Labour chess

July 22nd, 2014 at 9:48 am by David Farrar

The current internal machinations in Labour are a bit like a game of chess. Grant Robertson is the King of the Board who doesn’t want to do combat himself, so he is sending pawns off to do battle, and clear the way for him. The latest play is:

  • Grant has the numbers to roll Cunliffe, and has had for some time. This is beyond dispute
  • Grant does not want to become Leader yet. He rightfully fears losing the election, having a divided party, and an activist base that will blame him for the loss. This is almost beyond dispute.
  • Another factor for Grant is he is not even sure if he wants to be Leader for the 2017 election if Key still leads National. He only wants to become leader when he thinks the election is winnable (which it was in the middle of last year).
  • David Cunliffe is unlikely to go quietly after the election, if they lose. The magnitude of the loss will be a factor, but very clear signals have been sent out that he believes the unions and activists will stay loyal to him, and allow him to carry on. This is of massive concern to many MPs, and this is almost beyond dispute also.
  • David Shearer has been picked as the candidate to go up against Cunliffe in the December leadership ballot and then the membership vote. He strongly feels he was not given a fair go, and that he can appeal to non-core voters. He is far more angry and resentful against Cunliffe than people realise, but a complicating factor is he is equally resentful towards Robertson whose faction toppled him. But Camp Robertson would support him. I would put this as highly likely if Cunliffe does not resign.
  • A growing number of MPs are worried they will lose their seats and have been canvassing numbers for David Parker to challenge before the House rises. They are worried it will look desperate, and also the election materials have been printed. However the possibility of Little, Ardern and even Parker losing their seats weighs heavily on them. I’d say this is less than 50/50 probability – there is talk, but caution will overcome action.
  • A complicating factor is the Deputy Leadership. Both Parker and Shearer want Robertson as their Deputy so he shares the success or blame of their leadership. He would rather keep his powder dry until it is his time (he saw when deputy to Shearer how much activists also blamed him) and a condition of his support is that Ardern becomes Deputy.

Again change is less likely than not before the election. It must effectively happen today or next Tuesday. There are 60 days until the election. They are resigned to a result probably in the 20s. Their fear is a low to mid 20s result that removes some of their “stars” and leaves them too weakened to be competitive in 2017. They will now accept a result of even 29% as adequate.

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Caucus anger at Cunliffe

July 20th, 2014 at 9:51 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour MPS are disgusted by leader David Cunliffe’s skiing holiday just two months before the election and will question his work ethic at a caucus meeting on Tuesday, a senior party insider has told the Sunday Star-Times.

As Labour hit a new polling low of just 23.5 per cent in the latest Stuff/Ipsos poll and data suggested those numbers would climb quickly if its leader quit, Cunliffe took a week’s leave to go skiing in Queenstown. That decision has infuriated a significant number of Labour MPs, the insider claimed.

I think Labour MPs need to think more carefully about this. According to the Fairfax/Ipsos poll Labour will do better if Cunliffe remains on holiday and is not out campaigning for them!

Labour MPS are disgusted by leader David Cunliffe’s skiing holiday just two months before the election and will question his work ethic at a caucus meeting on Tuesday, a senior party insider has told the Sunday Star-Times.

As Labour hit a new polling low of just 23.5 per cent in the latest Stuff/Ipsos poll and data suggested those numbers would climb quickly if its leader quit, Cunliffe took a week’s leave to go skiing in Queenstown. That decision has infuriated a significant number of Labour MPs, the insider claimed.

To be fair it is important to have your leader recharged and in full fitness, ready for what will be a gruelling campaign.

“We will be having a talk to David at caucus about his work ethic on Tuesday. We’ll be letting him know he’s got two months to turn this around, and we’re backing him and right behind him but he’s got to lift his game.”

The insider believed up to 20 of the 33 Labour MPs were deeply unhappy with Cunliffe’s leadership, but had accepted that an attempt to dump him this late in the term would backfire.

Those numbers sound right to me, and the key word is deeply. This is not a small level of concern.

Instead, he said some, especially those whose places in Parliament were now at risk because they would not be returned on the Labour list on present numbers, would run increasingly individual campaigns focused solely on regaining their seats. Clayton Cosgrove, eighth on the list, and Kelvin Davis, 18th, were deviating from party line, as seen by Davis’ public backing – against party policy – of the Puhoi-Wellsford SH1 “holiday highway” upgrade.

“Clayton knows at 23.5 per cent he’s not back on the list, so if he doesn’t win his seat, it’s the end of his career. And he also knows his career is very closely tied to the political capital of David Cunliffe.”

The insider believed Cunliffe’s decision to go on holiday showed he didn’t have the qualities to become prime minister.

Would be interesting to know who the insider is. My guess is it is an MP. Insider is a term commonly used to describe MPs. However to be fair it has been used for me in the past.

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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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Cunliffe won’t go if he loses

July 8th, 2014 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

My Labour sources have been telling me for some time that those who expect David Cunliffe to go, if Labour loses the election, are wrong. They say he has made it very clear that he doesn’t care about the support of caucus, so long as he has the unions and activists on side.

