Does anyone think Labour would have made a different decision?

February 25th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I’d be interested to hear if anyone seriously seriously thinks that if Labour was in Government, they would have made a different decision about contributing to the coalition against the Islamic State?

I totally believe that the Greens would have. They absolutely and passionately believe that the way to defeat the Islamic State is to do something like employ more community facilitators in under privileged communities, and all will be right with the world. It’s a bonkers view, but a sincerely held one.

But not for one second do I think a Labour Government would have said “No, we will be the only country in Western World not to contribute in a military sense to defeating ISIL”. Which means that their rhetoric this week is just opposition, because they don’t actually have the responsibility to make a decision.

Bear in mind that the last Labour Government sent the SAS to Afghanistan, and military engineers to Iraq.

But I’d be interested to hear a rational argument by anyone that Labour would actually have made a different decision, if they were in Government.

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Labour’s new chief press secretary

February 23rd, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour have announced Sarah Stuart as their new head of media and communications.

Sarah is a former Deputy Editor of the Herald on Sunday, during its start up phase when it went from no customers to winning many awards. Since then she went on to be managing editor of the APN regional and community papers and then two years editing NZ Woman’s Weekly. She has a formidable media background, as both a journalist and an editor.

I think this is a strong appointment for Labour. Her background in both hard and soft news will be useful as they try to get Little’s brand set as a positive one. She should also be able to manage relations well with the press gallery. I’ve not had any dealings with Sarah for many years, but all my experiences has been she is very pleasant and likeable (which helps in dealing with a diverse caucus).

Social media may be a challenge for her, but that is what you have staff for.

Little has also confirmed former EPMU staffer Neale Jones as the party’s political director in Parliament and Martin Taylor as their research director. A good staff team don’t win you an election (the leader does that), but a non performing team can stop you winning. Little’s picks are looking quite sound.

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Crone on small business and Labour

February 13th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Xero’s Victoria Crone writes:

I recently attended Labour and Opposition Leader Andrew Little’s State of the Nation speech and heard first hand how the Labour Party is throwing its weight behind small business by placing a big emphasis on the small business agenda. …

There are a few areas where I think that they’re barking up the wrong tree, one being around starting a business. The World Bank Group already ranks New Zealand as the easiest place to start a business.

However, with small business firmly on Labour’s agenda, this bodes well for a great policy debate around small business for the next election.

I agree. I hope they come up with some innovative policy.

I see a few challenges for Labour’s small business policy:  

- Labour has a dilemma as it tries to encourage small business to create jobs. The first is the dilemma between what is essentially a nation of very small and often fragile businesses (remember 92 per cent of our small businesses employ less than five people and these businesses have the highest death rates), who will be taking on additional jobs which represents massive risk for them. A small business has to be able to sustain the extra cost of an additional employee over the long run. The average business owner is already wearing 20 hats. Adding managerial and employment policy to their already long list of day to day tasks will provide extra pressure.  Labour’s policy on encouraging job growth while minimising business risk could be challenging philosophically for the Party.

Most of Labour’s current policies are bad for small businesses. Their policy to scrap 90 day trials especially. But also their policy to massively hike the minimum wage, and make it illegal for a small business to gain Government work unless they pay a “living” wage.

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Du Fresne on Islamic State

February 12th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne writes:

It’s hard to think of a more challenging conundrum than the one posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis).

Labour leader Andrew Little was right last week to describe Isis as evil. It’s a word seldom heard these days because it implies a moral judgment, and moral judgments are unfashionable. But “evil” is the only way to describe men who coldly behead their captives, and then amp up the shock factor by burning one alive.

There is an element of gleeful sadism in their barbarism. Last week they pushed a gay man from the top of a tall building – reportedly the fourth such execution for homosexuality.

Sadistic is a good work for it. It is not just that they revel in killing people, but they revel in killing them in such sadistic ways. Being thrown off a building or burnt alive as examples.

Almost unnoticed in the background, Isis is proceeding with its grand plan to establish an Islamic caliphate, which means systematically slaughtering or enslaving anyone who stands in its way. No-one, then, can dispute that Isis is evil. The conundrum is what the rest of the world should do about it.

This is why it is not a fight one can ignore. This is not just a localised civil war in Iraq and Syria. They literally wanted to expand to as many countries as possible. Anyone who thinks they will be content with what they have is detached from reality.

Yet doing nothing is not an option. Either we believe civilised values are worth defending and that vulnerable people deserve protection from mass murderers, or we don’t. And if we do, we can’t just whistle nonchalantly while looking the other way and pretending it isn’t happening. …

This is not like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the objectives were hazy (or in the case of Iraq, tragically misconceived). Isis is not some shadowy terrorist entity; it’s a functioning army, operating in plain sight.

That doesn’t make it easy to defeat, but neither is it an excuse to do nothing.

Unfortunately Andrew Little, while condemning Isis as evil, doesn’t think it’s our business to stop them.

It’s interesting that where Isis is concerned, the Left sharply deviates from its tradition of siding with the weak and vulnerable.

The Islamic State, it insists, is not our problem, no matter how many innocents die.

Labour’s policy is to do nothing but send out press releases.

I suspect the Left is unable to see past its antipathy towards America and can’t bring itself to support any initiative in which America plays a leading role. Its ideological blinkers blind it to the fact that on this occasion, America is on the side of the angels.

Most reprehensible of all is the craven argument that we should avoid antagonising Isis for fear that some deranged jihadist will strike at us in revenge.

That’s moral cowardice of the lowest order.

Prime Minister John Key is right to highlight the inconsistency in the Left’s stance, and I applaud him for saying that New Zealand will not look the other way.

It’s rare for Key to commit himself so emphatically, and commendable for him to do so on one of the pressing moral issues of our time.

Imagine if the 1st Labour Government was led by modern day Labour. Michael Joseph Savage and Peter Fraser committed NZ to fight against the Nazis. The Little led Labour would be insisting that we do nothing without the League of Nations okay.

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So what does Little mean by shared sovereignty?

February 10th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key says Andrew Little’s comments at Waitangi on Maori sovereignty were advancing “separatism.”

