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!



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.



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.



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.


Who’s supporting who

September 10th, 2013 at 9:20 am by David Farrar

I’ve been compiling a list of pledges and endorsements for each of the three Labour candidates. Welcome any additions or corrections. The state of play this morning is:

David Cunliffe endorsements

  1. Chris Trotter
  2. John Tamihere
  3. Brian Edwards
  4. Mike Williams
  5. Jenny Michie
  6. David Farrar
  7. Gordon Campbell
  8. Fran O’Sullivan
  9. Cactus Kate
  10. Otago Daily Times
  11. Manawatu Standard
  12. Greg Presland
  13. Morgan Godfery
  14. John Minto
  15. Mike Lee
  16. Taranaki Daily News
  17. Brian Rudman
  18. Anjum Rahman
  19. John Armstrong
  20. Martyn Bradbury
  21. Selwyn Manning
  22. Rod Oram
  23. Scott Yorke
  24. Colin Espiner
  25. Keith Locke

Shane Jones endorsements

  1. Sonny Tau
  2. Stuart Nash
  3. Kelvin Davis
  4. Guyon Espiner
  5. Willie Jackson
  6. Cameron Slater
  7. Dover Samuels
  8. Hone Harawira
  9. Labour’s Te Kaunihera Māori

Grant Robertson endorsements

  1. Michael Cullen
  2. Matthew Hooton
  3. Vernon Small
  4. Titewhai Harawira
  5. Andrew Geddis
  6. Rebecca Matthews
  7. Sir Bob Jones

Again please let me know of any additions or changes as I plan to keep updating and republishing this page.


The Labour pork barrel update

September 9th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The aspiring Prime Ministers have been busy with their promises since my last update. In fact I hear on the grapevine that their promises have even started to alarm some of their colleagues, including David Parker who would have to produce an alternate budget that could find it all!

  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  
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  

If you spot or hear a pork promise, let me know so I can keep the list updated!


Edwards on Jones

September 9th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogs:

Shane Jones is one of only two people I have ever hung up on. Trevor Mallard is the other. I don’t take well to being bullied or abused.

Now that’s a good opening line!

I do Mallard an injustice by mentioning him in the same context as Jones. I have considerable respect for Trevor and nothing but contempt for Jones.

If I ever had doubts that such contempt was deserved, they would have vanished over the past couple of weeks in the face of his numerous appearances on television. This is not a man the Labour Party can ever afford to have as its Leader. This is not a man the country can ever afford to have as its Prime Minister. He would almost certainly bring shame to both offices.

Little chance Shane will be Leader or PM. But he could well end up Deputy if that is the price of his support for second preferences.

Here’s Jones on his Dalmatian forefathers: ‘I tell you what, a lot of them were fairly lusty individuals, because they didn’t always marry those Maori wahines they applied their biological gum-spears to.’ (Penis reference. Espiner laughs.)

Jones again, following his call to David Cunliffe: ‘What the hell is a soft piece. Doing things in a soft fashion has never really been a failing of mine’ (Penis reference presumably boasting his ability to sustain an erection. Espiner finds this very funny.)

And here’s Jones, in a speech referring to what he intended to do to John Key:  ‘I’m going to tie a bungy cord around a sensitive spot and then I’m going to get those callipers and cut them, and then the mercenary of capitalism can suffer what he deserves – a dead cat bounce.” (Reference to castrating John Key)

And Jones on Labour’s proposed ‘man ban’: ‘… the overwhelming response [in his electorate] is the public doesn’t want the country run by geldings.’ (Reference to women as castrated male horses.)

Brian is right to point out that Shane does seem rather obsessed with certain appendages.

He definitely has mass appeal, but he is also a bit of a walking time bomb.

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Union update for Labour vote

September 6th, 2013 at 7:31 pm by David Farrar

I understand that three of the six unions have now endorsed David Cunliffe for the Labour leadership, and in fact have asked delegates to rank Jones 2nd and Robertson 3rd.

The DWU were previously known to have endorsed Cunliffe. I understand RMTU have also. I do not know if the 3rd union is MUNZ or MWU – I have assumed MUNZ as they are stronger in Auckland.