This poses a huge dilemma to Grant Robertson if Labour loses. He massively has the numbers to roll Cunliffe. In fact under Labour’s rules, Cunliffe needs a 60% confidence vote, otherwise the leadership is vacated. If they have a caucus of 34, then just 14 MPs voting against will cause a vacancy in December.

However if they roll Cunliffe, and Robertson stands against him, and loses again, then Robertson may never become leader. He won’t get a third chance. So the Robertson Camp are genuinely unsure whether to risk rolling Cunliffe come December. Up until a few weeks ago they were assuming he would do a Clark and Goff and resign if he loses. But as reported in the Herald, he won’t:

Labour leader David Cunliffe says he expects to get the 60 per cent endorsement of caucus that he will need in a confidence vote soon after the election even if Labour loses the election.

Mr Cunliffe has also indicated he would seek to stay on as leader if Labour was still in Opposition. The party’s rules require a caucus confidence vote within 3 months after an election at which the leader must get at least 60 per cent support.

Asked if would expect to get that endorsement even if Labour was still in Opposition, he said “I think that’s quite likely.”

This helps explain why Cunliffe no longer has a target of getting 40% of the vote, but is now saying he just wants to get Labour into the 30s:

Mr Cunliffe had originally said he hoped to lift Labour into the 40s in the polls, but it is currently polling at just below 30 per cent in most.

He denied he had since lowered that target, but refused to give a new target. “What I am clear about is that we wouldn’t have to get to 40 per cent to change the Government.”

He said he was certain Labour would get above 30 per cent – higher than its 2011 result of 27 per cent

So why such a modest target? Well, survival. If he does even worse than Goff, then the caucus will have no choice but to roll him. But if he can do even say 2% better than Goff and get say 29%, this allows him to declare he will stay on as leader, and tell his caucus if they roll him – he will not resign – and win the union and activists vote.

Labour2041

Maybe his tweet wasn’t a typo, and he is saying he will stay on as leader until 2041, if that is what it takes to finally win!

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Caption Contest

July 8th, 2014 at 2:21 pm by David Farrar

The Three Amigos

 

Don’t they look happy! Captions below – as always funny, not nasty, please.

 

 

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Dom Post says Cunliffe leadership is a train wreck

June 21st, 2014 at 10:47 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Labour ditched former leader David Shearer because he struggled to string two sentences together on a good day. So surely it couldn’t have got any worse, right? Wrong.

It’s a train wreck under David Cunliffe and Labour’s MPs are grumpy, nervous and wondering what they may be doing for a crust after September 20. The prospect of losing your job and the $150,000 salary always focuses the mind.

And by bad timing, the Labour Party list gets released this weekend. On the latest Fairfax poll, Labour would get only six List MPs. So anyone outside the top six of the effective list, may be toast.

Cunliffe has taken the party backwards when he promised to take it forward. Could Labour be on track to record its worst-ever election defeat? Yes.

When Cunliffe utters a word or two these days the collective intake of breath among his MPs is simply frightening.

He’s had a host of gaffes this year – and the best he’s looked was when he shut up and stood in the background while his wife, Karen Price, talked about the birds (chickens) and the bees in an interview at their home.

That was the high point.

Cunliffe was parachuted into the job of leader, not because his MPs really wanted him – most dislike him – but because Labour Party members and union affiliates were desperate for someone to articulate their values.

To say he’s been a disappointment is an understatement. After this week’s horrors he looks unelectable as the next prime minister. He’s genuinely gone from bad to worse.

My God, that is a harsh editorial.

Look at these basic mistakes. He started the year not knowing the crucial details of his baby bonus speech, he then foolishly accused Prime Minister John Key of living in a flash pad while he slummed it in a downmarket $2.5 million mansion in Herne Bay.

He set up a secret trust for his leadership bid and was caught out. He claimed his grandfather won a war medal when it was his great uncle. His CV had mistakes in it. He used Grant Robertson’s leadership statement as his own and this week – the howler – denied he knew Donghua Liu or had ever advocated for him – before a letter emerged to prove otherwise.

It isn’t the one or two mistakes. It is that they are so regular.

Former Labour Party president Mike Williams admitted to me this week that Labour’s MPs will all be discussing the possibility of replacing Cunliffe. They now have 48 hours to prepare to roll him.

They can ditch him on Tuesday – but they won’t.

I expect Robertson has the numbers if he wanted to press the issue. But he doesn’t want the job – just yet. Hence his support for Cunliffe this week and his rather cheeky throwaway line that Cunliffe will serve three of four terms as prime minister, before he takes his chance. You just know he didn’t mean that.

There is no doubt Grant has the numbers. It isn’t even close. But he doesn’t want to be Mike Moore. so he will sit back.

UPDATE: According to people who have read the print edition this is not an editorial but a column by Duncan Garner. No wonder it was quite blunt!

