Then I was emailed by a reader who heard Katie Bradford-Crozier talking to Justin duFresne this morning on NewstalkZB. She said that int he leadership vote there were 10 abstentions.
This confirms what I have heard too from my Labour sources. Ten abstentions.
Ten from a caucus of 34…nearly a third of the caucus abstained from voting. The actual percentage is 29% of David Shearer’s caucus refused to vote for him.
If correct, this means only 24 MPs voted for Shearer and the survival threshold was 21 MPs. Far from over-whelming.
Everyone in Labour knows Grant Robertson will become the next Leader. The only question is when.Tags: David Shearer, Labour Leadership
Today the Labour Caucus will vote unanimously to retain David Shearer as Leader. It’s the right decision, and my expectation is he will continue to lead Labour into the 2014 election. It is too early for Robertson and Little, and a Cunliffe leadership would probably see half the shadow cabinet resign. Shearer is the only logical answer for Labour and they need to unite behind him.
Amusingly there is a thinly disguised last minute plea from Waitakere News (well known to be the Auckland Regional Chair of the Labour Party) to vote for a conviction politician (ie David Cunliffe), as the UK Labour Party has. And on The Standard they continue their amusing hobby of posting David Shearer’s regular newsletter just so they can rip it to shreds.
So does winning this confidence vote, mean Shearer is absolutely safe until after the election, when there is another scheduled vote? Not entirely.
If at anytime the majority of caucus thought it necessary to make a change, then they could push Shearer out. Shearer has no real factional support in his caucus. If at some stage Grant Robertson went to him and said “I’m sorry David, but it isn’t working” he would probably go without a fight. Robertson has significant support in the caucus, the party organisation and in the leader’s office.
But Grant is relatively young, and in no great hurry. He knows a hostile takeover would be divisive, and absolutely the sensible thing to do is support Shearer, and hopefully become Deputy Prime Minister. He is 14 years younger than Shearer.
So what could trigger a change between now and the election. Basically just two things – the polls, or very poor performance.
I think a poll driven panic forced change is unlikely. While some in Labour are smart enough to know they really need to be polling in the high 30s to have a strong Labour-Green government, many are happy with any government that has them in it – even a Labour/Green/NZ First/Mana Government. And if you look at the polls, that combination is going to stay theoretically possible for the next two years. Labour would have to drop below 28% for them to panic. Remember Labour/Greens/NZ First/Mana have 57 seats already, so the way they see it they need just four more seats to be able to govern. So even if there is significant discontent within Labour (which is clearly the case amongst some activists), I just can’t see Labour polling badly enough to force a leadership change.
So what is the other possible catalyst? It would be if Labour is still polling okay, but Shearer has a series of terrible performances and the caucus goes into a funk at the though of how he’ll cope with the election campaign. But again I think this is relatively unlikely. While he has had some shockers, such as the stand up after sacking Cunliffe, he is generally getting better. Also performance is linked to confidence. With Cunliffe out of the way, and Labour polling okay (compared to 2011) he will gain in confidence and I expect performance.
So today’s vote isn’t the final word on his leadership. All leaders lead only with the support of their caucus, and can be removed by their caucus (except Winston). Even with Labour’s new rules, any leader who lost a caucus vote would inevitably not contest the membership ballot. However as I said my expectation is that he leads Labour into the election, and on current polls has a more than reasonable chance of becoming Prime Minister.
Of course a path to becoming Prime Minister that is dependent on what Winston may decide is a rather perilous one. The ideal for Labour is to be able to form a Government just with the Greens. But to do that they need to be polling very high 30s.
UPDATE: Stuff reports Shearer has of course been re-elected. Sounds like the vote was not unanimous, but “overwhelming”.Tags: David Shearer, Labour Leadership
Tapu Misa writes in the NZ Herald:
No independent observer of Shearer’s media performances could have failed to notice his potentially fatal deficiencies.
Whatever his strengths, however nice a human being he is, he hadn’t lived up to the hype. If National was losing some of its gloss in the polls, it was no thanks to Shearer’s stumbling leadership. …
If the criticism seemed harsh and overly impatient, it has to be seen in the context of the past four years.
The party had been conspicuously united behind Phil Goff despite widely held reservations almost from the moment he assumed the leadership.
Much good that show of unity did them.
Now they were being asked to extend that faith to a political neophyte who, if anything, had fewer weapons in his arsenal.
If politics is a contest of ideas, it needs well-armed champions. …
But the reality is that whatever Cunliffe’s credentials, his thwarted leadership ambitions would have been dead if Shearer had lived up to expectations. No one would have been hankering after Cunliffe’s superior grasp of finance or communication skills. Or wondering why Shearer didn’t follow the canny lead of Helen Clark and John Key and keep his talented rival close, giving him the deputy leadership and finance portfolio.
Would this have happened if Shearer had kept Cunliffe as Finance Spokesperson? Would people be saying Russel Norman is the MP of the Year if he had been competing against Cunliffe instead of Parker?
Did Shearer’s much-praised speech silence the doubters? Was it the speech to bind all of Labour?
Those at the conference were certainly excited. I watched it on YouTube and was less smitten. Maybe you had to be there to feel the rapture.
However good, it was asking a lot of one speech. Especially when Shearer’s subsequent TV appearances show him bumbling his way through straightforward questions on Labour’s new housing policy and Cunliffe’s summary execution.
It’s nonsense to say this doesn’t matter.
There is no “rightful leader” of the Labour Party. The position isn’t Shearer’s by right, nor Cunliffe’s for that matter. It ought to be threatened if enough people feel the incumbent hasn’t earned it.
71 days to go until the next vote!Tags: David Cunliffe, David Shearer, Labour Leadership, Tapu Misa
Phil Taylor in the NZ Herald profiles David Cunliffe:
In government, Cunliffe was one of Clark’s standout ministers, succeeding, where others failed, in unbundling Telecom’s local loop monopoly, and making bold decisions as health minister.
I’ve said many times that I thought Cunliffe was an excellent ICT and Comms Minister. He not only made good decisions, but he absolutely understood the issues from major to minor, and showed a determination to make beneficial changes.
I have to say also that I’ve never personally seen any of the issues cited by some of his colleagues about him. Yes he is ambitious, and I certainly think he made the wrong decision last weekend in his choice of words. But I’ve always found him honest and trustworthy. However I accept that others have a different perspective.
“Look, he’s a nice bloke, I like the guy. He was a competent minister [and] in my view he was a team player. I’d have to say that he polarises people. I don’t know what it is about his personality but he has the ability to make people utterly despise him.”
Two sources who have worked closely with Cunliffe are adamant he is made of the right stuff. The former staffer rates him as an exceptional boss, “warm, friendly, polite, and caring about his staff”. The staffer did no see him lose his temper with anyone despite long hours and the pressure of making tough political decisions such as approving animal organ transplants, sacking a hospital board, and going against the wishes of the strong herceptin lobby.
He can’t understand why Cunliffe attracts such passionate opposition among his caucus colleagues.
A lot of people who have worked with Cunliffe only have good things to say about him.
“He had a terrible personality clash with Clayton Cosgrove [a Shearer loyalist].
I think they both came in together in 1999 so there was a bit of rivalry. Cosgrove is thought to be the MP responsible for giving Cunliffe the Silent T nickname – but this has not been confirmed.
Quite right, says a health sector source who worked closely with Cunliffe. He is the right type to lead New Zealand, she told the Herald , having character, brains, heart and being in “politics for all the right reasons”.
Suggestions of arrogance were “a myth. It’s jealousy and spite. He’s talented, he’s open about his ambitions. That’s him he’s honest to a fault. He cares passionately about New Zealand and he has ideas about how to make it a better society.”
But Matthew Hooton in NBR is less generous:
But after Mr Cunliffe’s incredible antics this week – the ridiculously facile answers to the media; the smarm; the smirking; the fake wounded innocence; the bizarre victim mentality – my view is reversed.
Put Mr Cunliffe on national TV every night and the voters will certainly be repulsed. …
Hooton lays waste to the claims that Cunliffe did nothing wrong:
Now, Team Cunliffe expects us to believe, there never was any kind of leadership challenge planned at all.
According to Mr Cunliffe’s diminishing supporters, all their man has done these last four years is diligently work on new policy to break the current neoliberal hegemony. (Yes, they really do talk that way.) …
The new story being put about by Team Cunliffe is that all the speculation about a leadership challenge at Labour’s conference was a right-wing media construct.