“I reckon he would be leading New Zealand completely down the wrong path,” Mr Key said at his post cabinet press conference today.

Mr Little told reporters the Waitangi Tribunal finding that Nga Puhi did not cede sovereignty should not be dismissed and that models of indigenous self-governance and law-making around the world should be explored.

“In 1840 when we singed the treaty, it strikes me we signed it for modern New Zealand, and that was a New Zealand where we co-habitated and ran the country together. It wasn’t about separatism. It was actually about community and Andrew Little is basically suggesting that we had down a path of separatism.”

He said he could not see New Zealanders supporting that.

As I said earlier, I look forward to Labour explaining what particular models of shared sovereignty they are thinking of.

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Robertson on Future of Work

February 10th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A thoughtful speech by Grant Robertson to Labour’s Future of Work conference. A part that struck me was:

In November received a visit from the joint winners of a prize I give to a local secondary school.  They had won the prize in 2013 and arrived at the end of 2014 to thank me and tell me how their year at university had gone.

It had gone well each in their respective disciplines of marketing and design. I asked them about their plans for the summer and holiday work. Thinking back to my glory days as an assistant in the fruit and veggie section of the local New World I expected to hear tales of bar work and retail.  Instead I was presented with two business cards, and a link to their design business that they had established during the year.  The summer was shaping up well with a client found through their on-line presence, and a sideline in stunning digital depictions of Wellington icons for sale at various market stalls.  

These two very capable young women did not see any boundaries between their study, commencing work, pursuing their interests or passions. They had the attitude, the skills and the security to do just exactly what they found interesting.  The future of work is bright, flexible, diverse and stimulating for them- and they will be a complete handful for anyone here trying to teach them.

I love this story. It is one of the things I love about the digital age, that so many young people are embracing the opportunities to do what they are passionate about, and are not dependent on an employer, or a degree. Such a story would have been near unthinkable 15 years ago.

The Commission’s mandate is to undertake a two year programme to develop a comprehensive understanding of the changing nature and experience of work and its impact on the economy, and to develop the policy responses required to meet the challenges and grasp the opportunities presented by these changes.

We believe that in order to be responsible leaders we must look to the future and prepare now. We owe to the next generation of New Zealanders that we are giving them the best possible chance to succeed.  We owe to a current generation of workers who feel insecure about their future and income that they can make transitions to new and fulfilling types of work.  We owe to businesses, small, medium and large that we have a plan for sustainable diversified, economic growth.

There is no room for complacency in such a period of rapid change, and by 2017 we must be in a position to tell New Zealanders what we are doing to face the future of work with confidence.  The Commission will be open to new and different ideas, to challenge our assumptions and policies. We will be prepared to change.  Our commitment is that with our core values firmly in mind, we are open to each and every idea that is put forward.

I will admit to a degree of scepticism that Labour will come up with anything more than their normal policies of payoffs for unions, extra costs on employers and less flexibility and choice in the workplace. But I hope to be wrong.

What Labour is doing with this two year programme of consultation and development on this issue is exactly what a good opposition should do. If they do it well, they’ll build credibility with stakeholders, show they understand the environment and issues, and come up with some genuinely new policies and solutions.

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Little wants to look at giving Iwi law making powers

February 7th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has proposed looking at giving Maori greater self-governance, possibly including the ability to make some of their own laws. …

He said it was time to look at what would happen after the settlements were completed.

He said some Native American tribes had law-making powers over their territories in the United States where recognised tribes were exempt from some laws – including taxation – and could create their own laws in many areas. Mr Little said allowing separate law-making was “highly problematic”.

“But we shouldn’t be so dismissive of any claim by iwi over what they do. We do have to function as a nation-state and we don’t want to compromise that. But let’s have a look at it.”

I encourage Labour to clarify their thinking and be very specific in their 2017 manifesto as to what law making powers they think Iwi should be given.

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Two nominees for Labour President

January 27th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An Auckland University lecturer Nigel Haworth and City Vision chair Robert Gallagher have put themselves forward to be the Labour Party’s next President.

Professor Haworth lamented in 2012 that China, India and Russia joining the global economy in the last few decades, as it has been bad for ordinary working people. Never mind the fact that it lifted hundreds of millions in those countries out of poverty and starvation.

Gallagher is an experienced campaigner and I’d say the favourite. He has strong support in Auckland. I think both will struggle to boost fundraising though, which is a real weakness for Labour currently.

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Labour’s media targets

January 15th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Expect to see Labour leader Andrew Little in a good light on the 6pm television news – or questions to be asked at the top of his media unit.

Little is advertising for a new chief press secretary to head the party’s media and communications strategy, and the successful applicant is expected to ensure Little appears “in a positive story on the 6pm news at least twice a week”.

Have TVNZ and TV3 signed up to this?

Other key targets put emphasis on social media, including 100,000 “likes” for the party’s Facebook page, up from about 38,000 now, and 40,000 “likes” for Little’s Facebook page by the 2017 election. It currently boasts 10,422 “likes”.

Will buying likes and followers count?

The advertisement has already prompted senior press gallery reporters to plot creative ways to thwart another expected result – weekly meetings with key press gallery journalists.

And who is defined as key?

Little’s chief of staff, Matt McCarten, said the targets were guidelines and the reference to the 6pm news was a “throwaway comment” designed to show the aim was to be proactive, not just reactive, in the news.

A throwaway comment in a formal job description?

A source said the Facebook page was fed by the parliamentary party as well as the party’s head office, so setting targets for the new media boss, who will report to McCarten but is employed by Parliamentary Service, did not breach Parliament’s funding rules. 

I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

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Labour candidates calls Christianity “toxic wares”

December 24th, 2014 at 12:12 pm by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes in Manawatu Standard:

Thursday is Christmas Day. For most New Zealanders, this is not much more than a hard-earned day-off, an occasion to gather with family and licence to eat a quite a bit more than one’s diet allows.

It is also (particularly for children) about the material aspirations of gift giving.