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Caucus can safely roll Cunliffe from next week

June 12th, 2014 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett writes:

More critically for Cunliffe is the open opposition among senior members of his own team to any collusion with the Internet Mana Party. The caucus is split between those who believe the party should hold its nose and do what it must to get the Government benches and those vehemently opposed to any such deal. The official line is that Labour will make its decision after the voters have had their say. Yet MPs Phil Goff, David Shearer and Chris Hipkins, as well as Napier candidate Stuart Nash, have strongly and publicly condemned the Internet-Mana situation.

Such things are usually left to the leader to take a stand on in public. The fact these MPs went over his head and spoke out shows the strength of their views and suggests they are wary of what Cunliffe might do and hope to pre-empt it.

There is some suspicion about the influence of Cunliffe’s chief of staff, Matt McCarten, who has past allegiances to the Alliance Party, now reborn through Laila Harre under the Internet Party banner, and Hone Harawira’s Mana Party. He could well believe a deal in Te Tai Tokerau was a good idea. The MPs in question did get some return fire on David Cunliffe’s Facebook page from Labour supporters.

But Cunliffe can’t afford to ignore such strongly-held views in his caucus. He is about to head into his own danger zone. From June 20, Labour’s caucus has a three-month window to change the leader without having to go through the party’s new primary-style process giving its membership a vote.

If Cunliffe was thriving in the polls, he’d be on much safer ground to make such calls about the Te Tai Tokerau seat and the Internet Mana Party. There might be some grumbling but little else because there would be too much to lose by changing the leader. As things stand, it might not take much to spark a revolt whether a rival contender is ready and willing or not.

I’d forgotten that clause. There is no way caucus would roll Cunliffe if it meant an open leadership election again. But, they can do it safely after 20 June.

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Will he rise to the challenge?

May 26th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Many are saying that Labour needs a new leader, as both Labour and David Cunliffe are polling lower than they were under David Shearer.

But who could replace David Cunliffe as Labour Party Leader, so that there is a strong opposition to John Key? None of the current caucus look up to it. So maybe they could go outside.

Let’s look at the characteristics needed to be the opposition leader.

  1. An excellent communicator
  2. Charismatic and personable
  3. Well known
  4. Auckland based (where one third of the country live)
  5. Able to relate to rich and poor
  6. Not ashamed of his personal wealth
  7. Liked by the media
  8. Leftwing enough to be liked by both The Standard and the Daily Blog activists
  9. The sort of guy you’d happily invite to dinner or have a beer with
  10. Able to take complex facts and turn them into a simple narrative against the Government and Prime Minister

I think the answer is obvious. Only one person can credibly take over the leadership of the Labour Party.

John Campbell – step forward. Your country needs you.

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Did Collins and Jones save Cunliffe?

May 10th, 2014 at 11:50 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett writes:

As for Labour, Grant Robertson wanted Cunliffe’s job last September. Last week, things were so fragile he might have been in with a chance. List MPs were doing the numbers as internal polling showed them diving into the low to mid-20s and Cunliffe with stratospherically high negative ratings.

One poll was reported to have Labour only five or six points ahead of the Greens. Emerging from the election as effectively a medium-sized party is no way to celebrate Labour’s centenary. The prospect those List MPs could be looking in the Situations Vacant come October was focusing minds.

There were whispers about the nuclear option of forcing a leadership change, not necessarily to win the election but to try to shore up Labour’s vote from a catastrophic low. Ironically, Cunliffe’s opponents Jones and Robertson may well have stopped those musings turning into a more concrete push. Some had discussed putting Jones up as that last-minute leader because he could have an immediate impact on the polling.

He took himself out of the equation by resigning. Robertson helped forestall any such move by his dogged pursuit of Collins, ensuring it distracted from Labour’s woes, giving voters time to forget and for the polls to rally. David Parker also helped, delivering a monetary policy statement that actually had some relevance to everyday people, although he has so far fallen short on delivering the numbers needed for people to assess what it means to them.

I’m not sure it is a bad thing for National, if Labour doesn’t have a change of leader.

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Cunliffe says Labour will win – but maybe not until 2017

February 25th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

In an interview with Radio New Zealand, David Cunliffe said:

“We all know the Government is going to change. It’s either going to change this time or next time. I think it’s more likely to change this time, and if it does, the question in front of New Zealanders is what is the composition of that new government going to be?”

To have the Leader of the Opposition basically say they may not win this election is in itself unusual.

But what makes it even more interesting is that for a couple of months there has been talk coming from some in Labour about how they are going for a two election strategy – to do well enough this time, to win in 2017. Others might call that a strategy to lose!

Even more interesting is that it seems some of the ABC club have worked out that this may be the strategy, and this is posing them a dilemma. They definitely want to win this time, and get into Government. But they are unconvinced they can. They think a loss is most likely.

The issue for them is if Labour loses, is it better if they lose narrowly or lose badly? Their concern is that the worst result would be a very narrow loss. Because then Cunliffe would remain leader for three more years (and then if they win in 2017, maybe six more beyond that).