The updated table based on vote assumptions (and they are assumptions) are:

Round 1 Cunliffe Jones Robertson Union % Cunliffe Jones Robertson
EPMU 25% 10% 65% 41.0% 10.3% 4.1% 26.7%
SFWU 55% 15% 30% 24.8% 13.6% 3.7% 7.4%
MWU 40% 20% 40% 17.0% 6.8% 3.4% 6.8%
DWU 70% 15% 15% 7.8% 5.5% 1.2% 1.2%
RMTU 70% 15% 15% 6.4% 4.5% 1.0% 1.0%
MUNZ 60% 20% 20% 3.0% 1.8% 0.6% 0.6%
Union Total 42.4% 14.0% 43.6%
Election Total 8.5% 2.8% 8.7%
Round 2 Cunliffe Jones Robertson Union % Cunliffe Jones Robertson
EPMU 28% 72% 41.0% 11.4% 29.6%
SFWU 65% 35% 24.8% 16.0% 8.8%
MWU 50% 50% 17.0% 8.5% 8.5%
DWU 82% 18% 7.8% 6.4% 1.4%
RMTU 82% 18% 6.4% 5.3% 1.1%
MUNZ 75% 25% 3.0% 2.3% 0.8%
Union Total 49.9% 50.1%
Election Total 10.0% 10.0%

The EPMU has such greater voting strength that their (presumed) support for Robertson balances out the smaller unions support for Cunliffe. If Robertson does not in fact get most EPMU votes, then Cunliffe will win the union vote.

I’ve not heard reports of shifts in the caucus vote, apart from uncertainty over Huo. If so, then the members vote will be all important. I hope to have a stab at how that may go early next week.

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An apt summary

September 6th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Cunliffe has had a dramatic, but possibly short-lived, transformation into a middle-class Che Guevara. He has decried the dirty freemarket, the crony capitalists, and the neo-liberal agenda and promised world domination to the unions and jobs and lucre for all. 

This leadership contest is like Christmas and Easter rolled into one for the unions. Anything they ask for, they receive. National’s changes abolished – done. A living wage for all – done. Part 6A extended to all industries – done. National Awards back from the 1970s – done.

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Who will survive if Robertson doesn’t win?

September 6th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Growing speculation about who will survive in the Labour Leader’s Office if Grant Robertson doesn’t win. I’ve heard the two other candidates are talking openly of a clean out. Jones, because he doesn’t think they’re up to it, and Cunliffe because he sees them as Robertson loyalists.

Likewise a Robertson win is unlikely to see much change in the shadow cabinet except Cunliffe promoted to front bench. However a Cunliffe win could see a very major shakeup. Most of his supporters are mid ranked or unranked.

Having worked in a party leader’s office during several coups, it is far from fun to have your job security so unknown.


The Press on English

September 6th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

But perhaps it should not have been because widespread respect for English, following his steady, careful performance as minister of finance through the worst financial crisis of the past 80 years, has been growing. A complimentary remark by a respected American economist on English’s performance at a conference in Sydney recently, was not untypical and it prompted a highly regarded New Zealand economist, Matt Nolan, to comment: “This is not the first time I’ve heard people overseas sing Bill English’s praises [it is probably in double-digits now] . . . we have a finance minister who understands the issues and tries to communicate them clearly.”

English came to office with an economy that had already been in recession for almost a year, when the global financial crisis hit. He had a measure of luck – there was no housing bust and although there were nervous moments, the New Zealand banking system did not buckle. But English responded to the crisis pragmatically and skilfully, avoiding severe retrenchment but focusing determinedly on reducing government debt and balancing the budget. Contrary to opposition propaganda, the government did not bring with it any dogma or hidden agenda.

A shock could, of course, upset things. The balance of payments deficit and overseas debt continue to be relatively high and to cause concern. But English’s overarching goal of getting the Government’s books in order, which looked hopelessly remote five years ago, now seems achievable, if only by a whisker, next year.

No surprise that I agree. Bill English has had the most challenging circumstances of any Finance Minister, and done very well. On top of that he is pushing a micro-reform agenda across Government that is making a difference.

While David Shearer was ultimately brought down as leader of the Labour Party by his woeful public communication, the role of weak, ill-thought-out policy in his downfall has probably been underestimated.

It is a factor the three contenders for the Labour leadership – Grant Robertson, David Cunliffe and Shane Jones – do not seem to have cottoned on to. In the beauty-contest meetings held so far, they appear mostly to have been diverted by essentially trivial issues such as the so-called “man-ban” or by seeing how far they can go in outbidding each other in implausible left-wingery.

The Labour leadership contenders have, in some areas, moved to the left of the Greens. That takes some doing!