For New Zealand’s Christians, of course, it is also an important religious festival commemorating the nativity of their Man-God. It is the end of the penitential season known as advent and a time of great celebration. …

Instead, the wider culture is now hostile to orthodox Christianity, which is held to a much higher standard of scrutiny than other religions and cultures.

Those who are quite happy to casually sneer at Christians around the office coffee machine seldom have the courage to do the same when other minority identities are concerned.

Where media commentators are purposely respectful of other faiths, they are seldom afraid to propound ignorantly about Christian doctrine or issue bone-headed advice to Christian leaders.

Last month one of Labour’s candidates at the election took to a popular Left-wing blog to publish a tirade against Christians in the party.

The Bible was repeatedly denounced as “snake-oil” and the Christian God was described as “a mean Mutha” who “nailed up his only son as a lesson to other wrongdoers”.

It’s a free country and those kinds of screeds should not be censored.

But just picture the outcry that would have followed a major party candidate writing anything as remotely incendiary about Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism.

Can you imagine the high-dudgeon and editorial hand-wringing such an outburst would occasion?

This is a good and valid point. There is a double standard. Let’s look at what Labour’s Whangarei candidate wrote:

The brutal scars of Christianity do not discriminate, but there is no doubt that that Christian fundamentalism has taken a great toll on the Rainbow community and followers of the Pope have been responsible for most of it.

Imagine what Labour would say if a National Party candidate wrote about the brutal scars of Islam?

We all know the misery that has been inflicted in this Christian god’s name. There’s a smile from one. We’ve already had a discussion about how this Christian god is such a mean muthafucka that he nailed up his only son as a lesson to other wrongdoers. 

Again imagine a National Party candidate talking about the misery inflicted in the name of Allah, and how Mohammed was a pedophile. There would be complaints to the Human Rights Commission.

The brutal scars of Christianity do not discriminate, but there is no doubt that that Christian fundamentalism has taken a great toll on the Rainbow community and followers of the Pope have been responsible for most of it. 

Again try this as “The brutal scars of Islam do not discriminate, but there is no doubt that Islamic fundamentalism has taken a great toll on the Rainbow community, and follows of Islam have been responsible for most of it.”

I’m no fan of the Catholic Church when it comes to their views on sexuality, but last time I checked you didn’t have any Catholic or Christian states that executed people for being gay.

These bible-bashing god-botherers have no greater claim on our time than Amway sellers or other marketers of snake oil. And, yet, even an organisation as broad and inclusive as the Labour Party allows these toxic wares to be purveyed at its meetings. 

One can have a rational discussion on whether party meetings should allow prayers, but the hatred and bile at Christianity is something that would be unacceptable about any other religion – coming from someone who was standing for election just two months ago.

 

 

 

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Labour dumps euthanasia bill

December 15th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A bill which would legalise voluntary euthanasia has been dropped by Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway at the request of his leader Andrew Little.

Mr Lees-Galloway had been canvassing support for his End of Life Choice Bill before deciding whether to return it to the private members’ bill ballot.

But Mr Little confirmed yesterday that he had told Mr Lees-Galloway not to put it in the ballot because it was not an issue Labour should be focused on when it was rebuilding.

“It comes down to priorities at the moment,” Mr Little said. “We are very much focused on … jobs and economic security.

I think this is a real pity, as I suspect if it had remained in the ballot and been drawn, that it had the numbers to pass.

Mr Little said Labour was still a socially progressive party under his leadership.

“It’s not about avoiding controversy but it’s about choosing the controversies that are best for us at this point in time. That stuff on euthanasia, it isn’t the time for us to be talking about that.”

I would have thought just after an election is the best time to be considering issues such as this, rather than closer to the next election.

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Labour’s post mortem

December 9th, 2014 at 6:54 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour’s review panel has reported its findings back about the party’s election campaign and the reasons for the low 25 per cent result, identifying problems ranging from a failure to unite behind former leader David Cunliffe to resourcing and confusion over its “Vote Positive” slogan.

The panel of four reported back to Labour’s Council at the weekend on the first part of its three-part review – a look into the election campaign.

The party will not release review findings until all three parts are completed, expected in February.

One of the review team, Bryan Gould, said the panel’s terms of reference had included the leadership of Mr Cunliffe and while there were mixed views on some issues, the main problem was a failure to unite behind the leader.

 

Was that a cause or a symptom?

Party leader Andrew Little said none of the findings was surprising and most issues had been voiced by himself and other leadership contenders during Labour’s recent leadership runoff.

“Things like the messaging, the ‘Vote Positive’ [slogan], issues about the resourcing of the campaign.” He said the Vote Positive slogan “didn’t mean anything to anyone”.

Vote Positive was in stark contrast to their messaging of the last three years. The only logical explanation for their slogan was they knew about Nicky Hager’s book in advance, and were hoping to capitalise on it.

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Labour breaking their word on asset sales

December 8th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Asset sales are a controversial and often emotional issue. That is why National has been very careful to lay out its policy in advance, and keep to it.

In 2008 National said no SOEs would be sold in the first term, and none were.

In 2011 National said up to 49% of four power SOEs and Air NZ would be sold, and they were (except Solid Energy that collapsed).

In 2014 National said no further sales of SOEs and there are none planned.

Now contrast this to Labour in Christchurch. The Press reports:

It took months of briefings, quiet lobbying, and frank meetings to bring the Left-leaning People’s Choice councillors around to the inescapable truth that some asset sales would be needed to solve the city’s financial woes.

Those meetings happened  right up until late Thursday afternoon, which suggests some councillors were still wavering.

The reason the People’s Choice councillors – Andrew Turner, Jimmy Chen, Pauline Cotter, Yani Johanson, Phil Clearwater, and Glenn Livingstone– were  reluctant to go down the path of asset sales was because they had signed a pledge before last October’s elections to support keeping all significant public assets in public ownership and control.

They didn’t want to be seen to be going back on their word.

They were confident that if they pored over the council’s budgets, cutting expenditure and deferring capital projects, they could achieve the necessary savings without asset sales. 

Alas, it was not to be and on Thursday the People’s Choice councillors reluctantly threw in the towel and acknowledged the funding gap, which has jumped from $900 million to $1.2 billion, was too large to close through savings.