The view that very reliable people have been putting around is that some in Labour have decided that while they want a win if a loss is inevitable then they want a big loss, rather than a narrow one. Why? Because then they can not just replace the leader, but convince the party to return the selection of the leader to the caucus. That could happen, if the leader forced on them by the activists and unions leads them to a worse result then even Goff got in 2011.

I wasn’t planning to blog at this stage on the maneuvering going on within Labour, but Cunliffe’s explicit mention of winning in 2017, if not 2014, suggests that he is aware of the issue, and he is also looking to shore up support for a two term strategy so he doesn’t get rolled if they narrowly lose in 2014.

The next couple of months will be essential for Labour. If the left doesn’t improve in the polls, then some MPs will decide a big loss is preferable to a narrow loss and the go slow will become a strike. However if the left do improve in the polls, then the scent of victory will keep them united.

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The ABCs are back

February 21st, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Duncan Garner talks on Radio Live about how the ABCs are back. He cites both a current and former Labour MP who have said that there is growing discontent over how Cunliffe has started the year.

Duncan was very clear that there is no challenge to Cunliffe’s leadership looming.Both sources were explicit on this. What has happened is that the the ABCs had gone into hibernation, but now they are talking to each other again.

The strategy that seems to be emerging is more a go slow. They think Labour can’t win, so they won’t bust their backs slogging away for a leader they don’t support. They’ll just wait for the loss, and then vacate the leadership after the election.

That’s what Garner has said a current and former Labour MP have said. And it is worth noting that Garner was one of the first to expose the maneuvers that were happening against David Shearer.

Labour dropping to 30% in yesterday’s Roy Morgan poll won’t help settle things down much either. The RM poll is very volatile, so eyes will be out for other polls in the next month or so.

Pete George has a transcript of what Garner said.

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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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How the caucus may have voted

September 17th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar
Cunliffe Jones Robertson
Ardern, Jacinda 3 2 1
Beaumont, Carol 1 3 2
Clark, David 2 3 1
Cosgrove, Clayton 3 1 2
Cunliffe, David 1 2 3
Curran, Clare 2 3 1
Dalziel, Lianne 1 3 2
Dyson, Ruth 2 3 1
Faafoi, Kris 3 2 1
Fenton, Darien 2 3 1
Goff, Phil 3 2 1
Hipkins, Chris 3 2 1
Huo, Raymond 2 3 1
Jones, Shane 2 1 3
King, Annette 3 2 1
Lees-Galloway, Iain 1 2 3
Little, Andrew 3 2 1
Mackey, Moana 1 2 3
Mahuta, Nanaia 1 2 3
Mallard, Trevor 3 2 1
Moroney, Sue 1 2 3
O’Connor, Damien 2 1 3
Parker, David 2 1 3
Prasad, Rajen 1 3 2
Robertson, Grant 3 2 1
Robertson, Ross 3 1 2
Shearer, David 2 1 3
Sio, Su’a William 1 2 3
Street, Maryan 2 3 1
Tirikatene, Rino 2 1 3
Twyford, Phil 2 3 1
Wall, Louisa 1 2 3
Whaitiri, Meka 1 2 3
Woods, Megan 2 3 1
1 11 7 16
2 13 16 5
3 10 11 13
34 34 34
Round 1 11 7 16
Round 2 16 18

Most Labour MPs preferences were known in advance of the vote. Patrick Gower has some info on some last minute changes including Parker being the 7th vote for Jones. Based on this, the above is the likely (but no way to know for sure as a secret ballot) voting preferences for the caucus.

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Cunliffe wins

September 15th, 2013 at 2:49 pm by David Farrar

David Cunliife wins with 51.5% on the first preferences. Huge win.

Robertson narrowly won the caucus vote, Cunliffe got 60% of the members and 70% of the unions.

  • The caucus voted Robertson 47%, Jones 21%, Cunliffe 32%.
  • The members voted Robertson 27%, Jones 13%, Cunliffe 60%
  • The unions voted Robertson 17%, Jones 12%, Cunliffe 71%

This means Cunliffe got just 11 out of 34 votes in caucus, Jones got 7 and Robertson 16.

 

 

 

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Guest Post: Winners and Losers

September 14th, 2013 at 7:29 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Michael Lu:

Winner and Loser

By Michael Lu .

Whatever the final outcome of the Labour leadership’s contest, it is hard to say who is the loser amongst the three contestants – David Cunliffe,Grant Robertson and Shane Jones. If I have to determine whose the loser in this contest is, then it is probably the Labour Party itself.

The three contestants are now pulling out all the stops to try to woo the supporters, unions and caucus to support them in this leadership contest. All of them have released their policies in their leadership roadshow. Shane Jones has not  specified the financial commitments in his policy to woo the voters, whereas the other two candidates are more specific in what they can offer.

Amongst the three contestants, Shane Jones has little chance in winning the leadership contest. His participation is to assist him to increase his profile. He wants to seize this opportunity to address voters’ concerns and show his political astuteness. The recent roadshow has shown his ability to attract the supporters and raising his profile. In my opinion, Shane Jones is a winner. His increased popularity and his future political career are more likely to attract media and voter’s attention. The once ranked fifth minister in former Labour government with great leadership potential will struggle to be elected to be the leader due to his indiscretion and actions in the past. 