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Labour effectively pledging a minimum wage of $18.40

September 5th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

David Cunliffe writes at The Standard:

I’d like to thank Lynn and the authors of the Standard for this opportunity to contribute a post here, where Labour members and the broader left come together online. The Standard is certainly one of the most respected political blogs and I am a regular reader.

I’ve always wondered if David is also an author :-)

I will introduce a living wage for all employees of Government agencies – and I will extend this policy over time to any business that seeks to win Government contracts.

This pledge goes further than what we had before. This is not saying if you are doing work for the Government, the staff doing that work must be paid the Anglican Church mandated living wage. It it saying that any business that has (or seeks) any contract with the Government must pay $18.40 (for now) an hour.

Now the Government is a massive chunk of the NZ economy. There are few businesses who wouldn’t have at least one contract with a government agency. So if you own a copy centre, and you win the contract to do the copying for say the NZ Transport Agency, then you have to pay all your staff $18.40 an hour or more – even the 16 year old copy assistant.

So the way Cunliffe (and I presume Robertson) have worded their pledge, is in fact a de facto minimum wage for all. The destruction of jobs that will follow would be massive.

Some may argue that it will only apply to those working for the Government through the contractor. But I can’t see that happening. Say you are a cleaning company. Could you pay staff $15 an hour when they clean the ANZ but $18.40 an hour when they clean the Reserve Bank? Of course not. No employment contract would allow you to pay people based on who your clients are. It would inevitably mean you would have to pay all your staff whatever figure Rev Charles Waldegrave proclaims every year to be the new living wage!!

The Herald editorial makes the point:

Everyone agrees that New Zealand needs to lift its incomes overall, to match Australian rates if possible. But the Labour Party seems to think that this can be done at the stroke of its pen. Mr Robertson in particular, is talking as though an economy is simply a job-creation scheme and all that a government needs to do is make its priority “people”.

He is surely insulting the intelligence of Labour Party audiences, most of whom appear to have been around a good deal longer than Mr Robertson and can remember when the economy was largely a job-creation scheme.

Promising to lift wages by stroke of a pen, and that there will be no impact on jobs, is a cruel hoax. If it was that easy, everyone would do it.

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How the unions may vote for Labour leadership

September 5th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged yesterday on how the caucus looks to be voting on the Labour leadership. That was realatively easy to do, as that involves just 34 people, many of whom have publicly declared their intentions.

Based on feedback and some tweaks at the end of the day I had it Robertson 47%, Cunliffe 35% and Jones 18%, Of the total electoral college vote that would be 19%, 14% and 7% respectively. If you reallocate Jones then 21% Robertson to 19% Cunliffe. However that may change. The senior MPs are still strongly backing Robertson and may get some of the swinging MPs to fall behind them.

Now we have the union vote. First is how much does each union get. I estimated last week that the voting strengths were:

  1. EPMU (Engineering etc) 36,987 members, 41.5% of union vote, 8.3% of total vote
  2. SFWU (Service Food etc) 22,351 members, 25.1% of union vote, 5.0% of total vote
  3. MWU (Meat) 15,313 members, 17.2% of union vote, 3.4% of total vote
  4. DWU (Dairy) 7,000 members, 7.9% of union vote, 1.6% of total vote
  5. RMTU (Rail) 4,747 members 5.3% of union vote, 1.1% of total vote
  6. MUNZ (Maritime) 2,635 members, 3.0% of union vote, 0.6% of total vote

I asked the unions for details of what share of the vote they are, and how many delegates they have. The only union which has replied was the RMTU which kindly confirmed they have 26 voting delegates and affiliate on 3,000 members which makes them 6.44% of the union vote and 1.3% of the total vote. This suggests the total affiliate membership is 46,584.

As we don’t have precise numbers for the others , I’ll apportion out and so this gives us

EMPU – 41% of union vote, 8.2% of total vote, approx 60 delegates

The EPMU National Executive has not endorsed anyone but some EPMU figures such as Paul Tolich are very pro Robertson. Tolich failed to get an EPMU endorsement formally, but that does not mean there is not massive lobbying going on of the 60 or so delegates.

I’d guess that Robertson could get 65%, Cunliffe 25% and Jones 10%.

SWFU – 24.8% of union vote, 5.0% of total vote, any member can vote

Because they are allowing all members to vote, the influence of hierarchy is less. Cunliffe and Robertson are both playing to their members with their living wage promises. Those who are not involved in Labour but attend a meeting will probably find both equally good.