Under this scenario, current leader Mr Shearer was put into the job by a right-wing cabal as the human face of the dreaded neoliberalism. (Team Cunliffe also sometimes says Mr Shearer is a neoconservative but consistency is not its strong point.) …
Alarmed at such apostasy, Team Cunliffe tells us, right-wing media barons, including even at Radio New Zealand, instructed their reporters to make up a story that he was challenging Mr Shearer for the leadership.
Poor Mr Cunliffe! When he arrived at his party conference, the dastardly right-wing press gallery asked him whether he would support Mr Shearer’s leadership next year.
Mr Cunliffe could have said “yes” and the devious neoliberal plot would have been thwarted. But, no, our Mr Cunliffe is way too honest for that. Instead, he reserved his position: “This is a constitutional conference, not a leadership conference.”
Disingenuously, the right-wing media decided that the fifth-ranked MP in the main opposition party refusing to publicly support his leader at their annual conference was newsworthy.
They even used camera angles to try to make Mr Cunliffe look smug and smarmy.
He’s not of course. As his supporters point out, it’s just that his mind works so much faster than anyone else’s.
Ouch, Matthew can be so sarcastic.
Finance was not the only job Cunliffe was hankering for in Opposition.
According to insiders, he also unsuccessfully lobbied the caucus to appoint a second deputy leader. No prizes for guessing who intended filling the job.
Such an unquenchable ambition causes him to exempt himself from the laws of politics to which everyone else adheres.
It was not the first time and – as the past week or so has shown – not the last time that he has overreached himself.
That, in a nutshell, is the tragedy of David Cunliffe. He has most of the attributes required of a leader – intellect, political acumen, the ability to articulate the party’s position on something in simple, easily understood language.
He is pragmatic enough to bend when necessary, yet principled enough to stick to principle when the occasion demands.
But like Icarus, the figure of Greek mythology, Cunliffe tends to fly too close to the sun.
Can he come back:
The question now is whether colleagues could work under him. One of this week’s most significant statements was made by one such colleague, Chris Hipkins, who accused Cunliffe of undermining the Labour team.
If Cunliffe did manage to come back, then a number of senior MPs would not credibly be able to serve under him and would have to head to the backbenches.
Finally why did the Cunliffe “challenge fail? I think Claire Trevett has the answer:
Sources have also since claimed that on the Friday Cunliffe and his ally, Rajen Prasad, unsuccessfully tried to stack the Ethnic Sector council with Cunliffe supporters, including trying to install Cunliffe’s electorate committee member Susan Zhu as chairwoman. The ethnic sector group has more than 1000 members in it and is a potentially rich voting pool for a hopeful leadership contender. The rumour was that the plan was for the ethnic sector group to eventually publicly endorse Cunliffe come the time of a leadership contest.
If your plan for seizing the leadership rests on the strategic genius of Rajen Prasad, then you deserve to lose
It is interesting though that all the media have been full of stories against Cunliffe – obviously coming from other MPs. Yet Cunliffe himself has stayed quiet.Tags: David Cunliffe, Labour Leadership
Duncan Garner, Fran O’Sullivan and John Amrstrong all write on Labour this weekend.
Dissent. Uprisings. Rebellion. Scraps. Blood.
It was something Helen Clark kept a careful lid on.
Not even on her weakest day or in a moment of madness would Clark have given up control of who picks the leader of the proud Labour Party – never, ever.
Caucus must control its own destiny.
What happened last Saturday would never have happened under Clark’s strong leadership. Now the Labour leader can get rolled and rolled easily.
If a minority of 13 other MPs out of 34 decide to support Grant Robertson or David Cunliffe next February, then that triggers a party wide vote.
Actually I think it is even worse than that. I have not seen the final rule, but I don’t think a contender even needs to challenge. The vote is basically just a confidence vote in the Leader. Someone could just quietly encourage 14 MPs to vote no, and bang there is a leadership ballot – and only then do contenders have t step forward.
During that vote, party members get a 40 percent say and unions get a 20 percent say. You reckon they’ll hang on to David Shearer in that scenario? Doubt it. And it’s like that every three years.
If Shearer lost the Feb caucus vote, I don’t think he would even contest the party wide ballot. He’d be impotent in Parliament while he has to fight a rearguard action to stay on as Leader. I think he would bow out.
The February following each election, Labour will be able to boot out their sitting leader – that leader may have just months earlier been crowned Prime Minister.
So when you vote for Labour, you don’t know who you will end up with as PM.
It’s a recipe for instability. Quite frankly it’s a disaster, a train-wreck waiting to happen. …
If the 40 percent caucus vote and 40 percent party member vote cancels each other out – i.e the caucus wants a change but the party members don’t, then guess who has the casting vote?
The unions. They get 20 percent.
Could the unions select the next Prime Minister? Yes. Could they dump a sitting Prime Minister just two or three months after they took office?Yes.
By this move, Labour have become even more subservient to the unions.
And now Fran O’Sullivan:
Four days on from Cunliffe’s execution, there is little sign that Shearer is on top of his game.
His post-caucus press conference was a bumbling, mumbling mess which at times bordered on total incoherency.
It was a shocker.
It does not bode well for Labour to have its own leader so frightened of his own shadow that he has to banish one of his few competent colleagues to the back bench.
Unfortunately, Shearer was also simply not politically tough enough, nor sufficiently competent and astute, to have pulled off the accommodation that Australian Liberal Leader Tony Abbott made with potential rival Malcolm Turnbull this week to position his party to win the next Australian federal election.
I blogged on this yesterday. A much smarter way to handle a more popular rival.
In Shearer’s case he does not have the skill to bring off an accommodation with Cunliffe. (Though in months to come he may wish he had gone down that path instead of listening to the caucus players who want the New Lynn MP buried at all costs).
The old guard remain in charge.
And John Armstrong pulls no punches:
Barmy, loopy, stupid, crazy. Last weekend’s Labour Party conference had so much political madness on and off the conference floor that the proceedings could well have been deemed certifiable.
The handful of MPs who tried to talk sense into delegates may agree – particularly on the vexed question of how high to set the bar before a leadership ballot involving the whole party membership is triggered.
The MPs’ advice was not only ignored, they were shouted down. The rank-and-file saw things very differently. The rewrite of the party’s constitution was giving them a rare whiff of grass-roots democracy. They were not about to say “no thanks” even if their votes were being manipulated for nefarious reasons.
All I’ll say is I can’t see National rushing off to make similar changes.
I guess in Labour the desire for more of a say is understandable, as members have traditionally only a very weak say in even electorate selections.
From now on, the leader will be subject to a post-election endorsement vote by the caucus which must take place no later than three months after polling day.
Failure by a leader to secure more than 60 per cent backing from his or her colleagues will trigger a leadership vote involving the whole party.
The upshot is National will spend the election campaign delightedly claiming the Labour leader cannot guarantee he or she will still be in charge three months after the election.
Moreover, the new method of electing the leader gives a slice of the action to affiliated trade unions. You can imagine how National will exploit that.
I actually the the principle of giving members a say is laudable. But giving unions 20% of the vote is not far off organised corruption (just look at the Australian unions for examples of what they do with the extra power) and having a threshold below 50% for a challenge is silly.
When they were not naively setting things up to the advantage of the old enemy, delegates occupied themselves with such pressing matters as lowering the voting age to 16 – something for which there is absolutely no demand – and ordering school boards of trustees to let same-sex couples attend school balls.
Then there was the remit requiring 50 per cent gender equality among officials on the party’s electorate committees.
When it was pointed out that most committees had three officials, the conference determined that an extra position such as an assistant treasurer could be created.
Staggering. Their solution is to create an extra unneeded role, just so there is prefect gender equality on a committee. They have effectively outlawed a committee having an add number of members!
This kind of nonsense shows that political correctness is alive and well in Labour.
It speaks of a party that is out of touch with mainstream New Zealand. And it speaks of a leader who has no control over his party.
Where was the strategy for the conference?
The other casualty of what John Key describes as the now very “public war” within Labour is the party’s ability to project unity and stability.
That is a serious handicap for Labour, which may well have to patch together some kind of governing arrangement which accommodates the reforming zeal of the Greens and the reactionary predilections of New Zealand First.
