax the rich and send the PM off to Hawaii.

To people who are very actively involved in politics (journalists, MPs, staff, former staff) it was somewhere between cringeworthy and hideous, and as Small says shows the risk of Cunliffe.

What is unknown is how it would go down with those who are not activists or “beltway” but just families at home not too happy with the Government and wondering if there is a better alternative.

My feeling is that it wouldn’t go down that well, or at least not if done to that extreme. However a more toned down version could well resonate.

Cunliffe is many things, and one of them is intelligent and he learns from his mistakes. I doubt we’d see a repeat of his campaign launch, hence why I think he is still Labour’s best bet for them.

However as Small says, he is a risk. The infamous speech at the Avondale Markets is a reminder that he can and does over-extend.

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Did Cunliffe plagiarise Robertson?

August 26th, 2013 at 10:25 pm by David Farrar

dcfb

 

A reader sent this image in. The post doesn’t appear to still be there, but I assume was genuine.

Now compare it to the speech from Grant Robertson which is at this link.

Every word in the post on Facebook is identical to paragraphs in the speech from Grant Robertson.

UPDATE: Is being explained away as a “technical glitch“. That’s some technical glitch to take someone else’s speech, edit it down, and post it to your own site.

UPDATE2: Another interesting issue from Cunliffe’s campaign speech as reported at TV3 on why he lives in Herne Bay, not New Lynn:

When we were approaching having a young family and my wife was a Queen Street environmental lawyer we moved in closer so she could breast feed the children. That’s the answer.

I don’t care too much where someone lives, but I do find the rationale interesting. It would be interesting to check when they moved to Herne Bay, and the ages of the children. I’ve had someone suggest there is a considerable gap between the two events – but have no first hand knowledge myself.

UPDATE3: Bryce Edwards has some tweets about the campaign launch. They include:

Toby Manhire ‏@toby_etc

Cunliffe warns media not to get ahead of themselves, immediately after delivering speech fit for a third consecutive term victory.

Tim Murphy ‏@tmurphyNZH

Why does David Cunliffe’s picture on the wall dominate Savage and all the Labour PMs so grandly?

Giovanni Tiso ‏@gtiso

Do you enjoy seeing the spark of hope die in the eyes of the young? Then vote for someone else. Glad that is settled.

Jordan McCluskey ‏@JordanMcCluskey

The Cat hasn’t got the cream yet, Cunners. Easy Cunners. Easy.

Dan Satherley / ROM ‏@radioovermoscow

Did Cunliffe win already?

Toby Manhire ‏@toby_etc

Crowd at David Cunliffe’s electorate office expected to stand on desks any moment. “Captain, my Captain”.

Tova O’Brien ‏@TovaOBrien

Did anyone tell Cunliffe this is his leadership bid not the win?

Claire Trevett ‏@CTrevettNZH

Cunliffe’s announcement so far is more like a victory speech than the launch of a bid.

James Macbeth Dann ‏@edmuzik

Cunliffe says he’s been “very humbled”, but I think scientists have proven that that is not medically possible

 

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Cunliffe v Robertson

August 26th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Grant Robertson has confirmed he is standing for the leadership, and made a very strong case on TV last night about being part of the future, not the past, and able to unify Labour.

Shane Jones has said he is standing and it is almost unthinkable David Cunliffe won’t stand. At this stage I am comparing just Cunliffe and Robertson as they are by far the most likely to win. Hard to see how Jones can win a majority of caucus, members or unions – however he could pick up enough support to stop the others getting 50% – meaning second preferences will be crucial.

I’ve done a quick comparison of the relative strengths of the two main candidates, in the table below. And then I give my pick as to who would give Labour the best chance of winning in 2014.

Cunliffe Robertson
Speaking Ability Can be a charismatic speaker, but has to be careful not to overdo the hyperbole Not traditionally charismatic, but can do a powerful speech
Likeability The dislike of Cunliffe is intense but not as widely shared as some portray. Most people who know Cunliffe like him Generally acknowledged as likeable and affable, even by opponents
Political Management Cunliffe has very good political strategy and tactical skills. He would not allow Labour to operate in an un-cordinated fashion Robertson is a good political operator tactically, but some questions over his strategic judgement. Had a leading role in the unsucessful 2011 campaign
Issue Management Cunliffe has shown an excellent ability to drive an issue both inside and outside Parliament as we saw with carpark tax and snapper limits Robertson has been at various time health, tertiary education and employment spokesperson and never really bruised any of the respective Ministers
Question Time Cunliffe is a more than competent questioner, and can think on his feet, but not landed any killer blows Robertson is probably the most effective Labour MP at taking on the PM – no mean feat
Unity The big risk. If Cunliffe wins the leadership, the caucus could remain divided and undermining the leader Robertson, if he beats Cunliffe, would have a very strong mandate and the party would unite behind him
Party Hierarchy Most of the NZ Council back Robertson, but Cunliffe would be supported if he wins Robertson is very close to most of the NZ Council, and would have strong backing from them
Party Members Cunliffe has strong support in Auckland, and Labour has few members left in provincial cities. He also has the backing of many activists on social media. What will be crucial is how strongly Cunliffe wins Auckland Robertson has stronger support than many realise. He has the Lower North Island locked up, reasonable South Island support and Young Labour are (mainly) his personal fiefdom
Policy Cunliffe has been pushing a very left line, but that has been rather tactical to position himself vs Shearer. Unknown what his true policy prescription would be. Robertson is probably more left in his beliefs than Cunliffe, but is in the Helen Clark school of gradual sustainable change.
Economic Credentials Cunliffe is a former finance spokesperson, had a very good private sector career including Boston Consulting Group and strong economic credentials Robertson has never worked in the private sector (as in a post uni significant job)
Media relations Cunliffe has a reasonably good relationship with media, but not especially strong. No reporters he is particularly close to. Robertson is assiduous at courting the press gallery, is very close to several journalists, and popular with most of them
Media interviews Cunliffe is very good generally in interviews, but can come off a bit “smarmy’ Robertson also generally very good, and has the ability to sound very reasonable