Cunliffe has some SWFU people on his team and a strong Auckland base so I’d go Cunliffe 55%, Robertson 30%, Jones 15%

MWU – 17.0% of union vote, 3.4% of total vote, approx 54 delegates

 This one is very hard to pick. Their members are more provincial than urban, so Jones would do better with them. I’m sticking them down as Jones 34%, Cunliffe 33%, Robertson 33%.

DWU – 7.8% of union vote, 1.6% of total vote, approx 70 delegates

 Like MWU hard to pick, and also provincial and rural based which Jones may appeal more to. The General Secretary is Chris Flatt, a former Labour Party General Secrtary. On the basis he will have some influence and the Labour Head Office is more pro Robertson, I’d go Robertson 40%, Jones 35%, Cunliffe 25%.

UPDATE: Their Exec has endorsed Cunliffe, so now assuming 70% vote Cunliffe.

RMTU – 6.4% of union vote, 1.3% of total vote, 30 delegates

 Head office is in Wellington that may help Robertson a bit. Lots of provincial members. Say Robertson 40%, Cunliffe 35%, Jones 25%

MUNZ – 3.0% of union vote, 0.6% of total vote, approx 30 delegates

Their strongest branch is in Auckland and that should favour Cunliffe. Say Cunliffe 60%, Robertson 20%, Jones 20%

So how would this all come together.

Round 1 Cunliffe Jones Robertson Union % Cunliffe Jones Robertson
EPMU 25% 10% 65% 41.0% 10.3% 4.1% 26.7%
SFWU 55% 15% 30% 24.8% 13.6% 3.7% 7.4%
MWU 33% 34% 33% 17.0% 5.6% 5.8% 5.6%
DWU 70% 15% 15% 7.8% 5.5% 1.2% 1.2%
RMTU 35% 25% 40% 6.4% 2.2% 1.6% 2.6%
MUNZ 60% 20% 20% 3.0% 1.8% 0.6% 0.6%
Union Total 39.0% 17.0% 44.0%
Election Total 7.8% 3.4% 8.8%
Round 2 Cunliffe Jones Robertson Union % Cunliffe Jones Robertson
EPMU 28% 72% 41.0% 11.4% 29.6%
SFWU 65% 35% 24.8% 16.0% 8.8%
MWU 50% 50% 17.0% 8.5% 8.5%
DWU 82% 18% 7.8% 6.4% 1.4%
RMTU 47% 53% 6.4% 3.0% 3.4%
MUNZ 75% 25% 3.0% 2.3% 0.8%
Union Total 47.6% 52.4%
Election Total 9.5% 10.5%

Now again this is quite speculative, and I welcome feedback from people closer to the action into how they think the union delegates (or members) will vote.

What does this show us if we add it to the caucus vote.

Round 1 – Robertson 27.6%, Cunliffe 21.9%, Jones 10.5%

Round 2 – Robertson 31.7%, Cunliffe 28.3%

You need 50% to win. So it means Cunliffe has to pick up  22% of the 40% of the members vote and Robertson needs 18% of the 40%. More simply if the above estimates are in the right ballpark, then Cunliffe needs just over 54% of the members vote to win and Robertson needs almost 46%.

On Friday I’ll have a stab at how the members may vote. Their local MPs will have a fairly big influence on many members, along with their geography.

UPDATE: Herald has said the DWU Executive have recommended to their delegates they vote for Cunliffe. I’ve updated the table on assumption 70% vote Cunliffe.

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Meet the candidates online

September 5th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Clare Curran blogs at Red Alert:

The Labour Party Leadership roadshow continues around New Zealand this week. There are 12 hustings meetings being held from Whangarei to Dunedin. Today we see the announcement of a “virtual hustings” meeting which is yet another new initiative in our quest to bring greater membership participation in the party.

Under the rules for its current Leadership Election, the Labour Party is required to hold a “virtual hustings meeting”. This is an opportunity for eligible voters to put questions to the candidates online, created by the New Zealand Labour Party working with the Scoop Independent News website. It starts today.

Today the Party is putting out a call to eligible voters to submit questions to the three candidates. To submit a question to be put to the Candidates please send an email to . The cut-off date for sending your question is midnight on Wednesday 10th of September.