Think if they were to form a Government. They’d first have to get agreement between the internal factions in Labour, and then with the Greens, and then with NZ First and maybe then with Mana also. If another financial crisis struck, it would probably take a month to even make a decision!Tags: Duncan Garner, Fran O'Sullivan, John Armstrong, Labour, Labour Leadership
Jane Clifton writes in the Listener:
Like a dozen plotters before him, David Cunliffe has today paid the price for believing, against all historical precedent, that he could mime his disloyalty, and not get into trouble because he didn’t actually utter the naughty words out loud.
For all that his supporters, inside and outside the caucus, are insisting that he did nothing wrong, he really and truly did the coupster’s equivalent of waving his knickers at disembarking sailors. He followed several of the bog-standard, by-the-numbers steps taught in Coups 101, to the point that he might have studied at the knee of Maurice Williamson, Brian Connell or Richard Prebble.
1. You make speeches with tacit but heavily coded inferences that if they made you the leader, you would introduce kick-butt policies that the incumbent is too gutless/politically unsound/incompetent to contemplate – carefully omitting specifics.
2. You tickle up edginess among the many anxious party supporters who are panicking at what they perceive is a lack of progress in the party’s profile and poll fortunes.
3. You agree to a live TV interview on the morning of the party’s annual conference debate about the rules for electing the leader at which you conspicuously avoid expressing support for the leader.
Jane is right that DC did play a bit too cute at times with his speeches and his failure to appear more supportive of Shearer. However as Jane notes, this demotion is different to other ones:
It was easy enough for past perpetrators of disloyalty like Chris Carter, Brian Connell and Maurice Williamson to be dogboxed. At the time of their treacherous outings, they weren’t particularly valuable contributors to the big picture – or even useful low-profile Cinderellas. But the backbenching of Cunliffe is a massive loss for Labour. …
Of course, the uncomfortable corollary to Shearer’s no-brainer decision to dogbox Cunliffe is that the wider party is by no means of the same mind as the caucus. The flavour of decision-making at the weekend’s conference made this very clear. This remains both a risk for Shearer and an opportunity for Cunliffe. A lot of the party activists have bought the line that Cunliffe is the party’s criminally unrecognised saviour, and what they will doubtless see as his crucifixion today will intensify Cunliffe’s support base.
I’ve been thinking about how this all came to unfold. The catalyst was Cunliffe’s lines at the Labour Party conference, and this got me thinking.
Why in God’s name hadn’t all Labour Party MPs been given clear talking points about what to say regarding the leadership, for the conference?
I mean, the main focus of the conference was about the rules for electing the leader. Did no one think that a journalist or two might ask some questions about where MPs stand on the leadership? Did the fact several bloggers and commentators on the left called for Shearer to go not ring a bell in the Labour Leader’s office that maybe some journalists will ask questions?
It is an absolute failure of political management that someone very senior didn’t make sure that all Labour MPs had very clear instructions on what to say if the media ask them how they will vote in February. And most of all, an absolute failure that someone had not sat down with David Cunliffe and negotiated acceptable wording for him. Cunliffe may have been ambitious, but if some lines had been negotiated in advance I believe he would have kept to them. MPs know a failure to stick to an agreed position is political death.
Some may say that is being wise with hindsight. That’s nonsense. I’ve been a parliamentary staffer through several coups. I’ve seen press secretaries spend hours negotiating exact wording of positions with MPs so they can keep their future options open (No aspiring leader ever wants to give a Shermanesque denial that they will never ever stand for the leadership) but minimise any speculation that they are seeking it now. I saw this negotiated with Bill English when Jenny Shipley was leader. I also saw (more from a distance) the negotiations when Don Brash resigned involving Key, English and Brownlee. By being pro-active on it, it meant that leadership changes were relatively orderly.
Even the stupidest political staffer should have worked out that it would be a good idea to negotiate exact talking points with David Cunliffe (in fact the entire Labour caucus) before the conference. And even if the Chief of Staff somehow overlooks this most basic step, then surely the Deputy Leader (who used to be H3) or the Chief Whip (also an experienced former staffer) should have thought of this.
All they had to do was give to caucus a set of acceptable lines to be used in case people asked about the February vote. If they had, then this sacking may not have happened.
So it begs the question. Was the failure to do so incompetence or deliberate?Tags: Chris Hipkins, David Cunliffe, David Shearer, Grant Robertson, Labour Leadership
All three major daily editorials say the early leadership vote was a mistake made under pressure.
The NZ Herald editorial yesterday:
… if he imagines the vote will see off a challenge from David Cunliffe he is already disappointed.
A more experienced leader would have dismissed any suggestion he should try to “call out” a challenge with an early vote. When a leader wins – as usually happens the first time – the question does not go away. It merely leaves the party divided and ensures the discontented faction will choose its moment to make another bid.
The Press today:
If David Shearer wishes to retain the leadership of the parliamentary Labour Party he should put aside any thoughts he may have for a surfing holiday this summer.
Yesterday, he obtained the support of the party caucus in a wholly unnecessary vote of confidence that he called. He also demoted his rival, David Cunliffe. His problem, however, is not his support in caucus but rather that in the wider party.
Since the weekend, Shearer’s supporters have been talking up his performance at the conference and it is true that the keynote speech Shearer gave on Sunday went down well amongst the faithful. But the bar had not been set very high. Preaching to a roomful of one’s most committed activists (and those who turn up for conferences are by definition the hard-core of the party) is not much of a test of a leader. Furthermore, no-one has ever doubted Shearer’s capacity to read a fully scripted, exhaustively rehearsed speech. It is his performance off the cuff that is the worry.
The performance at the post caucus press conference was not impressive and would have done little to reassure the doubters.
Because a leadership vote in February is mandatory, Shearer’s call for a vote of confidence yesterday was unnecessary. He was driven no doubt by the urge to be seen to do something. He also might have hoped he could put the question of a challenge behind him. Shearer, and his caucus supporters, want the matter over, but it is unlikely anything before February is going to end it.
There are 76 days to go before the real vote.
The Dominion Post editorial:
David Shearer has been reconfirmed as leader of the Labour Party. Given that even his caucus critics declared in advance their intention to vote for him that is hardly surprising.
However, far from being the resounding victory claimed by Mr Shearer’s cheerleaders, yesterday’s caucus vote served only to lay bare the deep divisions within the party. Those divisions are between the pragmatic, centrist MPs such as Phil Goff, Annette King and Trevor Mallard who have installed Mr Shearer as their standard bearer, and the wild-eyed idealists who forced a rule change through the party conference at the weekend enabling caucus malcontents to force a leadership vote in which party members and unions will have the final say.
It is more than about the leadership.
The reason Mr Shearer has not scrapped some of Labour’s sillier 2011 election promises is now apparent. Labour is in the midst of a power struggle between those who recognise that spending promises have to be paid for and those who do not understand that capital and skills are mobile. Increase taxes beyond a certain point and both will depart for greener pastures.
Neither yesterday’s vote nor the demotion of Mr Shearer’s putative challenger David Cunliffe to the backbenches resolves the question of Labour’s leadership. The real contest, if there is to be one, will come in February on ground not of Mr Shearer’s choosing.
Then, just 13 or 14 of Labour’s 34 MPs will be able to force a party-wide vote if they choose to.
If a party-wide vote is triggered, I don’t think Shearer would contest it. How could you? Imagine how hobbled you would be in the House having to take on the PM, while fighting for your political life. If a vote is triggered in February, then I’d say it would be Cunliffe vs Robertson.Tags: Dominion Post, editorials, Labour Leadership, NZ Herald, The Press
Watch this video of Labour List MP Sue Moroney make it very clear that she is only voting for Shearer today, and will consult her members over who to vote for in February. She will not be alone. She refuses to ever say she will keep backing Shearer – just that she is always loyal the leader. That is code for “up until the point he or she goes”.
The video is front interest.co.nz.
Also watch this video of David Parker calling David Cunliffe’s actions at the conference “destructive”.
It is going to be a brutal caucus.Tags: Labour Leadership, Sue Moroney
Vernon Small at Stuff reports:
David Cunliffe will be stripped of his portfolios and banished to the back benches for disloyalty today after a leadership vote in which Labour leader David Shearer is set to win unanimous backing.
As expected, yesterday Mr Shearer summoned his MPs to Wellington for an urgent vote today in an attempt to force Mr Cunliffe to “put up or shut up”. …
Party sources said once he received the expected unanimous backing from MPs he would dump Mr Cunliffe from the top 20 and send him to the “unranked” back benches.