“Our preferred option is not to sell assets, however, the financial position in which the council has been placed requires us to sell assets as one of the number of things we need to do to fill the funding gap,” they conceded in a statement issued through Turner, their spokesman.

This is not true. There is a choice. They have chosen to break their word. I think their policy was stupid and wrong, but they made it.

The People’s Choice is the Labour Party in Christchurch local government politics. In fact most of the PC Councillors had their affiliation on their ballot as (The People’s Choice – Labour).

So the moral of the story is that National has kept its word on asset sales, and Labour once again has not.

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Comparing the front benches

November 24th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A comparison of the National (11) and Labour (8) front benches.

fb demos

MP Status

Only one of Labour’s front bench is a List MP – the leader. All the others are electorate MPs. National is two thirds electorate and one third list.

Gender

Both are close to one third female.

Ethnicity

Both around one quarter Maori.Labour also has a Pasifika front bencher.

Age

For the first time for a while (I think) Labour now has a younger front bench. Three quarters are aged below 50.

Area

Labour has issues here. Half the front bench is from Wellington and no one from Christchurch or provincial NZ.

Island

There is not a single South Island MP on Labour’s front bench. In fact only two SI MPs intheir top 17.

Decade Entered

National and Labour now have similar profiles in terms of longevity of front benchers in Parliament.

So overall this reshuffle has rejuvenated the Labour front bench and the two front benchers now looking quite similiar except Labour has an age advantage and National an area advantage.

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Little’s reshuffle

November 24th, 2014 at 1:06 pm by David Farrar

Overall Andrew Little has done a good job with his reshuffle, considering the somewhat limited options he has. I’d give it a 7/10. He has rejuvenated the front bench and not played factional politics too much. Most appointments seem to be based on merit.

His first week as leader has gone well. He has been comfortable in his press conferences, and his tone has been good. When asked on TV this morning why he is calling for Rennie to go, but not also the DPMC head, he gave a logical response based on their different roles.

He hasn’t set the world on fire, and maybe our expectations are lower because of the stuff ups by previous incumbents, but at this stage there is nothing much you can fault him on. Labour need a solid leader, and that may now have it.

In terms of the new line up, let’s start with the overall look, and then the details.

  • A plus for a fresh front bench, of whom only two were Ministers in the last Government
  • A plus for a front bench which has good gender and ethnic diversity
  • A plus for a front bench largely based on merit
  • A big negative for four of the top six being Wellington MPs including Leader, Deputy Leader, Leader of the House and Finance Spokesperson. Labour may struggle to reconnect with NZ when their top six is so beltway.
  • A small negative that no one wanted to be Deputy Leader (except Nanaia) so poor Annette had to be drafted in again

In terms of the individuals

  • Little having no portfolios outside security is sensible
  • King as Deputy Leader is a good short term move (she has it for a year only). While it is a bad look that they need an MP who entered Parliament 30 years ago to remain Deputy, her personal skills for he job are superb. One Labour insider commented to me that the gap between Anette and the next most competent female Labour MP is astonomical.
  • Robertson as Finance is a risk. He is a skilled politician and communicator, but I am not sure how much credibility he will have talking about the economy, when he has never worked in the private sector. His challenge is to bridge that gap.
  • Mahuta gets No 4 mainly because her followers all voted for Little. few could seriously suggest she is their 4th best MP. What are her achievements in the 18 years she has been an MP? With just one portfolio (Maori Development), her workload could be very light.
  • Twyford as Housing and Transport is a good choice – he knows the issues well.
  • Hipkins as Shadow Leader and Education also sound.
  • Sepuloni is promoted ahead of Ardern to get Social Development. A big opportunity for her considering she has had only one term in Parliament. Has to prove she deserves the spot.
  • A very good call making Davis front bench and giving him portfolios such as Police, Corrections and Domestic Violence. Could do very well so log as he gets Little to dump his policy of making people accused of rape having to prove their innocence.
  • Ardern gets demoted for the second time in a row and drops off the front bench (they have only eight front bench seats in the House). She gets a major portfolio in Justice but is against Amy Adams who I think will excel there.
  • Clark gets a promotion and Economic Development. Could have gone further but has a chance to prove himself
  • Sio has Pacific Island Affairs and Local Government. Doubt we’ll see much more than in the past,
  • Lees-Galloway gets the important (for Labour) portfolio of Labour. Suspect Little will lead most of the work in this area though.
  • Woods gets Environment and Climate Change. Likely to be over shadowed by the Greens.
  • Cunliffe, Parker, Shearer and Goff are Nos 14 to 17. This is smart by Little. All get a ranking to reflect their contribution, but also one low enough to suggest they are on the way out (maybe not for Shearer).
  • While Cunliffe has a low ranking, he has meaty portfolios in Regional Development, Tertiary Education and Science. A path to redemption.

In terms of the unranked, surprised Louisa Wall and Stuart Nash not put into the top 20. Also somewhat surprised Sue Moroney not given a ranking.

As I said, overall a pretty smart reshuffle by Little, considering his limited options. The heavy Wellington skew at the top is a significant weakness, but overall he has done a good job of rejuvenation, and starting to put together what could look like a competent alternate Government.

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Little’s options

November 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Andrew Little now have a the tough job of nominating a Deputy Leader and allocating portfolios. The deputy role is especially challenging as the three best candidates for the job all don’t want it, and the candidate that does want it is not supported by caucus. Let’s go through the options.

Deputy Leader

Little’s best bet would be Jacinda Ardern. The last four leaders have been from Auckland, and as Little is a Wellingtonian, then a Aucklander as deputy is desirable. Ardern is their most high profile Auckland MP and very popular with the activists. The problem is she really doesn’t want it and was basically Grant Robertson’s campaign manager. On the downside a Little/Ardern ticket means List MPs hold both leadership roles.

Grant Robertson is another option. He has probably the best skill set of the caucus to be deputy, as a good deputy helps manage the caucus and the leader’s office. But again he has done it before and is not that keen on it.

David Parker has ruled it out.