Then from 10-13 September selected questions (from eligible voters) will be answered in a series of blog posts here on the Red Alert. Everyone will then be welcome to join in the discussion (currently moderation policy will apply). The discussion will continue into the weekend on 14 September and online voting closes at midday on Sunday 15 September.

The online promotion is being organised by and promoted over the Scoop Media Cartel group of websites.

Not really that much of an online meeting. More just a non-live Q+A. What would be fun would be a live video-conference where people can tweet, e-mail, text questions in and have them answer them on the spot. But still a good opportunity for Labour members to ask questions, and of course anyone can join in the discussion on Red Alert.


Clark and Cullen on the Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Labour caucus vote closer than I thought

September 4th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Over the last couple of days I’ve been chatting to a number of Labour people about how they think MPs will vote in the leadership contest. I started this thinking it would show Robertson well ahead, with over two thirds support. But it looks like the caucus is much closer than that. I’ve specifically been asking about second preferences also, to try and work out what may happen with any reallocated preferences.

Most of the data is based on publicly known preferences or history. Some of it is based on educated guesses such as their geographic location, who their friends in caucus are etc. Some MPs have not yet decided, so for them it is predicting where they are likely to go. So what I’m saying is that while much of the data is solid, some is speculation. It is not claiming to be a guarantee of how the vote will go. It is an good stab at how things are shaping up. I will update it as more data comes to hand.

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 1 2 3
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 3 1
Prasad, Rajen 1 3 2
Robertson, Grant 3 2 1
Robertson, Ross 2 1 3
Shearer, David 3 1 2
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 12 6 16
2 12 17 5
3 10 11 13
34 34 34
Round 1 12 6 16
Round 2 16 18
Caucus % 47% 53%
Total % 19% 21%

As I said, I was surprised that things appear to be so close between Cunliffe and Robertson. If this is how the vote turns out in caucus, then I would say Cunliffe is looking very solid to win overall as most think he will get a majority of the members and unions.

The above is, again, not based just on my views, but on others who are closer to the action. Here’s some of the rationales:

  • Ardern – Robertson’s likely Deputy Leader
  • Beaumont – publicly supporting Cunliffe
  • Clark – likely to vote with old guard, as doing well with them
  • Cosgrove – Anyone but Cunliffe
  • Cunliffe – Jones his second choice over Robertson, and may (quietly) ask Jones to be Deputy
  • Curran – very hard to pick. Cunliffe has helped her with ICT portfolio when she was new MP, so may lean to him, but is close to more people in Robertson camp. Assuming Robertson for now. Has now declared she is voting Robertson in a letter to members.
  • Dalziel – publicly backed Cunliffe
  • Dyson – publicly backing Robertson
  • Faafoi – seen drinking with Robertson on Seven Sharp, likely to vote as Goff does
  • Fenton – probably backing Cunliffe as most union MPs are. Am told she is in Camp Robertson, tends to go where Annette King goes.
  • Goff – Cunliffe last as partly blames him for election loss
  • Hipkins – has little future under Cunliffe
  • Huo – very hard to pick. Prob leaning Cunliffe as Auckland based. Also Chinese community (but not Hup himself) quite conservative on sexuality issues
  • Jones – of course him as first choice. Cunliffe as second choice, as more likely to do well with him
  • King – Anyone but Cunliffe
  • Lees-Galloway – publicly backing Robertson Cunliffe
  • Little – A key vote. His chance of future leadership is better with Cunliffe or Jones than Robertson. But sources now say much more likely Robertson.
  • Mackey – publicly backing Cunliffe
  • Mahuta – publicly backing Cunliffe
  • Mallard – will probably retire if Cunliffe wins
  • Moroney – probably go with Cunliffe as most unionists are
  • O’Connor – Jones, then Cunliffe rather than the gaggle
  • Parker – Not declaring but likely to vote Robertson as most of front bench are. But could go elsewhere if guaranteed he keeps Finance
  • Prasad – was thought to be organising for Cunliffe at last year’s conference
  • Robertson – the surprise is he probably will rank Jones over Cunliffe for his second preference. There is considerable antipathy between Camp Robertson and Cunliffe, so Jones is the second choice for many
  • Ross Robertson – likely to vote for Jones as the least left wing one
  • Shearer – likely to vote Jones I understand as the only one of the three that didn’t stab him in the back
  • Sio – publicly backing Cunliffe
  • Street – Jones clearly last choice!
  • Tirikatene – publicly backing Jones
  • Twyford – a swinging voter. Is in with old guard and likely to do better with Robertson. But does he vote against a fellow West Auckland MP? Probably will go with Robertson
  • Wall – close to Cunliffe
  • Whaitiri – a surprise here, but I am told she is leaning Cunliffe
  • Woods – publicly backing Robertson

Again, fell free to e-mail me with any corrections or updates. Sources will, as always, be protected.