Many people have commended that both Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe are the front runners in this leadership contest.  The policies released by both of them have shown that they have put up sweeteners like living wage in order to attract more votes. Whoever the elected leader is, he will face pressure to honour these commitments and increase the popularity of Labour party amongst the voters.

In the leadership contest, I believe David Cunliffe has the upper hand in winning the leadership. He has been ranked third in the Labor Party heavyweights, highly educated at Harvard University and has been in politics for a number of years . His political view is more leaning towards left-wing voters which will appeal to the blue collar support. This will be a risk for David Cunliffe to unite the faction of party and supporters which has a more centre political view. It is important to note that in the last election, one of the contributing factors that Labour lost the election is the voters has lost confidence in the leader and hence has decided not to vote.

David Cunliffe, although popular at the grassroots level, seems to be unpopular and left out from the Labour caucus. His personality has made it difficult for colleagues to support him.  It is crucial for him to change his leadership style and make it conducive for his colleagues to vote and support him in order to win this contest. 

Under the MMP electoral system, both the Labour and the National need to find allies in order to form coalition government. It is important for any leaders to have good political relations with potential partners. In the past, Helen Clark was reluctant to form a coalition government with the Greens in order to avoid being overly containment policies. Helen Clark rarely ruled out any coalition deals in the public. David Cunliffe’s recent speech of ruling out giving the finance minister post to the Greens did not make much sense. If the Greens performs well in the next election and the Labour needs to surrender the post of finance minister for them to form the coalition government, the opponents will accuse David Cunliffe to be untrustworthy. If and when David Cunliffe becomes the leader, his focus is not only on uniting the party and also building the good relationship with political parties for Labour to form coalition government.

On the other hand, Grant Robertson is more likely to gain support from the caucus. His centre-left policy and good performance throughout his career is well known. However, it is difficult to predict his gay identity is seen to be favourable or disadvantage to lead the Labour in the upcoming election in 2014. New Zealanders considered themselves always open, egalitarian. An openly gay prime minister perhaps would make New Zealanders proud.

From another perspective, whoever loses this contest, this might not be a bad situation. Firstly, the new Labour leader will face lots of challenges from Russell Norman and Winston Peters whose outspoken style is always the focus of media. Secondly, the winner of this leader contest won’t make everybody happy. The losers will challenge the leadership again once there is an opportunity. Finally, the John Key led National Party has been in the government for two terms now and still leading in the latest polling. It is not an easy job for the Labour new leader to lead the party to take over the power from National in the upcoming election in 2014. Once the Labour loses the election, the new leader may be forced to step down. Therefore, whoever loses this Labour leadership contest; he is not to be a loser yet. If the Labour loses the upcoming election, he still has a chance to become the next Labour leader and has a better chance to defeat National in 2017.

 In the end, who is the real winner from the leadership contest, I am afraid that only time will tell.

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Garner on the race

September 14th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

Cunliffe’s nose may just be ahead – but it’s not over: Robertson’s people won’t give up; they seriously dislike Cunliffe, they really do.

They really really do.

I have spoken to a number of Labour MPs in recent days who openly despise Cunliffe. The hatred and bile towards him has not subsided. It actually seems to have got stronger and louder in the final stretch of this race.

One senior MP in the Robertson camp described him to me over the weekend as “an insincere prat” who is “a fake that would be shown up bloody quickly”. Others have described him in similar terms. You get the point.

If Cunliffe wins, it will be fascinating to see what happens. There won’t be anything for several months as they get a poll bounce, but if things drop back then it could turn caustic.

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Final Vote Model update

September 14th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I’ve done some tweaking of the model, assuming EPMU vote is not as strong for Robertson as previously, and also that Cunliffe does better in the members vote. The final model (not a prediction – this is more a learning exercise) is:

Modelled Labour Vote by Section      
       
Raw Vote Cunliffe Robertson Jones
Caucus 35.3% 47.1% 17.6%
Unions 51.9% 35.1% 13.0%
Members 45.9% 40.8% 13.3%
       
Weighted Vote Cunliffe Robertson Jones
Caucus 14.1% 18.8% 7.1%
Unions 10.4% 7.0% 2.6%
Members 18.4% 16.3% 5.3%
       
Total Vote 42.9% 42.2% 15.0%
       
Second Preferences Cunliffe Robertson  
Caucus 47.1% 52.9%  
Unions 60.2% 39.8%  
Members 53.6% 46.4%  
       
Final Weighted Vote Cunliffe Robertson  
Caucus 18.8% 21.2%  
Unions 12.0% 8.0%  
Members 21.4% 18.6%  
       
Total Final Vote 52.3% 47.7%  

What it doesn’t take account of is different turn-out by region for the members. I understand Camp Cunliffe had a 48 hour call bank running where they called almost every member likely to vote for him. An operation like that can make a big difference.