Nanaia Mahuta desperately wants it. But her nomination would go down very badly in caucus.

So Little has to convince either Jacinda or Grant to take it, go with Mahuta or go for a less likely option such as Phil Twyford.

His best bet is to convince Jacinda to step up.

Finance

David Parker has ruled it out.

Appointing David Cunliffe would antagonise caucus massively.

He could go to a next generation MP such as David Clark or Stuart Nash. They would both get eaten alive by Bill English initially but by 2017 could be experienced and credible. This should be about projecting a vibrant future Government in 2017.

Another option being canvassed is Grant Robertson. I think this would be a mistake. Grant is a skilled politician but he has never worked a day in his life (well post study) in the private sector. I don’t think he has credibility in the finance portfolio, and I think Labour would struggle to reconnect with business if he has the job. That’s not doubting his intelligence and ability to articulate the key issues.

Education

Little should be bold and appoint Kelvin Davis as Education spokesperson and the next Minister. Hipkins has done a fine job for Labour in the area, but Davis is a star after beating Harawira, and has greater experience in the sector.

Health

Annette King is easily the best performing Labour MP. However she will not be Health Minister in the next Labour Government, so she should mentor someone new into the role. I’d move Hipkins into health, as he has a good ability to work an issue, and find pressure points. Lees-Galloway is keen on this, but has less caucus support.

I expect King to retire in 2017, and Little to become the MP for Rongotai (where he lives). She has resisted him taking the seat for some time, but now he is leader, he won’t be challenged for it.

Shadow Leader of the House

Robertson is the obvious choice to continue. May need a Deputy if he does take Foreign.

Attorney-General

Keep Parker on here.

Foreign Affairs

While Shearer is very credible here, I’d be tempted to put Robertson in here. He has a love for foreign policy and is a former diplomat.

Economic Development

Cunliffe an obvious choice. Clark and/or Nash could also play a role.

Maori Affairs

Mahuta by default

Social Development

Moroney has this currently. Not spectacular but solid so probably remain.

Front Bench

Robertson and Ardern are automatic as well as Little.

As he won with their support needs to have Mahuta and Cunliffe there, even though upset some.

Parker is looking to exit I’d say, so could keep him off, but for now probably need to retain him. So that is six.

For the other two or three I’d look at Hipkins, Twyford and Clark.

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Will Little retain Labour’s gender quota policy

November 19th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour approved at the last election 40 a rule that they have a gender quota for their list to try and ensure that in 2014 at least 45% of their caucus is female and for 2017 at least 50% is female.

They failed to correctly implement it, as in fact their proportion of woman from 43% to 38% this election. But think what would have happened if they had correctly implemented it. Instead of having 12 female MPs out of 32, they should have had 15. So what would this have meant on the list.

To comply Labour should have no male List MPs, which means no David Parker, Clayton Cosgrove and Andrew Little. They would be replaced by Maryan Street, Moana Mackey and Priyanca Radhakrishnan.

The key take out is that under Labour’s policy, Andrew Little should not be an MP. He is only there because they mis-calculated how much support they would get.

So does Andrew Little support retaining the gender quota, even though it means he should not have retained his list position?

This is a great example of how Labour has introduced barmy rules, but it seems no one is prepared to stand up and challenge them.

Labour have a rule which if correctly implemented would have seen their new leader not retain his seat in Parliament. Rational people would say “hey maybe we should reexamine that rule”.

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Parker v Little on CGT

November 11th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

Labour’s leadership contest has turned into a showdown on the party’s capital gains tax policy, with Andrew Little and David Parker at loggerheads over its future.

At the first of three hustings meetings in the critical Auckland region yesterday, Mr Little was stronger than before in condemning the policy, while Mr Parker shifted to more strongly defend it.

Mr Little told the audience of about 300 party members that Labour had now lost support in three successive elections – something that had never happened before.

Been a long time since any major party lost support in opposition two terms in a row.

He said there were a number of reasons for that but two policies stuck out – lifting the retirement age and capital gains tax.

“There are at least two policies I know for a fact have caused people not only to not vote for us but to turn us off completely.”

He said the party and caucus had championed those policies. “But the conclusion I’ve come to now is that those two policies alone are enough to stop people even considering what we have to say any more.”

The tax was aimed at property speculators, but Mr Little said it also impacted on those who had scrimped and saved to buy a second property which they considered their retirement savings.

Mr Parker, the architect of both policies, said it remained the best way to ensure an equitable tax system.

“Currently, our system is rigged and it’s rigged to favour speculation, not investment in jobs. We reward speculation and we punish work. If the capital gains tax is not the answer, then what is?”

People don’t like the Capital Gains Tax because it is an extra tax which will punish families and businesses by up to $5 billion a year when fully implemented, according to their former leader.

But if Labour were smart, they’d stick with a policy for a CGT, but announce they’d give families and businesses reductions in income and company tax to match the increased revenue they’d pay overall with a CGT.

It can be sensible to broaden the tax base – but not to increase the tax take by new taxes. If you want to increase the tax take, then you should concentrate on having a growing economy, rather than new taxes.

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Did Labour ever have 100,000 members?

November 11th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Kiwi in America recently referred to Jim Anderton’s claim that Labour had 100,000 members when he was President.

A former Labour Party parliamentary staffer writes:

I note you picked up on Jim Anderton – re  NZLP’s 100,000 membership claim.

 I don’t believe that the party ever got to 100,000 but probably well over 50,000 in the late 1970s.

History:  In 1976 the NZLP had about 10-15,000 members as best as I could ascertain.   Electorates were controlled by fiefdoms.  The party urgently needed an infusion of members, talent and money.   I knew the NP had 200,000 members at its peak in the late 1940s. 

I suggested a target of 100,000 members by same time in 1977.   Bill was quite taken with the idea and I recollect him discussing it with Bob Tizard and Warren Freer and others.  Part of the logic was to give party members something ambitious to do instead of changing the constitution which they were prone to. 

As I recollect it was the big headline to come out of the conference and Bill was frequently asked over the following year or so how was the party getting along.