So both candidates are well qualified, and will (at least initially) give Labour a boost in the polls. But which one should Labour choose?

Well if I was a Labour member, I’d vote for David Cunliffe. He is a bigger risk for Labour, but he also has the bigger potential to gain votes.

The risk with Cunliffe is Labour will remain divided, and that New Zealand won’t warm to him – on the basis his own colleagues haven’t.

But the reason I think he is worth the risk is his economic credentials. The major issue for the last election and the next one will be economic management.  One of the reasons National has done so well is John Key resonates economic credibility with his strong business background.

Labour needs a leader that can be equally credible, or at least reasonably credible. While Grant is a skilled politician, his background is basically entirely within Government. He was a student politician, then a parliamentary staffer and then an MP, with a couple of brief spells with MFAT and Otago University.  That makes it hard for him to convince New Zealanders that he can run the economy better than John Key and Bill English.

Cunliffe has studied at Harvard Business School, and worked at Boston Consulting Group. He was also a very competent Communications and ICT Minister. That gives him a greater opportunity (but not a guarantee) to convince New Zealanders that Labour can manage the economy. They don’t need to convince people that they will spend more on welfare and families and the like. They need to convince on economic management.

So as I said David Cunliffe is a bigger risk for Labour. Grant Robertson is a very solid performer and is certainly a more than safe option. If their ambition is to just gain 4% and govern with the support of the Greens, Winston and Hone, then Grant could well achieve that. But if they want to get a result in the high 30s or even higher, they need to take a risk on David Cunliffe.

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Beyer says NZ not ready for a gay PM

August 25th, 2013 at 9:11 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Georgina Beyer, the world’s first transsexual mayor and MP, warns New Zealand is not ready for a gay prime minister and may be seeing a social conservative backlash.

With the Labour leadership up for grabs, it raises the question of whether Grant Robertson, the gay deputy leader, could be elevated to head the party, making him a strong possibility for prime minister.

But Beyer, who was an MP for eight years until 2007, said Labour needed to be realistic.

“I don’t think we’re ready yet,” Beyer said. “It’s not because Grant isn’t capable, I think he’s very capable . . . but the stigma that rests over those of us who are out, proud and gay who get into public office becomes untenable because you never shake it off and you get pigeon-holed.”

I disagree. I think it is up to the MP how much they pigeon-hole themselves. There is a spectrum when it comes to gay and lesbian MPs. At one end of the spectrum you have MPs like Chris Carter and Georgina who were very much identity politicians whose persona was around being the first gay MP or the first transsexual MP.

At the other end of the spectrum are MPs like Chris Finlayson who is an MP who happens to be gay. He doesn’t believe his sexuality defines him as an MP, it is just part of who he is.

Grant Robertson is somewhere in between those two extremes. He does promote “gay causes” but has been careful not to let them define him. He is more at the “MP who is gay” end of the spectrum than “gay MP” end.

So I don’t think Grant’s sexuality would pigeon-hole him. It is not to say it will have no impact at all, but I think it is relatively minor.

Beyer said it was possible the debate over gay marriage, which became legal this month, had invigorated social conservatives, meaning New Zealand was less ready for a gay prime minister now than it was a year ago.

Actually I think the legalisation of gay marriage has helped Grant. If it remained illegal then he would be asked constantly as a party leader (if he won) whether he wants the right to marry. He would of course say yes, and the stories would focus on that, and that would pigeon hole him as being into politics for his own agenda, rather than the agenda of the wider group Labour aspires to represent.

John Tamihere, a former Labour MP turned radio presenter, said New Zealand could, in theory, accept a gay prime minister, but it would have to be someone whose sexuality was not core to their reason for entering politics.

Tamihere sums it up well.

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Shearer resigns

August 22nd, 2013 at 1:41 pm by David Farrar

David Shearer has resigned as Leader of the Labour Party. He will remain an MP. At this stage it looks like Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe will both contest the leadership which means a full membership ballot with the caucus getting 40%, the members 405 and the unions 20%.

Looks like he got killed by his own snapper stunt, with that being the last straw. Which staffer’s idea was that I wonder?

The gallery reported he had until Spring (1 September) to perform or go, and it has come true.

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More twins?

June 19th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

drinrobert

 

NZ Herald media columnist John Drinnan and Labour Party Deputy Leader Grant Robertson.

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That didn’t take long

April 22nd, 2013 at 12:50 pm by David Farrar

BIafSMOCcAAQrfG

 

Just yesterday David Shearer made the immortal line on television that “John Key is just talking out of his mouth” and today Grant is already leader!

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