Some in the caucus are calling for his close supporters to also be demoted, which could mean bad news for shadow attorney-general Charles Chauvel and energy spokeswoman Moana Mackey.
MP Sue Moroney, seen as in the Cunliffe camp, said she would back Mr Shearer.
But no-one would say what they would do in February’s vote.
“I don’t think there has been any challenge issued, actually.”
Before Mr Shearer had sought her backing, no-one had asked for her support for a leadership bid.
She had seen no evidence of disloyalty by Mr Cunliffe.
“I’m quite surprised at the level of the attack on David Cunliffe . . . in the last 24 hours,” she said.
There’s a fair few in Labour arguing that it is unreasonable to expect any MP to state how they will vote in a secret ballot in three month’s time. Having said that, I think Cunliffe could have chosen words that would not have been so destabilising, yet left him wriggle room.
Former Labour Party General Secretary Mike Smith says there was clearly a coup planned:
My first indication that something was up was the rising temperature of comments on the Standard, culminating with anonymous posts days before the conference calling for Shearer to stand down. I don’t know if the posters are Labour members or not, but it now looks like an attempt to destabilise Shearer days before his first conference speech. …
The next intimation I had that something more was afoot was when I turned up at the Conference on Friday night to be told that the affiliates meeting had ignored the Party Council’s recommendation for what may trigger a leadership vote across the Party, and supported a motion from Northland and Te Tai Tokerau to turn the long-standing majority confidence vote, held at the start of each year, to an endorsement vote with a 60% threshold.
This was quite unexpected by the Party leadership but as became clear in the debate the following day, not unexpected by some in the unions, a few caucus members and some of the electorates. …
Cunliffe refused to rule out a February challenge. If it walks like a duck…
I was the first to say that the three posts (and one column) calling for Shearer to go were orchestrated. Quite a few doubted that. I’m pleased to see Mike Smith saying that he also saw it as part of a destabilization attempt.
A pro-Cunliffe view comes from “Blue” at The Standard:
The ABC club would have us believe that David Cunliffe has ‘openly undermined’ both David Shearer’s leadership and Phil Goff’s before him.
They appeal to the need for a ‘unified team’ and want David Cunliffe shot at dawn for supposedly threatening it.
These attempts to rewrite history are amusing but factually inaccurate. We all know who undermined Phil Goff’s leadership and it wasn’t David Cunliffe.
It was Grant Robertson and Trevor Mallard who made the decision to keep Phil Goff off the Labour billboards at the last election, openly admitting during an election campaign that they considered their leader a liability. Phil Goff’s stumble in the ‘show me the money’ debate was no one’s fault but his own – he got caught out not having done his homework on a flagship policy and only the most determined denier of reality could try to pin that one on anyone else.
We also know who has been undermining party unity during David Shearer’s leadership, and again, it isn’t David Cunliffe. It’s the ABC club who ring up Duncan Garner for a giggle about how much they hate their own colleague.
I think the great winner from all this has been Grant Robertson. He has kept entirely out of this, allowing the two Camp Davids to go to war against each other. If Shearer’s leadership becomes unviable at some stage then Robertson is poised to take over.
Grant has huge sway within the party. His supporters are in all the influential positions on the NZ Council and the like. If he had taken a call in the debate and argued against the 60% threshold for a vote in February, then I believe that would have made the difference in what was a very close vote. But he was smart and has kept his name away from all the infighting – making him the unifying choice in future.
UPDATE: NZ Herald editorial says:
A more experienced leader would have dismissed any suggestion he should try to “call out” a challenge with an early vote. When a leader wins – as usually happens the first time – the question does not go away. It merely leaves the party divided and ensures the discontented faction will choose its moment to make another bid.
The damage is long lasting. The Cunliffe faction will be seething at the fact that Chris Hipkins so publicly slammed David Cunliffe and accused him of undermining both Goff and Shearer. They understand that such a public denunciation means that Cunliffe can never have a meaningful role again under Shearer. You can’t say someone has been backstabbing leaders for the last four years and then rehabilitate them.
But if at some stage Cunliffe did become Leader, then MPs such as Hipkins would be unable to continue in a senior role also. Having called Cunliffe a backstabbing fink, he could never serve under him. This is why it is so very rare for MPs to openly denounce each other. They have to work together day in day out – sometimes for years to come.
What will be fascinating to watch next year is what new rules get agreed to for selections and list ranking.
UPDATE2: Zetetic at The Standard names names:
For the past four years, Labour has been controlled by a clique of 3 has-beens and 2 beltway hacks: Goff, King, Mallard, Robertson, and Hipkins.
This old guard clique led Labour to its worst defeat.
Trevor and Grant ran the campaign. Goff and King fronted. Not sure what Chippie did!
A year later, with their second choice frontman as leader after they ignored the members’ will, Labour’s still below its 2008 result and on track for another defeat. (Funny story, since the start of the year, Hipkins has been telling all and sundry in all seriousness that ‘if these trends continue’ Labour will win in a landslide in 2014 – I parodied him here - now, take a look at the real trend)
Oh Chippie is the polling guru!
The Douglas clique at least had an ideology they were working for. This clique what do they stand for? What are their values other than power for themselves? The failure of Labour to define a value set over the past four years is a reflection of this clique’s lack of values.
The membership voted no confidence in the old guard on Saturday. In retaliation, they’ve gone nuclear on the membership. The response of the old guard has been to unleash a nasty side that many who watch Labour politics have known about for some time, but never thought we’d see expressed quite this openly.
Next year’s conference could be fascinating.
The attacks on Cunliffe usually take the form of what we’re seeing right now, with unnamed ‘senior Labour MPs’ telling media Cunliffe is a ‘fink’ and an ‘egotist’ and calling for him to be ‘cut down’. This talking campaign has been going on since beore the last election and I know because I’ve heard it from the old guard’s proxies more times than I care to count. Mostly this doesn’t surface publicly, except for the odd stuff up like when Goff and King went to Garner to shop a story that Cunliffe was despised by the caucus in an effort to undermine his position. It’s been relentless.
Most people assume it was Trevor. Interesting speculation that it was Goff.
They’ll try to take him down today with an open ballot leadership vote – a Stalinist tactic that will hurt them next year and will be fruitless today because Cunliffe has launched no challenge and today’s vote will be unanimous. Their goal is to get Cunliffe and the membership out of the way so that when Shearer is replaced – it will be an open field for Robertson
While I doubt there is a lot I agree with Zetetic on, I agree with him that the real end goal is Robertson succeeding unopposed. Not so sure it will work.Tags: David Cunliffe, David Shearer, editorials, Grant Robertson, Labour Leadership, Mike Smith, NZ Herald, The Standard
David Shearer has called an emergency caucus meeting for 4 pm tomorrow to try and shore up his wounded leadership.
There seems little doubt he will win the vote tomorrow. David Cunliffe has even said he will vote for him. I imagine the vote will be unanimous.
The real action will be after the vote. How far down the order will Cunliffe be demoted. I understand he is definitely off the front bench. Less certain is if he keeps his portfolio at all. Some MPs are understood to be urging to push Cunliffe as low as possible so that he quits politics all together.
Also of interest is will Shearer do his wider reshuffle. The talk is that some of Cunliffe’s supporters may be punished also.
Senior Whip Chris Hipkins has slammed Cunliffe:
Hipkins today hit out at Cunliffe’s ambitions and said his undermining of Labour’s collective team effort “makes it very difficult for him to continue in a senior role within [our] team”.
“At a time when we should be focused on getting out there holding the National Government to account and selling our policies and our message, David Cunliffe has been working in the shadows to undermine the current leader and prepare for a leadership challenge. That’s unacceptable.”
“If David Cunliffe wants to challenge for the leadership he should come out of the shadows and get on with it….. it is totally unacceptable to say I’ll support David Shearer for now while I work over the summer break to destabilise the leadership and get the numbers to move against him in February.
Labour MP and senior whip Chris Hipkins said Mr Cunliffe had “openly undermined the current leadership” and should either openly challenge Mr Shearer or leave.
“He’s made it clear he intends to challenge for the leadership. I think saying he’s not going to do so until February is dishonest and disingenous. He needs to bring it on.”
He said Mr Cunliffe should be open and upfront about his intentions.
“Weasel words about supporting the leader for now simply don’t cut it.”