Today they appear to have under 10,000 members. Only 5,000 voted in the last leadership election.

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The benefits of fighting protectionism

November 5th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour has fallen in behind the Government’s decision to join a trade pact that gives Kiwi firms the right to bid for more than $2 trillion of overseas government contracts.

New Zealand has joined 43 other countries, including the United States, Japan and all European Union countries, in becoming a party to the World Trade Organisation’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA).

Exporters including Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Hamilton’s Gallagher Security are celebrating the agreement, which is designed to ensure companies are treated equally when competing for government tenders in any of the signatory states.

However, the reciprocal deal could have a flipside for some local businesses which may now face more competition from overseas firms when bidding for work with the New Zealand public sector.

So why is Labour supporting this, when they have spent years complaining that companies like Dunedin’s Hillside should have been protected from foreign competitors? In fact wasn’t their policy to tilt the field towards local companies?

Labour foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff supported the agreement. “I am prepared to accept the balance of advantage lies in opening up new opportunities for the best of our exporters to sell goods and services into those markets,” he said.

Although it does not cover all government procurement in all those countries, Joyce said the deal would ensure New Zealand firms were able to bid for work worth more than US$1.7 trillion ($2.16t) annually.

Good to see Goff ignoring the rhetoric of his colleagues, and signing Labour up to support this agreement. If you have confidence in NZ firms, we stand to win more than we lose by having equal access to government procurement tenders across the developed world. Plus it is better for taxpayers to more competition for tenders.

But I wonder why the left blogs who daily denounce neo-liberalism have been so silent on Labour’s support of the GPA? Shouldn’t they be demanding that the four leadership candidates denounce it as neo-liberal trickle down policies?

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Shearer indicates Labour may support security law changes

November 4th, 2014 at 11:51 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Big sporting events bringing large numbers of visitors to New Zealand are one of the Government’s concerns in proposing changes to the country’s security and surveillance legislation.

Senior Labour MPs Phil Goff and David Shearer were briefed this morning on the contents of the prime minister’s major national security speech tomorrow.

Changes to New Zealand’s security legislation will be announced as the Government attempts to plug “loopholes” within the country’s surveillance law and around passports.

Shearer said there was “obviously some rationale for doing it”, and they were “reasonably happy” the measures were ones that needed to be implemented because of gaps in the current legislation.

Great to see an Opposition MP, not just opposing for the sake of it.

Shearer said it was important gaps in surveillance and around passports were closed off, particularly in light of upcoming events in New Zealand which would bring in a lot of visitors, including the Cricket World Cup.

Shearer agreed there were some legislative issues to be dealt with, particularly with the SIS which was governed by “very old” law which was not in line with the police in what it was able to do.

Shearer would not go into detail on what the proposed new legislation would do as he and Goff were briefed in confidence, and it was for the prime minister to announce in his speech tomorrow.

The proposed changes would be subject to a select committee process, which would allow outside submissions to be made, although for a reduced period of time compared to the norm.

I’m pleased to see there will be a select committee process.

“We’re also very pleased with the fact there are going to be submissions around the area as well, so it means there is going to be some more scrutiny on the legislation, and of course there’s going to be a sunset clause as well,” Shearer said.  

Interested in the sunset clause? Is that to allow the full review scheduled for next year to them supersede this interim changes?

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Parker says Labour is like a cult

October 23rd, 2014 at 1:28 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leadership contender David Parker says Labour borders on feeling like “a cult” and must look at its branding – including its symbolic red party colour.

Cult is too harsh a term, but what Labour does suffer from is diversity – diversity of opinion.

National has a caucus and a party that has social liberals and social conservatives. It has those who see the role of the state in the economy is to get out of the way, and those who see its role to be an active participant.

By contrast Labour looks on people who are even close to the economic centre with disdain and suspicion. I know many Labour members who say they feel the party no longer represents them.

Even worse is if you are a social conservative in Labour. Then you are seen as blot on their conscience to be exorcised. You will be told you are in the wrong party.

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Sir Roger Douglas on Labour’s predicament

October 7th, 2014 at 3:19 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Sir Roger Douglas:

The election was clearly an absolute disaster for Labour. The party’s inability to deal with the result is apparent for all to see.

Renewal has several parts and needs to start with a recognition of what went wrong and move towards the changes needed to rectify the situation.

Labour needs to acknowledge: 

  • It lost touch with the feelings, concerns and expectations of voters.
  • That in the process it lost credibility.
  • That a lack of policy consistency and communications consistency cost it dearly.
  • That winning back lost credibility will take time, and consistency will be absolutely vital.
  • That voters often saw Labour as the voice of vested-interest groups, rather than average New Zealanders.
  • That Labour failed to state clearly what it was trying to achieve and how it would go about implementing new approaches.
  • That Labour locked itself into becoming the advocates of processes that could no longer achieve the goals the party set for itself.

So what does Labour need to do about their current situation?  Labour needs to: 

  • Start by restating the social goals they stand for today – goals likely to be very similar to those spelled out by Walter Nash in 1939.
    • a reasonable standard of living
    • access to an adequate education
    • a good health service
    • a good income in retirement
    • a social welfare system that gives people a hand-up, rather than a hand out, and does not lock them into dependency
    • a society which gives people opportunities for self-fulfilment.
  • That’s the easy part – the hard part is how does the party make those goals the foundation of a serious programme to transform New Zealand?
  • To do this the party needs a vision of where it wants New Zealand to be in 25 years time.
  • Next, are the current, or preferred means, capable of achieving these goals? The means Labour used in the 1930s no longer suffice.
  • The question then becomes – can Labour do this? Are Labour members free to think in new, fresh ways?

That’s why they need time to work through the challenges which are:

  • To realise that simply electing a new leader is not enough – the party needs a leader who is in tune with the new realities that exist in New Zealand.
  • Positioning and consistency of policy and communication are vital.
  • This new positioning and the policies need to reflect, and be in tune with the feelings, expectations, and concerns of most New Zealanders. The party needs to explain for example:
  • The goals the policies seek to address.
  • The importance of productivity and efficiency which old Labour did so well. The Party needs to explain that waste consumes resources that would otherwise be available to improve fairness.