But to balance that is one MP is worth several hundred members.

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The final pork barrel update

September 13th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar
  Cunliffe Jones Robertson
       
Raise taxes on rich pricks Yes No Yes
Living wage for all Govt staff and contractors Yes   Yes
Minimum wage $15/hr Yes   Yes
Full employment Yes   Yes
Living wage for all Yes    
Pacifica TV channel Yes Yes  
Regulate food prices Yes Yes Yes
A home for everyone     Yes
Taxi drivers to earn more Yes    
Increase tax rate on trusts Yes    
Subsidies for tree planting Yes    
Repeal all of National’s employment changes Yes   Yes
Expand ban on house purchases to Australians   Yes  
Extend Northern Rail Link to North Port Yes Yes  
Extend Part 6A from vulnerable workers to all workers Yes    
50% female quota for caucus Yes   Yes
Not block the “man ban” if party wants it Yes   Yes
Scrap Kapiti Expressway Yes    
Possibly buy back SOEs Yes    
Possibly keep Super age at 65, not 67 Yes    
Subsidies or “support” for wood processing     Yes
A second cable to the United States     Yes
Extend 2014 target for Treaty settlements to 2020     Yes
Make Police Commissioner apologise to Tuhoe     Yes
National awards within 100 days of election Yes    
Restore Napier to Gisborne rail line Yes   Yes
Tax incentives for regional businesses   Yes  
Change Reserve Bank focus from inflation to employment     Yes
Extend Training Incentive Allowance to beneficiaries     Yes
A living allowance for all students     Yes
Financial Transactions Tax     No
Allowances for post graduate students     Yes
Repeal VSM law     Yes
Relocate government services to Dunedin   Yes  
More compensation for Pike River families Yes    
Rent controls for Christchurch     Yes
Restrict migrant workers in Chch   Yes  
Support mining (at the West Coast meeting)   Yes Yes

Thankfully for the country, the pork fest finishes on Sunday, so no more damage can be promised!

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Cunliffe getting the members vote

September 13th, 2013 at 9:53 am by David Farrar

According to reports I’ve received, turnout in the members vote has increased and is now over 40%. Camp Cunliffe have implemented a large scale get out the vote operation phoning almost every Auckland member.

This makes it very hard for Robertson to win. One of his routes was through a low turnout, and that has gone. So the only other route would be through picking up extra votes in caucus, and I’m not sure there are enough uncommitted votes left.

In fact with Cunliffe looking much more likely of a win, it is quite possible that some MPs leaning Robertson will now vote Cunliffe. They’d do this for two reasons – one is to be on the winning team, and the other is so Cunliffe is seen to win all three sections, and doesn’t have stories about how he was foisted on the caucus.

NZ Labour do not reveal how each mp votes (unlike UK Labour which does), but as so many MPs are publicly committed to one camp, the overall voting result for the caucus will allow the camps to work out with a high degree of probability how each MP voted.

One wildcard in the members vote is Ikaroa-Rawhiti currently has 750 members due to the by-election contest. Now that is probably around 10% of the total for the country. If they vote in large proportions that will have an impact. However I suspect most joined just to vote for selecting a by-election candidate.

So with two days to go, I think it will be very very hard for Robertson to win. Cunliffe is not just the front runner now, but might win reasonably comfortably. Time will tell.

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Too close to call

September 12th, 2013 at 3:19 pm by David Farrar

Lablead

 

As always, treat the non-caucus numbers as highly speculative. The caucus numbers are more solid, but MPs have been known to swap sides, or say one thing and do another.

My models have Robertson ahead in the caucus vote, and Cunliffe ahead in the union and members vote. When you weight them together I actually have Robertson narrowly leading. However with Cunliffe picking up more of the Jones caucus second preferences, my model has a narrow victory to Cunliffe on the final ballot – 51.1% to 48.9%.

So if the model is in the ballpark (and it may not be), then either Robertson or Cunliffe can win. And the fact neither camp is claiming they have it in the bag, suggests they also think it is close.

So how can the three candidates win. Here’s what I think

Robertson

The easiest way for Robertson to win is to pick up additional caucus votes. In fact just one MP swapping to him will get him over the line on this model. If the six Jones voters split 3-3 instead of 4-2 to Cunliffe, then he squeaks in.

The other path to victory for Robertson is to do better on the membership vote. I’ve heard that the voting turnout to date is low, just 14% as of yesterday. A low turnout would I think advantage Robertson as I think his caucus supporters will be better at getting their local members to vote.

Cunliffe

Cunliffe has multiple routes to victory. On this model he is more likely to win. If he picks up a couple more caucus votes he is home and hosed.

Another route to victory for Cunliffe is the EPMU. He has the support of the four smaller unions. The SFWU is allowing all members a vote so hard to change their outcome. The EPMU however has around 50 voting delegates only and they carry around 7% of the total vote. My model assumes most EPMU delegates will back Robertson as he has some support from senior officials such as Paul Tolich. However it is quite possible the EPMU may vote the same way as the other unions, and if so Cunliffe gets in easily.