UPDATE: A Labour person messages:

Fenton giving Cunliffe first preference? I don’t think so…

 Ditto, Andrew Little (although, I’m not so certain about that)
Where Andrew Little goes will be interesting. Of course we may never know, as we only get told the overall results of the caucus ballot – not how each MP votes. In the UK Labour Party leadership election they actually published how each MP and MEP voted!
UPDATE2: A second Labourite says Fenton is backing Robertson, so have moved her to his column. That makes it 15 Robertson, 13 Cunliffe, Jones 6.
UPDATE3: Two sources (from different camps) say Little is far more likely Robertson than Cunliffe, so have shifted him. That makes it 16 to 12 to 6.
Also have heard that both Huo and Goff may be leaning towards Jones as first preference. That would be very significant if that happens. Also that O’Connor may have Robertson as his second preference after Jones. I tend to update the table upon double  verification so let me know if you have further info.
UPDATE4: I understand that Tirikatene’s second preference after Jones is Cunliffe so that moves it back to 18 Robertson and 16 Cunliffe. Knife edge!

Who is promising what

September 3rd, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The three Labour leadership contenders are making so many promises, that I’ve done this little table below for easy reference. Please, please let me know (e-mail preferably) if there are any pledges I have missed. I will keep updating this.

  Cunliffe Jones Robertson
Raise taxes on rich pricks Yes   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  
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    
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    

Cunliffe’s pledge to extend Part 6A to all workers takes the prize for the most destructive policy.

Part 6A is the part which states that if a company wins a contract off another company, they have to employ all the staff of the other company.

At present this only applies to industries such as catering, cleaning, orderly and laundry. Cunliffe’s pledge would massively expand this.Say you work for a copy centre, and you lose a major contract to a competitor. The winning copy centre has to hire your staff!In theory it would apply to law firms also. Say a law firm loses a major client to another law firm. All the lawyers who worked for that client at the old firm, would have to be hired by the new firm!It would in fact destroy competition, mergers and acquisitions in New Zealand. It is bad enough we have Part 6A for some industries, but to apply it to all workers is indeed a great leap backwards. The unions though will love it. Getting 20% of the vote in the leadership contests has given them power beyond their wildest dreams.

UPDATE: Have added on Grant’s pledge to have taxpayers fund a second fibre cable to the United States.

UPDATE2: Cunliffe also promising a Pacifica TV channel

UPDATE3: Robertson on Te Karere said he wants Treaty settlement target shifted from 2014 to 2020 and the Police Commission to apologise to Tuhoe.

 UPDATE4: Cunlife promised in a speech he would introduce national awards or “industry standard agreements” within 100 days of an election.

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A fair point

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

Twisted Hive blogs:

Questions from the NZ Herald to candidates:

Q: Why is Labour not connecting with voters?

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

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

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

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The earth, moon and stars

September 2nd, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Cunliffe said that he was going to deliver “the basics for families”.

“You know, it is easy for a politician to promise the earth, moon and stars. To say that everyone will have a job tomorrow and a living wage. That is what I want and I won’t settle for less.”

Umm, I’d say that is promising the earth, moon and stars.

Putting aside the economic contradiction of promising a massive increases in wages, and more jobs, what Cunliffe and Robertson are pledging is a hoax.

Can they name one country on earth which has full employment?

And note that the living wage pledge has now shifted from people working for Government and contracting to Government, to a living wage for everyone. Everyday their policies move further to the left. The Greens will soon be seen as more centrist than Labour at this rate.

When do they start pledging they also want everyone to live to be 100?

Tracy Watkins warns that their pork barrel promises may make them unelectable:

Labour’s leadership hopefuls should be wary of losing the war to win the battle.