For instance, that without efficiency, a more equitable society is impossible.  (This requires a big shift for the Labour Party of the past 15 years.)

  • How the party will, in future, deal with privilege which remains widespread.
  • How it will be the champion of ordinary New Zealanders, not the unions, not the teachers, not the nurses nor the social workers, as they do today.
  • How Labour will deal with the fact that huge increases in spending on health and education have gone to the benefit of providers, rather than consumers. I acknowledge this is hard when the party has been the voice of nurses, doctors and teachers at the expense of the consumer for so long.
  • Explain to supporters why high tax rates have a negative effect on jobs and real wages, and tend to lower productivity which is essential if wages are to rise.
  • How the party will deal with middle-class capture in areas like university education where most of the beneficiaries of state spending are the children of people who could afford to pay more towards educating their offspring.
  • How the party will free people from welfare dependency put there by institutions created in the 1930s, and stoked by policies devised in the 1970s.
  • Why competition in the provision of government-funded services is just as important as it is in the private sector.
  • Explain to New Zealand that there is no such thing as a free lunch e.g. tell people that healthcare now takes 56c of every dollar of all personal tax they pay instead of 40c a few years ago, and what Labour will do about it.
  • Demonstrate that Labour has got to grips with poor incentives to work and how those poor incentives have encouraged socially destructive behaviour.
  • How Labour will shift resources in education, housing, health and welfare in response to changing demands.
  • How Labour will deal with uneven rates of government assistance (e.g. health) for different services and different categories of patients.
  • Whether Labour will continue to provide universal access to many health and welfare services or instead move towards targeted assistance? And if there is to be change, what principles will drive it?
  • How Labour will deal with government waste.

Getting this right will be vital for Labour – recognising that the present welfare system has changed people’s attitudes, and in the process has had effects on society. It is important to understand this if the policy the party goes forward with is to have any likelihood of working.

But, isn’t this simply moving into National party territory?

No – it need not be – why?

  • Because National is the party of the status quo.
  • Despite opposing many of the policies of the Clark government they now act as if those policies were their own.
  • National has borrowed and added to New Zealand’s debt by $60 billion over the last six years rather than get to grips with wasteful expenditure.
  • National has borrowed billions of dollars to fund consumption, rather than investment.
  • National has spent billions of dollars each year on corporate welfare with little or no beneficial results to show for it, and all at the expense of the average New Zealander.
  • National has run budget deficits, but a deficit of courage and imagination has been their main legacy.

National’s do nothing, sit-still, status-quo approach to economic and social policy provides Labour with a real opportunity to get back up on its feet.

What will it take?

  • An upfront admission that Labour has got a lot of things wrong for the last nine to 15 years, and what has led to this conclusion.
  • A set of principles that will guide Labour’s policy decision-making that New Zealanders understand and can measure. For instance:
    • Each genertion should pay for itself.
    • Each family should take as much responsibility as possible for its members.
    • State assistance should be a hand-up, rather than a hand-out.
  • A set of principles like these would drive policy-making towards:
    • No personal income tax for low-income earners. This would limit churning where a lot of tax collected goes on the bureaucracy that then redistributes it.
    • A guaranteed minimum income for those in work.
    • Retirement – risk and healthcare savings accounts for all aimed at driving efficiency in these areas.
  • Paid for by:
    • An end to corporate welfare.
    • An end to middle-class welfare capture.
    • Moving the age of retirment to 70 over 20 years.
    • Better efficiencies in health, education and welfare.
    • An end to Working for Families, once a guaranteed minimum income arrangement has been worked out carefully.

Labour also needs to explain: 

  • That what is important to existing and potential Labour voters is people, not institutions. That Labour policy will in future put people ahead of institutions, unlike the current National party.
  • That provider capture in health and education is a thing of the past, and that funding will instead go to the benefit of pupils, patients and other consumers, not to service providers. That is not to say providers would not do well. They will so long as consumers benefit.
  • An all-out effort to reform the distribution of resources amongst the social service institutions to ensure resources move to the greatest need in terms of social goals.
  • An end to corporate welfare and middle-class welfare, thus enabling tax reductions across the board, and especially for the lower paid.
  • Reform of healthcare (following a review) including looking at individuals’ health savings accounts (Singapore style). Aim at better outcomes, greater efficiency, more fairness.
  • Reform of education. Adopt as a basic principle that no one should fail. Make clear that the current 30% failure rate is not acceptable.
  • Local government in Auckland has been a failure and Labour will change that.

But most of all, New Zealanders will need to believe Labour is for real. Working through these principles will take time.  A good strategy would be to have a locum tenens leader while the necessary work is undertaken. Always remember that any extreme left-wing policies usually hurt the poor, and the poor know it. Such policies would quickly see Labour back to where it is now.

Above all, a top-class opposition would be great for New Zealand.  What’s the chance of that – 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 40, 50%?

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ODT on Curran’s allegations of dirty politics in Dunedin Labour

October 6th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT reports:

In most cases, the revival of a Labour Party branch which says it has doubled its membership since August, and aims to have 100 members early next year, would be welcomed by the sitting MP.

But Dunedin South MP Clare Curran is anything but thrilled by the resurrection of the Andersons Bay-Peninsula branch in her electorate.

She says the branch was reconstituted without official approval, with the aim of undermining her bid to be re-elected.

”This is dirty tricks and dirty politics in Dunedin South,” she told the Otago Daily Times this week.

I await the Nicky Hager book on the Dunedin South Labour Party.

Mr Loo told the Otago Daily Times Ms Curran was used to having ”tight control” of the branch and did not like the fact the Andersons Bay-Peninsula branch was not in her inner circle.

The branch aimed to attract new members who were not university students but were in the trades, labourers or struggling to find full-time work – the traditional base of the Labour Party, he said.

Mr Loo remained a strong supporter of former Labour leader David Cunliffe, who wants the job back but is facing a challenge from Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson, formerly of Dunedin.

Ms Curran and Dunedin North MP David Clark both supported Mr Robertson previously and can be expected to provide similar support in the Labour leadership contest.