The third route to victory for Cunliffe is winning the members vote not narrowly, but by say over a 10% margin. If after preferences Cunliffe gets over 55% of their vote, it should also clinch it for him. For that his team need to make sure the Auckland based members vote in strength. The fact  600 to 700 members turned up to the Wellington meeting suggests Wellington may have a higher vote turnout per capita/member.

Jones

There is no route to victory for Jones!

So my pick is a victory for Cunliffe. However Robertson can win if get more caucus votes, and there is a relatively low membership vote. But  against that Cunliffe has multiple routes to victory and only needs one of them. The advantage is his.

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Trevett’s Labour Leadership Awards

September 12th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Some amusing awards from Claire Trevett:

The Artful Dodger award for picking pockets: 
David Cunliffe. Grant Robertson announced the living wage – five minutes later Cunliffe did too. Shane Jones announced Pasifika TV – five minutes later Cunliffe did too. Robertson made a joke about boy bands. It was Cunliffe’s by the next day. Shane Jones announced regional development measures including a rail link to Marsden Pt. The next day, Cunliffe announced a package suspiciously similar.

Is there any pledge DC hasn’t matched?

The John Banks award for greatest transmogrification: 
David Cunliffe for his leap from the business-friendly face of Labour to waving a bunch of “socialist red” roses around and singing paeans from the Workers’ Songbook.

John Wayne award for straight shooting: 
Grant Robertson for bluntly pointing out Shane Jones could not win, however successful he was in the polls. Shane Jones for saying of the Greens: “I am going to harvest and find my votes in Middle Earth – not flat earth. …

Merry Wives of Windsor award for playing hard to get: 
Andrew Little, Raymond Huo, David Parker. Each camp has tried to claim them, but they have continued to refuse to say whom they are backing.

Woody Allen Zelig award for best human chameleon: 
David Cunliffe. In 2011, he morphed into a character from bro’Town to fit into the audience at the flea markets. The sequel came at the Whangarei hustings meeting when he tried out his Maori styles, complete with the use of “eh” to end sentences.

Joni Mitchell award for best rendition of Both Sides Now: 
Su’a William Sio for signing Shane Jones’ nomination form, but supporting David Cunliffe.

Son of a Preacher Man award for best evangelical performance: 
David Cunliffe, who is the son of a preacher man, for his campaign launch and his vibrato a la Martin Luther King “this little town” soliloquy at Blackball. In fact, for his entire campaign.

I understand Martin Luther Cunliffe is now the term used by his opponents to deride him!

Where’s Wally? pantomime award: 
Robertson, for telling Seven Sharp his partner Alf was too busy to be at the pub for the interview just before the camera caught Alf at another table. He’s behind you, Grant!

I suspect that episode may come back to haunt Grant, unless he is claiming that Alf was there without his knowledge!

Shane Jones award for out Jones-ing Jonesy: 
Patrick Gower, 3News: “It’s gonna be Cunliffe’s butchery in the caucus room next Tuesday if he gets the job.”

The blood bath may not be immediate, but could be awesome.

Hellers’ award for biggest pork barrel: 
All three.

Which makes taxpayers the loser no matter who wins!

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Modelling the Labour Members vote

September 11th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Okay, I’ve now done a very speculative model of how the Labour membership vote may go. Please do not take this as a prediction. What I’m trying to do is identify the factors that could influence the vote and see what that might look like. There are so many assumptions involved, that it can not be regarded as any sort of prediction.

The first thing one has to do is work out the relative membership in each electorate. Sadly (but understandably) Labour won’t tell me, so what I have done is make assumptions based on the total party and electorate vote each electorate got at the 2011 election, and proportion them out on the basis of total votes over 9,000 (which is basically your weakest electorate). If someone wants to supply me with actual membership numbers happy to update the assumptions!

Labelects

 

I’ve assumed 7,000 members (so average per electorate is 100), but that doesn’t matter, what matters is the relative size of each electorate (assuming they all have same voting turnout).

Next one has to assume how they will vote. Now this is like reading tea leaves, and not much more scientific. But can make some assumptions. Here is what I did:

 Cunliffe  Jones  Robertson Cunliffe  Robertson
Other 45.0% 22.0% 33.0% 57.7% 42.3%
Auckland 65.0% 14.0% 21.0% 75.6% 24.4%
Wellington 24.9% 12.1% 63.0% 28.3% 71.7%
Christchurch 31.6% 15.4% 53.0% 37.3% 62.7%
Dunedin 31.6% 15.4% 53.0% 37.3% 62.7%
Maori 27.7% 52.0% 20.3% 57.7% 42.3%

So for most electorates, I assumed Cunliffe 45%, Robertson 33% and Jones 22%, based on general acknowledgement that Cunliffe has more support from members.

But in Auckland I give Cunliffe a 20% boost, in Wellington Robertson a 30% boost and a 20% boost for Robertson in Christchurch and Dunedin. And Jones gets a 30% boost in the Maori electorates.