He said Mr Cunliffe had actively undermined two leaders in a row – Mr Goff and now Mr Shearer.
“That has made it impossible for him to continue in a senior role within the Labour team.”
That is a telling comment. Hipkins is saying Cunliffe undermined Goff as well as Shearer. It’s good Labour MPs are now saying openly what they think of Cunliffe, rather than speaking off the record to Duncan Garner about him!
Tags: Labour Leadership
- After losing post election ballot, make visionary speeches to party activists on issues outside portfolio areas.
- Make sure you invite columnists and bloggers to the speeches
- Have party supporters push for future leadership votes to include party members, where you have majority support
- Have bloggers and columnists call call for a change of leadership just before the conference
- Have party activists vote down hierarchy’s rule changes and get threshold for leadership challenge lowered to 40%
- Get party activists to pass a specific resolution to schedule a caucus vote early next year needing only a 40% threshold to challenge.
- Refuse to pledge loyalty to Leader after vote
- When Leader looks to do a special vote immediately, pledge support and loyalty for now
- Have angry old guard insist you be sacked or demoted, so that you are made a martyr
- Wait for polls to drop for party, due to infighting, so that 40% of caucus will vote for a leadership ballot in February
- If you don’t quite get the numbers in February, then have very angry and noisy party activists get to work on yet to be agreed new selection and list ranking rules.
- Get new selection rules in place, weakening power of NZ hierarchy in selections
- Have your supporters win selections in winnable seats and gain high list rankings
- Then at first caucus meeting after the next election, you have at least 40% to challenge for leadership and force a ballot – which you win
Eddie at The Standard says that the results of the last leadership ballot was:
Shearer – 17
Cunliffe – 13
This may not be precise, but it shows that if Cunliffe can merely keep all his votes from last time, that may be enough. It is not clear if he needs 13 or 14 votes to force a part ballot. Tumeke thinks it may be just 13.
”We have 23 solid for Shearer,” an MP doing the numbers said.
That means 11 for Cunliffe. He needs 13 or 14 to force a ballot. Can he pick two off?
Some wavering MPs also indicated they were put off by Mr Cunliffe over-playing his hand by refusing to rule out a challenge in February.
Yes, his refusal was too blatant. What he could have done is say “My expectation is that caucus will unanimously back David Shearer to remain Leader”. That implies he will vote for Shearer but leaves him wriggle room to challenge by saying expectations change. One of the skills in politics is the wording you use to pledge loyalty to the leader but leave you wriggle room so that you are not a liar if you do challenge. Cunliffe did stuff up somewhat by being so overt.
UPDATE2: The Herald reports:
David Cunliffe has given David Shearer an assurance he has his “absolute support” and would back the Labour Party leader should an early leadership vote be held.
However Mr Cunliffe could not pledge he would support Mr Shearer in February when the leader faces a formal confidence vote.
This is a smarter tactic from Cunliffe. If all of Camp Cunliffe vote for Shearer next week, then everyone knows it is not the real vote. No one actually believes he has unanimous support. Then if Shearer makes any mistakes between now and February, they can say things have changed and try and get the votes then.
There is no doubt Shearer will win an early vote. The question is will he demote Cunliffe, and if so what will the reaction of the Auckland activists be if he does?
UPDATE3: Patrick Gower has asked every MP how they are voting. He has:
- Will not endorse Shearer publicly – 12
- Saying they endorse Shearer – 20
- Ambiguous - 2
Some of those who will not endorse Shearer publicly may go with the flow, Gower says. But if they can pick up Ross Robertson and Shane Jones, then that is 14 votes and all they need. Arguably they only need 13.
However Camp Shearer claim they have 23 votes. I suspect they are right, but I have found out the hard way that you can have the numbers the day before a vote, and lose the vote on the day. MPs do vote by secret ballot.Tags: Labour Leadership
In 79 days it will be the first Tuesday of February, when under Labour’s new rules David Shearer must win a secret ballot of his colleagues to prevent a party-wide leadership ballot. David Cunliffe needs to get only 13 votes (plus his own) in 79 days.
It is worth recalling that Shearer has promised to have a reshuffle of his front bench and in fact overall caucus responsibilities and portfolios. He needs to make significant changes, but can he afford to do so?
Claire Trevett at the NZ Herald reports:
Labour MP David Cunliffe has left little doubt that he intends to overthrow David Shearer as Labour’s leader – a job made easier by a surprise change to the party rules.
The rule change was part of a chaotic day at the party’s annual conference in Ellerslie, during which delegates ignored the pleas of several senior MPs and voted to allow just 40 per cent of caucus to force a full leadership vote. All it would take is a vote from 14 of the current 34 MPs.
That puts Shearer’s leadership on much more precarious ground, and last night sources indicated the leader could move to bring matters to a head by forcing a vote, rather than letting it fester over summer.
Shearer can force a vote early. But as I understand the new rules, that in no way removes the constitutional requirement to also have a vote in February. Also an early vote would have a different threshold to the February 2013 vote. An early vote would only trigger a leadership election if 17 MPs voted against him. The Feb 2013 vote needs only 14 MPs.
Shearer’s supporters were clearly rattled by the change, but also confident he would secure the support – one stating they would easily “head (Cunliffe) off at the pass”.
Of 13 other MPs spoken to, most including Andrew Little, Clare Curran, Grant Robertson, Trevor Mallard and David Parker, said they would support Shearer in February’s vote.
Louisa Wall would not answer the question: “It’s irrelevant for me now – we’re in the middle of the conference.”
Phil Twyford said he supported Mr Shearer “because he is our leader now” but his vote in February would be a secret because it was a closed ballot.
The key words are “now” and “secret ballot”.
Charles Chauvel – who was a supporter of David Cunliffe last December – said he did not want to talk to the media.
Vernon Small at Stuff reports:
In its headlong rush to give grassroots members a greater say in future leadership votes, the Labour Party may have just pushed its current leader over the cliff.
Even if the damage to David Shearer isn’t fatal, it has made the party’s already difficult job that much harder.
However good his speech is today – and he was already under pressure to deliver a blockbuster full of core policy and “mongrel” – for the next three months he is the man on a knife edge.
If just 14 of his 33 caucus colleagues opt for change, the first two months of 2013 will be steeped in Labour bloodletting.
Possibly more than two months.
That’s the upshot of constitutional changes passed by delegates yesterday after an impassioned debate that exposed a bitterly divided party. It was the most extraordinary internecine political warfare since Rogernomics split the party in the 1980s, all played out on the conference floor.
In general the left, the unions and the north – let’s call it the Cunliffe camp – heavily backed the 40 per cent trigger with Wellington, the right and most MPs backing a simple majority that would have given embattled Shearer much greater protection.
It is manna from heaven for John Key’s fraying political machine that has just negotiated another week from hell.
Now National can run the line hard that if Labour wins in 2014, a minority in the caucus backed by dark forces in the party could, in just a matter of months, replace the people’s choice of prime minister.
This is an issue not yet fully focused on. Even if Labour win an election, the Leader will now be able to be toppled by just 40% of Caucus the February after an election. Now you might say, that would never happen. But it is well known that in 1993 Helen Clark was plotting to roll Mike Moore well before the 1993 election, and even if Labour had won (which they almost did) Clark was going to roll Moore – and would have had the numbers to do so.
The delegates could have controlled the damage to Shearer’s leadership by not insisting on a caucus vote in February, leaving it till the next cycle in 2014.
Senior MPs Trevor Mallard and David Parker tried to steer them that way but they were simply not listening.
Because in the end this was not just about a new constitution to make the party more open and democratic. It was also about the Cunliffe camp’s revenge for being ignored after last year’s primary race when the caucus installed Shearer as leader.
This is also a key point. The ongoing requirement is just for a scheduled vote after each general election. Now Labour have already had one of those – they had a leadership contest in Dec 2011 and Shearer won. But the conference explicitly voted to have a non-regular vote in February 2013. This can only be seen as directed at Shearer. If they had not passed that resolution, then you would need 50% of caucus to force a party wide vote on the leadership instead of 40%.
Cunliffe all but confirmed his interest in a challenge after his victory on the conference floor although, as one senior MP observed, “more than 60 per cent of the MPs voted for the trigger to stay at 50 per cent” – suggesting Shearer is safe for now – a spill cannot be ruled out even before February.