The pork barrel style campaigning of the first two days of their leadership roadshow may or may not give one of them an edge over their rivals among the party faithful. But it goes without saying that the delegates who get to decide the next Labour leader are not the voters Labour needs to reach out to in 2014 to win the next election. To win back those swinging voters, Labour needs to grow its support in the political centre. With the exception of wild card Shane Jones, however, this leadership race has been all about the two main candidates, Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe,  racing to shore up their credentials on the Left. If they are not careful, the underdog Jones will steal a march on both of them. While his rivals have their gaze turned inward, he is reaching out over both of them to appeal to the voters who aren’t card carrying Labour members. And his smoko room politics and harking back to old fashioned Labour values are far more likely to resonate with the wider public.

I used to think Jones would get say 5% only, but I’d say he is picking up significant support, so that no candidate will win on first preferences. It will come down to who his supporters rank second.

The first day on the hustings had the candidates vying to gazump each other on policy including a living wage, repealing the Government’s industrial relations law changes, a Pacifica TV channel, raise taxes on the wealthy,  regulate food prices and raise the minimum wage.

Oh I missed the TV channel!

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Pity Labour’s male MPs and candidates

September 2nd, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Both Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe have pledged that Labour’s post 2014 caucus under their leadership will be 50% women. Technically this is a decision for the Labour Party organisation, but what they are effectively saying is that as Leader they will encourage the party to use whatever mechanisms they have to achieve this. This means that the man ban may be back, as they have both said they won’t stop the party adopting it.

But regardless of whether the man ban returns, the pledge for 50% women in their caucus is very bad news for their rival Shane Jones, and also for former Party President Andrew Little. You see in 2011 a 50/50 quota would have seen both Andrew Little and Shane Jones not make it into Parliament.

In this blog post in July, I looked at what a 50/50 quota would have meant for Labour under every MMP election. It would have been the equivalent of a suicide note. They would have lost Michael Cullen in 1999 and 2002 for example as they would not have got any male List MPs at all. So it doesn’t matter how they ranked their Male candidates – none would have got in on the list under the quota favoured by Robertson and Cunliffe.

Now it is almost inevitable that one of them will become Leader, unless Jones can pull off an upset, which means that Labour will have this quota for 2014. So who are the losers?

First are the current male List MPs. Basically they’re outski. Little, Jones and maybe even Cosgrove are gone. If O’Connor doesn’t hold his seat he could be gone also.

The other losers are new male candidates. The message is that there is no chance of a winnable list spot if they are male.

Labour holds 22 electorate seats. If a male replaces Dalziel, then 15 electorate MPs are male and seven are female. That means the top eight places on the list must be reserved for women.

This will make it harder for male candidates not just to get into Parliament but also to win electorate seats, as to win a seat off the other party often needs a two or three term strategy where you come in as a List MP, and then use that to build up profile so you can win the seat itself the next election.

This makes it very interesting for Andrew Little. If either Robertson or Cunliffe win, he may end up being out of Parliament under their quota policies. So who will he support? Could Jones pick up vote in caucus by pointing out to the male List MPs that many of them are goners if the other two win?

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Now it is houses and jobs for all, and something about taxis!

September 1st, 2013 at 6:11 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Robertson was first up to speak and invoked the memory of former Labour Prime Minster Norman Kirk, by promising a government he lead would fulfil Kirk’s dream of a home and a job for everyone.

On Saturday Grant just promised jobs for everyone, plus a living wage of $18.40 for all. He’s now gone one better and is promising a house for everyone also. By Monday will it be a car for everyone also?

Cunliffe also reiterated the promise of a living wage and talked about the plight of taxi drivers living on $4.50 an hour.

So even if one accepts this is correct (I doubt it), what will Labour’s policy be to fix this? Shoot or sack every second taxi driver so the survivors have more jobs? Or set a minimum price for taxi services? Make it illegal for a taxi firm to charge less than $5 a minute?


Jones joins the lurch to the left

September 1st, 2013 at 3:29 pm by David Farrar

From Q+A today:

SHANE Number one, I will not write one single cheque the Labour Party cannot cash. Get that right from me. Secondly, there are some bastions that need to be overcome. The brown shirts of the food industry are the supermarkets. Under my leadership, they will be reviewed, and if it’s necessary to regulate them to bring the cost of food down, take my word, we will do it.

So Shane says the supermarket chains are akin to Nazis, and he thinks the Government should regulate the price of food.


DAVID What we did last time round was 39 cents with a pretty high threshold of $150,000, so we weren’t hitting middle New Zealand. We had a top rate for the wealthiest. We’ve got to be very careful to make sure that the trust rate is at or close to the top marginal personal rate, because we don’t want to create an avoidance—

So Cunliffe says the trust rate may also increase to 39%. Will they also increase the company tax rate to 39%?