So is this branch warfare a proxy for the wider battle?

Pointedly, he mentioned all Labour MPs would face re-selection in 2016 and selection contests were good for the health of the party.

”No MP holds their seat by right. It’s not personal, but the way of developing talent is to give people a chance of participating,” he said.

I don’t think challenges are dirty politics. It is democracy.

Dunedin South was fourth, behind Manurewa, Manukau East and Mangere, in the amount of party vote received.

This is true in terms of votes, but that is partly because Dunedin South had a higher turnout. As a percentage of the vote, Dunedin South was 17th best for Labour.

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Pundits on Labour

October 3rd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

I’m going to keep this short and sweet: Labour has fallen apart and it ain’t over yet.

The party is proving to voters why they got just 24.6 percent; it proves they would never have been able to govern. They are tearing themselves apart. They look like narcissists. This is civilian war. This is a fight for control of the party.

Annette King once told me there were no factions in the Labour Party – they were just social groupings, she said. I’m sorry that’s bull-dust. These factions are alive and well and have been since the 1980s. It’s publicly tearing Labour apart and I imagine voters are completely turned off.

It would be very interesting if a media outlet did a poll in the next few weeks.

The ABC club never died when Cunliffe became leader – they just retired to the corner and got more bitter and twisted. It’s no secret who they are: Trevor Mallard is the life president, Clayton Cosgrove, chief plotter, David Shearer, general-secretary, Stuart Nash, head of communications, Annette King, camp mother, Grant Robertson the uncle, Phil Goff, kaumatua, and the errant ABC kids are Jacinda Ardern, Chris Hipkins and Kris Faafoi.

I think you could add the two Dunedin MPs to it as new recruits.

Labour has been heading this way for some time. The powder keg has blown. Cunliffe does not have the support of his caucus. They do not want him; neither do Kiwi voters.

He should have seen all this last week and gone quietly for the good of the party, and the cause, but he has chosen to hit the nuclear option. It is his own personal revenge at the ABCers. It’s breathtakingly arrogant. Which part of election spanking does he not understand?

Labour talks about renewal, but it’s stuck with 1980s politicians pulling the strings. They don’t even look like a viable opposition, let alone a party ready to govern.

 

Just imagine if National had got 2% less and Hone kept his seat, and we had a Labour-Greens-NZ First-Mana Government. It would be chaotic beyond belief.

Patrick Gower writes:

Camp Cunliffe is really hitting the beltway nerve – that Team Robertson can’t be trusted, portraying Mr Robertson as a disloyal deputy who rolled David Shearer.

Although Mr Cunliffe is not prepared to put his name to it.

But that’s not what his press secretary and cousin Simon Cunliffe told 3 News.

In an email he said: “Shearer’s decision to quit followed a caucus numbers push – led by a Robertson follower.”

So Cunliffe’s office actually e-mailed a journalist blaming Shearer’s fall on Robertson.

There is some truth to it though. My understand is that Shearer blames Cunliffe for undermining him, but Robertson for rolling him – hence why he might still stand.

Liam Hehir writes:

You’ve probably heard about this year’s election being Labour’s worst showing in 92 years. In fact, the result was even worse.

In 1922, Labour received 23.7 per cent of all votes cast. This year it received 24.69 per cent of the party vote. However, the latter is not the better of the two.

Ninety-two years ago, New Zealanders voted using first past the post. There was no “party vote” to give a neat measurement of relative party support. The overall voting percentages simply reflect the number of candidate votes counted over all of the then 80 electorates.

In 1922, Labour fielded just 41 candidates, meaning only about half of New Zealanders could vote for a Labour candidate that year.

The seats Labour did not stand in were probably those least favourable to it. Nevertheless, had the party contested every electorate (or were MMP in place back then) we can be fairly sure it would have outperformed its 2014 result.

The same reasoning applies to Labour’s first election three years earlier in 1919. Then it received 24.2 per cent of votes cast despite not standing candidates in a significant number of electorates. Taking this into account, it seems the Labour Party has never had weaker voter appeal than it does today.

A useful analysis. This is a record low.

In 2011, Canada’s Liberals – long the country’s dominant political party – received just 18.91 per cent of the popular vote. Beaten into third place, the party had to relinquish its position as the official opposition. Nevertheless, under the leadership of Justin Trudeau, the party has moved back into first place in the polls.

If only Helen Clark had a daughter!

Or what is Roy Lange up to?

And, of course, there was National’s 2002 catastrophe. It is hard to believe that the party now straddling the political centre like the Colossus of Rhodes received just 20.93 per cent of the vote that year. How has it managed to claw back its status as the natural party of government?

First, National eliminated its competition on the Right. Under Don Brash, National gobbled up almost the whole conservative vote, reducing ACT and UnitedFuture to the lifeless husks they are today. NZ First also barely survived this process as about half of its traditionalist voters defected back to National.

While that restored National’s formidability, the 2005 election proved that it wasn’t quite enough to carve out a workable majority. It then fell to the pragmatic and non-ideological John Key to seize back the centre ground. His ability to do this – bringing both conservative and centrist voters with him – has proved essential to his success as a popular leader.

National needed Brash and Key in that order. Brash to consolidate the right vote and then Key to win the centre vote.

John Armstrong also writes:

It is a suggestion likely made in vain. But the time has surely arrived for those with standing and influence in the Labour Party to break their silence and somehow persuade David Cunliffe that his gambit for winning back the party’s leadership is simply not a starter.

I suggested some time ago that the only person who could save Labour from itself is Helen Clark, if she told Cunliffe to withdraw.

The crux of the matter is that if Cunliffe were to win the party-wide ballot, he would not have the confidence of the caucus members ranked second and third, David Parker and Grant Robertson, never mind the remainder of the parliamentary wing.

He has at most 20% to 30% support in caucus.

The Labour Party has become a laughing stock. But the party’s current circumstances are no joke.

The only viable way forward is that whoever becomes leader has to purge the caucus of the other faction. Otherwise it won’t be credible to the public that they can be a unified party which can govern a country.

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