And then what? A new leader with a majority in the wider party but with a caucus that opposed him? And a dreadful bloodletting during the 2014 candidate selection process – which is already so fraught the party postponed its reform till late 2013?
In the meantime, Shearer’s leadership, already under pressure, will suffer a thousand speculations.
He has yet to show his hand and may think he can drink from the party’s poisoned chalice and survive. But his inner circle were late yesterday contemplating his next move.
The nuclear option would be to call Cunliffe out, confront him, demote him or put his unspoken challenge to the party now so February’s vote becomes a formality.
I’m generally a fan of nuclear options
I would point again out that an early vote doesn’t remove the requirement to also have a vote in February 2013.
Patrick Gower at 3 News reported:
David Shearer’s leadership of the Labour Party is under threat from his rival David Cunliffe.
The challenge emerged today at the Labour Party conference on the eve of what was meant to be a major speech for Mr Shearer.
Mr Cunliffe is putting his hand up, refusing to rule out a challenge to Mr Shearer when the Labour leadership comes up for grabs in February.
Cunliffe could have killed these stories dead by saving clearly “I will be voting in favour of David Shearer to remain Leader at the first caucus meeting of 2013, and will be urging all my colleagues to do the same. He will be the next Prime Minister”.
By the way if anyone is still doubting my contention that all those blog posts and columns last week calling for Shearer to go were a coincidence, I still have that bridge for sale!
UPDATE: Vernon Small reports:
Shearer is moving to put his leadership to a caucus vote as early as next week in an attempt to end speculation about his position and draw out challenger David Cunliffe.
Shearer’s lieutenants were today meeting to consider ways a vote could be taken early under caucus rules.
That would likely not replace the scheduled vote in February at which only 40 per cent of the caucus could trigger a run-off according to new uses approved by the Labour conference yesterday.
But if the caucus gave him a strong endorsement, possibly in a vote that was made public, that could make the February vote more of a formality. No caucus meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, but an urgent one may be called.
There are also rules that require at last a week’s notice of a leadership ballot, but that may not be needed to simply endorse Shearer.
It is understood if Shearer wins the backing of caucus he will move quickly to demote Cunliffe.
It will be fascinating if he sacks Cunliffe off the front bench and from his portfolio. Cunliffe has a lot of support from the activists, and sacking him may go down very badly with them.
Also the move to have an early leadership vote appears to be an attempt to ignore the rule that the conference explicitly voted for. The conference said that they want a leadership ballot unless Shearer has over 60% support of caucus. They did not vote for 50%.
I guess the strategy is that a sacked Cunliffe will not be able to gain 40% come February. And it is possible he won’t be able to. But it does mean Shearer will have a ongoing significant disaffected faction in caucus and definitely in the wider party.
Tags: David Cunliffe, David Shearer, Labour Leadership
Camp Cunliffe have done well at the Labour Party Conference.
Most of the caucus and hierarchy were arguing for a high threshold to trigger a leadership ballot.
The NZ Council in July proposed that you need a two thirds petition of caucus to trigger a leadership ballot. This met a backlash so they watered it down to 55%.
But the party delegates went further and reduced it to 50% for unscheduled votes. However here is the real big news. They lowered it to 40% for scheduled votes which are the ones held just after each general election (which will only be an issue if Labour loses) AND the vote scheduled for February 2013!
Vernon Small tweeted:
Labour votes to give 40pc pf MPs the trigger for a vote on the leadership by 264 to 237. Big win for Cunliffe.
It seems that the move to 40% was lost on the hand vote, but the unions used their bulk voting power to win the card vote.
This means that come February 2013, David Shearer needs to have at least 61% of caucus vote for him to remain leader – or a ballot is triggered.
The fact the unions have backed this, suggests that Cunliffe could win both the 40% members votes and the 20% union votes and be forced into the leadership no matter what the caucus votes.
Shearer will face immense pressure to perform tomorrow. It has already been reported that only a quarter rose to give him a standing ovation at the beginning of his speech, compared to 100% standing ovation for Goff and King as they were thanked. Shearer did get a full ovation at the end of the speech – but that is near compulsory.
UPDATE: Just calculated that just 14 Labour MPs can trigger a leadership ballot, under their new rules. Game on.
UPDATE2: According to Vernon Small (who gets the best Labour intelligence) the following MPs voted for Cunliffe in 2011:
- David Cunliffe
- Nanaia Mahuta
- Charles Chauvel
- Moana Mackey
- Lianne Dalziel
- Louisa Wall
- Rino Tirikatene
- Sua William Sio
- Carmel Sepuloni
- Sue Moroney
- Rajen Prasad.
So he needs just three more votes to get a leadership ballot. Who were the unknowns:
- Parekura Horomia
- Shane Jones
- Megan Woods
- Ross Robertson
- Andrew Little.
I’d say he’d get Parekura easily with Nanaia behind him. Shane Jones is known to have turned on Shearer after Shearer asked the Auditor-General to investigate him. So Ross Robertson could be crucial! More likely is Andrew Little is the power broken and can deliver four or five votes, plus the likely endorsement of the unions if a ballot is called for.
UPDATE3: Carmel didn’t make it back after recounts so Cunliffe needs four of the five who were listed as unsure. Of course he could also try to pick up someone who voted Shearer but has changed their mind.Tags: David Cunliffe, David Shearer, Labour, Labour Leadership
NZ Herald Vice Political Editor Claire Trevett profiles David Shearer and ranks the front bench performance. The scores:
- Grant Robertson 8
- Phil Twyford 8
- David Cunliffe 7
- Maryan Street 6
- David Parker 6
- Jacinda Ardern 6
- David Shearer 6
- Clayton Cosgrove 5
- Nanaia Mahuta 4
- Su’a William Sio 3
- Shane Jones – Hon Mention
When Labour Party members gather in Auckland tonight for the opening of their annual conference, the one topic on everyone’s lips will be the one topic that is not on the agenda paper: David Shearer’s leadership. …To say Mr Shearer’s first 11 months in the job have been underwhelming is an understatement. Confronted by television cameras and microphones, he is rendered incoherent unless he has previously learnt his lines, no one has got a clue what Labour stands for and his senior MPs are being allowed to idle away their days. It is no surprise, therefore, that supporters of defeated leadership candidate David Cunliffe continue to agitate on his behalf, or that Mr Cunliffe continues to make pronouncements that fuel speculation about his intentions. ….The choice for Labour is between a green leader who is struggling, a proven ministerial performer who is disliked by his colleagues and two unknown quantities.
In the circumstances, the best course is to do nothing, until Mr Cunliffe wins the trust of his colleagues or one or the other of Mr Shearer, Mr Robertson or Mr Little articulates a vision that voters can buy into.
I am sure vision statements are being worked on!
Gordon Campbell at Scoop also writes:
With that limited agenda, all Shearer can hope to achieve this weekend is to offer the party re-assurance that he can be a competent steward of (a) the internal democratization of the party (b) Labour’s core values and (c) his own parliamentary caucus.
That last one is going to be hardest. This Labour caucus deserves to hang together and not just its leader, separately. If Shearer has under-achieved, so has his team – not only vis-à-vis the government, but in comparison to the Greens. At the same time, the likes of Shane Jones have been allowed to run amuck across the portfolio areas of his own colleagues, in order to launch wild attacks on the one coalition partner that Labour desperately needs in order to govern.
If Shearer wants to convince the country that he has steel in his backbone, he could start by whipping his own caucus into line, and requiring them to lift their game. Right now…does anyone really think that the Labour front bench would be performing any better, and would be any more internally united, under a David Cunliffe or a Grant Robertson? Not really. Currently, Labour’s problems ran far deeper than the man at the top, and shuffling the leadership deck now would be cosmetic. The evaluation should come in May of next year. That will have given Shearer a further three months in Parliamentary battle to define himself and to get traction – while still leaving any new leader about 16 months before the next election.
I agree May 2013 is a fairer date to evaluate how things are going, rather than between now and the scheduled vote in February 2013.
Transtasman this week said:
Having demonstrated how not to have a leader of the opposition, the Labour Party is now demonstrating how not to have a coup to get rid of him. Watch and learn.
For the not having a leader of the opposition bit, the party has pretty much covered all the options this year, with only one exception: party leader David Shearer has never rounded on his party critics and told them to go and do something very difficult to themselves. His response has been more a hurt and injured look. This is novel, but it hasn’t worked. So now Labour, or some elements anyway, are endeavouring to get him to go quietly by using a Labour-aligned, anonymously written blog.