DAVID What about a new civilian conservation corps to use carbon credits to subsidise the planting of trees up and down some of those dry areas on our east coast? We could get a whole lot of young New Zealanders out there on the hills planting trees and creating the Kaingaroa of tomorrow. The economics are pretty good if you get a carbon price of around $20. I think that’s a project worth pushing.

Oh dear, this could cost hundreds of millions. You see the global carbon price is not $20. It is 4.7 Euros. And in NZ it is even lower at 41c.

GRANT I’m about maximising the Labour vote, but let’s remember there’s never been a single party government under MMP. We will have to work with somebody. We’ve got a lot in common with the Greens, and we’ve got differences with them. We’ve got a lot in common with New Zealand First, and we’ve got differences with them. The voters will decide, but I’m with Shane. There has to be a four at the start of the Labour vote.

So two of the three candidates are pledging to get Labour to 40% or higher. They will get a honeymoon boost, but let’s see where things are early next year.


Roll out the (pork) barrels

September 1st, 2013 at 8:30 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

The pork barrels have been rolled out in the Labour Party leadership battle, with Grant Robertson promising to introduce a “living wage” of more than $18 an hour for all government workers.

He told 350 party members and unionists in Levin yesterday that he would set a timeframe to phase in the living wage, which is currently set at $18.40 an hour for a family to live without suffering poverty.

He also pledged to lift the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour and repeal all of National’s industrial relations laws.

All? So there goes the 90 day trial law, which would make us almost the only country in the OECD not to have one.

With 20% of the vote, the contenders are forced to promise the unions everything they want.

Robertson later said he did not yet know the full cost of his promise, and that would determine how soon it could be introduced.

Who needs to worry about cost! Just send the bill to the taxpayers!

Robertson’s announcement gazumped rival David Cunliffe, who was expected to make similar announcements at the two meetings in Auckland today.

Cunliffe declared he, too, would repeal employment relations laws, and introduce a Government-wide living wage over time.

If one of them declared that they will nationalise the banks and ban all foreign investment in New Zealand, I suspect the other will have pledged to do the same by the end of the meeting based on how loud the cheers are.

“It will be a strong package of policies that will put unions back in the centre of the fight for equality.”

He denied it was simply an attempt to court the union vote, saying the party had always held a strong role in industrial relations.

“It has an industrial wing and a political wing. We will win when those two wings fly together.”

What this means is that Labour passes laws to benefit unions, and unions use their extra funds to help Labour stay in power so that Labour can keep passing laws to benefit them. At the last election unions represented the vast bulk of the third party spending.

The third leadership contender, Shane Jones, focused on the need to build up small-town New Zealand.

He said he would focus more on Pasifika and working-class issues at today’s South Auckland meeting and “more intellectual” issues for the audience in West Auckland.

Intellectual issues for West Auckland? And if there is a forum at Wainuiomata, he’ll talk about his arts policy there I guess :-)



A win for Robertson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The contenders speak

August 31st, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald interviews the contenders. Some extracts:

Q: What is the first thing you would do as Labour’s leader?

• Shane Jones: Upgrade the Leader’s Office, get some smart people in there and get a professional office manager so that the Leader’s Office is a permanent man-o’-war.

Harsh. Jones has just implied the current office has no smart people in there.

Q: Is the Green Party making too many gains at Labour’s expense? If so, what will you do about it?

• Shane Jones: I am going to harvest and find my votes in Middle Earth – not flat earth.

A great line!

Q: Why is Labour not connecting with voters?

• David Cunliffe: The first task is to ensure our own party base is enthusiastically behind the leadership and policies. We also need to give the 800,000 who didn’t vote last time a reason to believe. And we need to restore the confidence of many people who used to vote Labour, but drifted to the Green Party or voted Labour under Helen Clark but have gone to National under John Key.

• Shane Jones: There is an unfortunate perception that Labour is dominated by middle-class intellectuals who no longer know how to relate to the bloke lugging meat at 4 in the morning into the supermarket or the woman putting her kids off to school before they go and work two jobs in a day. A lot of politics is about emotionally connecting with people. One way of connecting is for them to see a bit of themselves in the personality putting his hand up to do the work.

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

Effectively Cunliffe is saying he will energise the base, Jones is saying he will expand the base and Robertson is saying he’ll change little and just communicate better than Shearer.