Then there is one further adjustment. If the electorate has an MP who is a supporter of one candidate, that gives that candidate an additional 30% boost. That is based on the reality that the local MP will have significant influence on their members. This is not like the UK where the number of voters was hundreds of thousands. In each electorate it may be a few dozen only and the MP will have influence. Some MPs such as Goff and Mallard probably have more influence over their electorates than a new MP, but I’m assuming a 30% endorsement factor for each.

So what that does give us as a model for each electorate.

labelectvote

 

Now what do you get when you multiply each vote by their assumed strength.

  • Cunliffe 45.4%
  • Jones 13.1%
  • Robertson 41.5%

And if you assumes Jones second preferences flow the same as other’s first preferences:

  • Cunliffe 53.0%
  • Robertson 47.0%

I’ll reveal tomorrow the updated model for each section (caucus, unions and members) and what the overall model is projecting for the total vote.

 

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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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The battle getting heated

September 10th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins at Stuff writes:

The numbers are being done daily, the lead changes depending which camp you talk to, and the gloves are well and truly off in the Labour leadership race.

Warring between David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson supporters spilled into the public arena yesterday, after MP Clare Curran accused Cunliffe supporters of using Mr Robertson’s sexuality as a mark against him. She singled out “Leftwingers” in the party and accused them of “dog whistle” politics for suggesting New Zealand was not ready for a gay prime minister.

Very disappointing if some Labour members are doing that.

However Grant did himself no favours by hiding his partner from the camera in the pub, and denying he was even there, when he was. That shows he himself does think it is a factor.

Some feathers within the party have been ruffled, meanwhile, by Robertson supporters pushing the line there will be an exodus of the party’s rising stars if Mr Cunliffe wins – seen as an attempt to exert pressure on the outcome.

On a different front, the picture over second preferences of the third candidate, Shane Jones, is getting increasingly murky after Mr Cunliffe believed he had been promised them, and Mr Jones denied that.

However, there are rumours that some of Mr Jones’ supporters are openly encouraging his backers to give their second preference to Mr Cunliffe, despite those denials.

In other words, the fog of war has well and truly descended over the Labour leadership race and you can no longer be sure who is telling the truth.

I think there is no doubt Robertson will win a plurality of the Labour caucus votes over Cunliffe. But by my reckoning they do not have a majority and how the six or so Jones voters assign their second preferences will be important. I have two thirds of them going for Cunliffe at the moment leaving it 18 – 16 Robertson-Cunliffe after preferences.

According to some MPs, for instance, the numbers in the caucus remain rock solid behind Mr Robertson at a “solid 18, and probably 20″. Others suggest some of those previously rock solid numbers have crossed to either Mr Jones or Mr Cunliffe.

Still others suggest that the second preferences of Mr Jones’ supporters will swing the caucus vote Mr Cunliffe’s way.

The unions, meanwhile, are split, although a number of small ones have endorsed Mr Cunliffe.

All four of the smaller unions have endorsed Cunliffe. They only make up a third of the union vote. However I am assuming the SWFU members will favour Cunliffe, while most EPMU delegates will vote Robertson. Overall though Cunliffe should win the union vote. My current spreadsheet (which is highly speculative) has Cunliffe get 48%, Robertson 39% and Jones 13%, and then Cunliffe 56% to Robertson 44%.

If you combine that with the caucus vote then Robertson has 30.1% overall and Cunliffe 29.9%. Whomever wins the members vote should win overall unless Robertson can pick up more than 18 votes in caucus.

What it all adds up to is a party as divided over the leadership as ever – and as the election across the Tasman proved, that is not a place where Labour wants to be at the end of this race.

Some Camp Robertson people refer to David Cunliffe as David Ruddliffe :-)

UPDATE: Things are going from warm to boiling. Duncan Garner writes:

Cunliffe’s nose may just be ahead – but it’s not over: Robertson’s people won’t give up; they seriously dislike Cunliffe, they really do.

They really really do.

I have spoken to a number of Labour MPs in recent days who openly despise Cunliffe. The hatred and bile towards him has not subsided. It actually seems to have got stronger and louder in the final stretch of this race.

One senior MP in the Robertson camp described him to me over the weekend as “an insincere prat” who is “a fake that would be shown up bloody quickly”. Others have described him in similar terms. You get the point.

So what does this mean if Cunliffe wins:

If Cunliffe wins, he will win with just a third of the caucus support. That is unprecedented in NZ politics. Leaders always enjoy the support of at least 50% of their caucus. It’s how politics works.

It means that 20 odd MPs in a caucus of 34 will have voted against Cunliffe becoming leader. Astonishing isn’t it? How sustainable is that?

Grab the popcorn – it ain’t over yet.

The theory I’m now hearing is they give Cunliffe six to nine months if he wins, and if things implode then they roll him and Jones is put up as leader unopposed for the election. Assuming he doesn’t win, then you get Robertson take over after the election. Machiavelli would be proud!

UPDATE: Cunliffe has stood Jenny Michie down from his campaign team for her cements on The Nation. They seemed pretty innocuous to me.

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