For those who have lives, it’s called The Standard, and it is written by Labour Party members who are also public servants, hence the anonymity. It’s mostly a poisonous waste of time, although if you want an insight into the thought processes of Labour-supporting public servants, it is quite an education.
All this meant was would be challengers David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson had to endorse their leader in public. It was a
highly qualified level of support.
Claiming they have “no immediate plans to challenge the leader” about as lukewarm as you can get.
I think some of the authors also work for unions!
Also worth listening to former Herald Editor Gavin Ellis on Radio NZ Nine to Noon. He says that The Standard authors were obviously used by factions in the Labour Party who want to see a change in the leadership.
And finally The Press editorial:
The loudest muttering against Shearer is being led by bloggers and columnists from the liberal Left. For the moment the caucus appears loyal, all possible contenders insisting they are 100 per cent behind him. That, however, should be regarded with considerable scepticism.
For a start, when Shearer got himself into a horrendous tangle with unsubstantiated allegations against Key over the Government Communications Security Bureau fuss, his colleagues took an awful long time to come to his defence. Further, if any plot to unseat him were going on, the plotters would obviously stay clandestine for as long as they could.
A factor inhibiting a coup is the lack of an alternative with predominating support. Of two possible contenders, David Cunliffe lost against Shearer last time and is widely regarded as too satisfied with himself by half and Grant Robertson is, for now at least, a Shearer loyalist.
It was lack of an obvious successor that kept Phil Goff in the leadership until the last election, but not many in Labour would regard that as an entirely happy precedent.
What surprises me is they gave Goff three years, yet some appear unwilling to give Shearer even 18 months.Tags: David Shearer, editorials, Gavin Ellis, Labour Leadership, The Press, Transtasman
Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:
Labour is proposing to make future leadership contenders take a “behaviour pledge” to try to prevent messy cannibalistic attacks on each other during leadership races.
The change is among changes party delegates will consider at its conference this weekend following a major review of the party.
A change to give the party members and affiliated unions a vote on the leadership will include new rules under which a leadership contest is held – including a “behaviour pledge” for contenders and a spending cap on any advertising in a leadership contest.
Will the oath include angry bloggers trying to force the current leader out on your behalf?
The Herald editorial:
Those calling time on Mr Shearer blame him for the fact that the present Government is clearly not on the wane. It has endured a difficult year. There has been the Dotcom saga, the setbacks over partial asset sales and the pokie deal, privacy breaches, the resignation of two ministers, not to mention the Prime Minister’s “brain fades” and occasional careless remarks. Yet National still polls at around 47 per cent, a dozen points ahead of Labour, and Mr Key seems as popular as ever.
Mr Shearer’s critics cannot understand this. They know there are only two explanations: either the Government is genuinely popular and they are out of touch with the country’s mood, or the mood has changed and Labour’s leader is failing to capitalise on it. Naturally they prefer the latter view but they are wrong.
This is spot on. Many of the critics are angry. They even blog proudly how angry they are. They detest John Key. They hate National. All their friends hate National also. They don’t know anyone who doesn’t hate National. So it is a huge mystery to them that National remains ahead in the polls. Hence someone must be to blame, and they have decided it is David Shearer. Never has the possibility dawned on them that they live sheltered little lives where their only friends are fellow political activists or unionists, mean they are not in touch with the majority of the country.
He was thrust into the limelight too quickly and he still sounds diffident. But his judgment on policy so far has been good. He appears to be a moderate, responsible decision-maker and a personality the country would like when Labour’s time comes. That cannot be said for some of his possible replacements. All he may need is time.
Shearer is moderate, and I think that is a strength. But party activists are not moderates.Tags: David Shearer, editorials, Labour Leadership, NZ Herald
I’ll let the article speak for itself:
Yesterday the three MPs regarded as having leadership goals – Grant Robertson, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little – all ruled out any immediate challenge and rejected suggestions they were involved in any attempt to undermine Mr Shearer.
Not exactly Shermanesque denials.
Video from interest.co.nz of David Shearer outside Caucus this morning. A good performance by Shearer.Tags: David Shearer, Labour Leadership
My understanding of the strategy in play, is that those in Labour wanting a change do not want an actual leadership challenge to Shearer. They are deliberately piling pressure on to force him to quit, so no one has blood on their hands.
I find it baffling that Labour gave Phil Goff three years as Leader, when it was obvious he could never be elected (not due to any personal qualities, but the fact he had been in Parliament since Muldoon was PM). Goff saw Labour consistently poll under the result he inherited in 2008.
Shearer has not even been leader for one year. Labour is polling on average 4% higher than at the 2011 election. Yet people are determined not to give him a fair chance. Why the unseemly rush to kneecap him before he even gets to to his first conference as leader?
Brian Edwards has blogged:
A quite remarkable thing happened this morning. Herald columnist Tapu Misa gave it as her view that David Shearer should stand down as leader of the Labour Party.
Misa is the finest columnist in the country – intelligent, informed, rational, considered in her judgements. More importantly, she is never cruel or unkind. Unlike most other columnists, including myself from time to time, she never sets out to wound. In keeping perhaps with her strong religious beliefs, she is ever a charitable critic.
Her politics are to the liberal left.
For these reasons I believe she will have thought long and hard before sending this morning’s column to theHerald for publication. It will not have been an easy decision. I can only assume that, after long deliberation, she concluded that this was something that, in the interests of the Labour Party and the country, just had to be said.
So why now?
Misa’s message is by no means new. The opinion that Shearer, however decent, however nice, is the wrong man for the job, is now regularly expressed by both right and left-wing commentators. Shearer claims not to be bothered by this groundswell of disfavour, but he is either in denial or putting on a brave front. It must be a dismal experience to be subjected day in, day out, to such relentless public humiliation.
And I think the strategy is to force him to quit, because he is a decent man.
What is both new and remarkable is that Misa, albeit reluctantly, has joined the chorus of opinion that Shearer is harming rather than helping Labour’s cause and that he cannot continue to lead the party. The writing on the wall could not now be clearer.
It has been my view, expressed in numerous posts on this site, that the Labour caucus made a serious mistake in selecting Shearer as leader in preference to David Cunliffe. They are now paying the price for the infantile thinking of the ‘Anyone but Cunliffe’ brigade.
But if Shearer goes, will it be Cunliffe who succeeds him?
As an advisor to Helen Clark during the 2008 election I learnt to my cost the danger of underestimating Key as a debater. My view and the view of Helen’s other advisors was that Key would be no match for the Prime Minister. He was a new boy and she was a seasoned practitioner. She was ’Minister for Everything’ and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of every portfolio. She would make mincemeat of this upstart. Key, it turned out, had been hiding his light under a bushel. He was aggressive, interruptive and in his element. Helen lost the first debate and we had to regroup.
Why is this relevant? Because David Shearer could not hold a candle to Helen Clark as a debater. That is why I say Key will crucify him in any face to face debate. It’s already happening in Parliament.
So here’s what I think should happen: Shearer should announce at the Labour Party Conference that he has told caucus he wishes to step down as leader and will do so as soon as a replacement has been chosen. To avoid the inevitable chaos (and possible collapse of the Labour Party) which will result from the implementation of their proposed new rules for choosing a leader (which could be tested as early as February of next year), caucus should quickly select David Cunliffe to take them through the next election. Cunliffe is the only person for the job. There is no-one else.
I’d be interested to know why Brian thinks it couldn’t be Grant Robertson or even Andrew Little?
UPDATE: Lynn Prentice has also called for Shearer to go.
I should clarify something relating to my earlier post. I never suggested The Standard has a group view on Shearer. I know each author is independent. What I focused on is the fact that two (now three) of the most longest serving and prolific authors have all called for Shearer to go – BEFORE he even gets to the first party conference. The fact a couple of other authors have disagreed does not change the significance of this.
My statement that this was no coincidence was not referring to a co-ordinated effort between The Standard authors as a bloc. I meant that it was being co-ordinated by one or more MPs who have chosen to try and force the issue before conference.Tags: Brian Edwards, David Shearer, Labour Leadership, Tapu Misa
The Standard has done three posts in two days calling for David Shearer to go, and on who should replace him.
While each is by a different author, I have been around politics far too long to think for a second that this is not part of a co-ordinated strategy to destabilise Shearer in the leadup to the Labour conference.
Otherwise why not wait until after the conference to see how he goes? Their authors know how destabilising their posts will be, and that it will detract from the Labour conference – even if Shearer performs well.
The three posts are:
- Eddie – On David Shearer’s Leadership - For the Left to win in 2014, David Shearer has to resign as Labour Leader.
- Irishbill – It’s time to go - David Shearer needs to go if Labour is to stand a chance in 2014 and he needs to go as soon as possible.
- Queen of Thorns – Who could replace Shearer? - I agree with the other posters on The Standard who think Shearer needs to go as Labour leader.
Again, if you think this is a coincidence, I have a bridge for sale. Someone has decided to push the button. The only rational reason to come out all guns blazing just seven days before the Labour Annual Conference is so that Shearer is undermined at the conference.
UPDATE: The cartoon below is in today’s Dom Post.
UPDATE2: Auckland based Tapu Misa writes in the NZ Herald:
As the Labour Party heads into its annual conference this weekend, it has some big questions to ponder. But first it has to ask itself how long it can afford to persist with David Shearer as leader.
Again the timing is fascinating – writing for him to go the week before the conference, rather than waiting to see how he performs at the conference.Tags: Labour Leadership, The Standard
Andrea Vance writes:
Here’s not what’s going to happen at Labour’s annual conference later this week. David Cunliffe is not going to rugby tackle David Shearer to the ground while Grant Robertson sits on his head, with Andrew Little shouting “bags be leader”.
Irritatingly, leadership spills don’t happen that way. If only.
I think having Grant sit on your head is an offence under the Crimes Act
Labour is especially good at the nasty, tortured coups – so if the party is going to roll Shearer, expect it to be beastly. But don’t anticipate blood on the floor of the Ellerslie Racecourse come next Sunday night.
All an opposition party leader has to do at his annual conference is suggest he might do a better job than the bloke presently in charge. Unfortunately in Shearer’s case, it’s not the incumbent prime minister, but himself.
For when he stands up to deliver his keynote speech, the 500-odd delegates will be staring at a bloody great leader-shaped hole. He’s got about 20 minutes to convince a disillusioned party faithful that he’s not invisible, hasn’t got a speech impediment – and that he’s got a cunning plan to convince the voters that Labour can deliver a costed, credible alternative to National-omics.
Of course, while he’s doing it, the commentators and the pundits will have one eye on him and the other scrutinising the wannabes and couldvebeens.
And say Shearer doesn’t give a whizz-bang, tub-thumping speech? His performance this year suggests it’s not going to be a belter. This far out from a election he’s not going to be unleashing any astonishing new policies to distract watchers from the leadership question.
As I said previously, I expect Shearer to give a good speech, His challenge is not delivering speeches, but handling questions.
The risks in rolling him are inherent, but the party appears to have gone past that now. Shearer could give the speech of his life but for many it will be too little, too late. Labour have floundered in opposition, they are impatient for power and can’t afford him any more time.
He’s had more leeway and more time than most would have got (from the media pack and party members) simply because he’s such a nice man.
But, sadly, it seems Labour are facing that awkward conversation: “David, we’re sorry, it’s not us, it’s you.”
Ouch.Tags: Andrea Vance, David Shearer, Labour Leadership
Vernon Small writes in Dom Post:
Just short of his first anniversary as leader, David Shearer delivers his first speech to a Labour Party conference next week.
But as storm clouds gather over his leadership, it is shaping as possibly his last.
Members, activists and unionists contacted for this article said over and over that the speech at the Ellerslie racecourse conference centre next Sunday was crucial to Shearer’s grip on the leadership.
His first priority is to convince the party rank and file that “he has what it takes” – and those grassroots members will be looking for a hard-hitting address taking the fight to the Government while outlining a clear and personal view of where he intends to take Labour.
Unless he can carry that off, the groundswell in the party is set to break into the open with a push for a leadership challenge, most likely when the caucus meets in February – or even sooner, according to one business lobbyist in close contact with the party.
That’s a big call.
Personally I think Shearer will do fine at the conference, which will subdue the talk. I’ve seen him do speeches, and he has few problems there. His weakness is press conferences and interviews, which are a very different challenge.
According to a senior MP, who backed Shearer in last year’s leadership vote, most inside Labour are withholding judgment until they see his performance at the conference.
But there is wide agreement Labour and Shearer will not be able to avoid a focus on his performance, not least because key business at the Ellerslie conference centre includes a revamp of party rules.
At issue is how candidates are chosen and ranked on the list – a potentiality explosive matter inside the party given the power of its union and sector group blocks.
But delegates will also vote to give unions and members a say in leadership votes. That has previously been the sole preserve of MPs in the caucus.
The draft proposal would require a two-thirds majority of MPs to trigger a leadership vote – a move that would be seen as entrenching the leader between general elections.
A rival option – to put the leadership to a vote if 40 per cent of MPs call for it – is seen as too destabilising and the party is likely to settle on the compromise of a 55 per cent threshold.
40% is too low and 67% too high, so the compromise looks sensible.
If the new rules get put in place, and then in February 55% of caucus say they want a change, we’ll see Cunliffe v Robertson for the leadership. Possible Little could stand also – not so much to win – but to become a powerbroker.
The members seem to most support Cunliffe, the unions Little and the caucus Robertson. The union support can be delivered pretty much as a bloc, so Cunliffe and Robertson will need to make some pledges to the unions to gain the leadership.Tags: David Shearer, Labour Leadership, Vernon Small
3 News Political Editor Duncan Garner blogs:
Labour promised an exciting back story that would impress and a new front man to rival the Prime Minister.
Sadly for Labour – they’re still looking for that person. David Shearer has failed. Labour’s lucky it’s not getting done under the law for false advertising.
Let’s be honest, Labour leader David Shearer doesn’t have it. He’s a nice, mild mannered, likeable, warm but a stuttering, incoherent mess that is the opposite of what an alternative Prime Minister should look like.
And before you say ‘give him some time’, he’s had a year and I think he’s gone backwards – not forwards.
He has no presence and his television performances are a disaster. That’s where voters make up their minds.
However Labour is up in the polls from the election.
The reason Shearer remains safe is disingenuous and it’s time to call it.
Labour MPs believe Grant Robertson is perhaps the next leader, but they don’t believe he’s quite ready – nor do they want to install a gay leader just yet. It shouldn’t be an issue – but it always is.
That’s why he remains the deputy. He knows politics is all about timing. Shearer has become the fall guy. Like Phil Goff was. It’s dishonest.
I think that is basically correct in that Robertson will be the next Leader, beating out Cunliffe and possibly Little. It could be messy though as Auckland Labour people are not that keen on their local guy being passed over in favour.
Duncan then tells a story about how strong the paranoia is about Cunliffe in Labour:
I tried to get a Labour face on TV this week to talk about capital gains taxes. I approached Shearer who was in Hokitika and too far away, David Parker in Dunedin and Cunliffe in Auckland.
Cunliffe was the easiest to get hold of. But, without naming names, the hoopla I was put through before he was ‘allowed’ on TV was fascinating. Even Cunliffe was nervous – but keen.
It took six hours of negotiating to get him on. It was quite simply, outrageous. It took me one text to get Russel Norman on the telly. It took two phone calls to get the Prime Minister to agree to a one-on-one interview.
So just two phone calls to get the Prime Minister of the country on, and six hours of negotiations to get the Opposition Economic Development Spokesperson?
Shearer has been promoted above what he’s capable of in my view.
I’m sure he’s entirely capable behind the scenes – you don’t do what he’s done by being stupid – but I’m just saying he’s not cut out for the hurly-burly, think-on-your-feet world of opposition politics. Robertson and Cunliffe are.
Shearer was handed the benefit of the doubt as pointed out by Gordon Campbell in a column this week and he’s failed to deliver on any of it.
For my 2c I think Shearer’s problem is more than he hasn’t been able to stamp a policy direction on the party. Even his own spokespersons contradict him.
Put simply, Shearer does not look, act or sound like a man ready to take over the Treasury benches and drive New Zealand out of this recession. The voters see it.
They see a Labour Party unconvinced and confused by their own choice. Until that changes, Labour will stay in opposition.
Possibly, but the current Government only has a one seat majority, without the Maori Party. Labour could well end up in Government, even if they are unconvinced and confused.Tags: David Cunliffe, David Shearer, Duncan Garner, Grant Robertson, Labour Leadership