Transtasman on Cunliffe’s deputy choice

October 3rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Transtasman notes:

Labour provided a continuation of a bizarre election year this week, while National made itself as small a target as possible. Former leader David Cunliffe went on Campbell Live and told its genial host he thought having the Wellington Central MP and leadership aspirant Grant Robertson as his deputy was kind of a neat idea

He might want to check with David Shearer about just how good a deputy Robertson can be. But of course it would not be just Robertson as deputy: an hour after telling John Campbell’s adoring viewers of this, Cunliffe told Native Affairs’ Mihirangi Forbeshe also kind of liked the idea of having a Maori deputy leader. If the Cunliffe Family visits Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World this weekend, don’t rule out an announcement next week Cunliffe’s running mates are a brace of stingray and a handful of krill.

Heh, very good.

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How Labour could pay for its leadership ballot

October 2nd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

An issue that has been raised is that Labour could struggle t pay for the cost of its leadership ballot, as the last one was estimated to cost $80,000 or so.

A friend of mine is standing for the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, and they have an interesting funding model:

The party requires a registration fee of $75,000 from leadership candidate and a refundable deposit of $25,000.

Make the candidates pay! If David Cunliffe still has his secret trust, he could fundraise through that.

The party demands that the PC Ontario Fund get a 20% cut of the fundraising after the first $100,000 and those voting for the leader must be a member of the Ontario PCs by Feb. 28, 2015.

And they take a percentage of the fundraising.

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Ilam candidate says he can’t be part of Labour if Cunliffe remains

September 30th, 2014 at 2:51 pm by David Farrar

James Macbeth Dann was Labour’s candidate for Ilam in 2011. He writes at Public Address:

We delivered tens of thousands of pieces of paper with your face on it. But the reality, the hard truth, is that people in the electorate just didn’t connect with you. I lost count of the number of times I door knocked someone who told me they had voted Labour all their life, but wouldn’t vote for us as long as you were leader. People who would have a Labour sign – but not one with your face on it.

Ouch.

The Labour Party isn’t a vehicle for you to indulge your fantasy of being Prime Minister. While you might think that it’s your destiny to be the visionary leader of this country, the country has a very different vision – and it doesn’t involve you.

Double ouch.

I think I did a good job in a very difficult electorate, and would like to build on it at the next election.

However, I won’t be part of a party that you lead. Not because I don’t like you, but because I simply don’t want to lose again. That’s the reality David. The people of New Zealand don’t want you to be their leader. The comparisons that you and your supporters have thrown up don’t hold water – you aren’t Norm Kirk and you aren’t Helen Clark. You’re David Cunliffe and you led the Labour Party to it’s most devastating result in modern history.

Triple ouch.

If you win, I’ll step aside from the party, to let you and your supporters mould it into the party you want. But in return I ask this: if you lose this primary, you resign from parliament. In your time in opposition, we’ve had you on the front bench, where you let down your leader at the most critical point of the 2011 campaign. You ran for leader and lost, then destabilised the elected leader. Then when you got your chance as leader, you led Labour a party that was polling in the mid-30’s to one that sits firmly in the mid-20’s. There is no place for you in this party anymore.

And the quadruple ouch.

I won’t be entirely surprised if at some stage Cunliffe withdraws from the leadership race, as I suspect Mr Dann will not be the last candidate, MP or activist to make such a declaration.

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Cunliffe proposes a Maori co-deputy leader

September 30th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Outgoing Labour leader David Cunliffe has offered leadership rival Grant Robertson the job of deputy leader.

“If Grant is not successful, I would like to hold out my hand to him as my deputy so we can bring both sides of the team together and we can go forward together,” Mr Cunliffe said on TV3’s Campbell Live tonight.

He also said he had approached Mr Robertson last week with a peace-making deal.

“That’s why I reached out to Grant last week and I said ‘mate, is there any way we can do this thing to bring people together?’ – and that’s why I’ll tell you now that I’d be very happy to have Grant as my deputy if I am elected by the broader party and caucus to lead this thing for another three years.”

When asked to comment tonight, Mr Robertson said: “I’m running for leader. I have not made a decision about a deputy yet.”

Grant is not that stupid as to accept.

Mr Cunliffe indicated on Campbell Live he had lost the support of his deputy and finance spokesman, David Parker, who is expected to become acting leader after tomorrow’s Labour Party caucus meeting.

Doesn’t that say something?

A short time after appearing on TV3, Mr Cunliffe appeared on Maori Television’sNative Affairs and then TV3’s Paul Henry show. On Native Affairs, he raised the prospect of Labour having co-deputy leaders, one of whom would be a Maori MP.

“We need to see more Maori MPs in senior levels,” he said “and one of the ideas that is floating around – that is a party matter because it would require a constitutional change – is to examine the possibility of having co-deputy positions where one may be Maori.

This is an attempt to get the Maori caucus on side. He is basically offering them a permanent co-deputy leadership position.

But why stop there. Surely there must also be a female co-deputy leader also?

Mr Cunliffe said the culture of the party had to change and that playing “musical chairs” with the leadership was not the answer.

From the man who undermined the last two leaders.

He also implied that the party had become too focused on special interests at the cost of appealing to middle New Zealand.

“We’ve got to get the alchemy right between being true and faithful to our base, our Maori and Pacific and our affiliates and reaching out to middle New Zealand,” he said.

“We can’t be seen as a party of special interests. We have to be inclusive. We have to stand for aspiration.”

He says they can not be a part of special interests at the same time as mooting that there be a co deputy position reserved for a Maori MP.

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How much each vote is worth in the Labour leadership contest?

September 29th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Thanks to some reverse engineering, we’ve been able to work out the relative strength of the eight voting blocs in the 2013 Labour leadership ballot. Presumably, they’ll be much the same next time.

The relative strengths are:

  • 5,392 members – 1 vote each
  • 497 SFWU members who voted – 1 vote each
  • 23 Maritime Union delegates – 3.8 votes each
  • 39 Dairy Workers Union delegates – 6.9 votes each
  • 23 Rail Union delegates – 8.3 votes each
  • 29 Meat Workers Union delegates – 22 votes each
  • 35 EPMU delegates – 29 votes each
  • 34 caucus members – 159 votes each

Some observations.

  • Only 2% of the total SFWU members cared enough about the Labour leadership to vote
  • Despite their significant power less than half (35/80) EPMU delegates bothered to vote
  • If we assume that say two thirds of the paid up party members voted, Labour has up to 8,000 members
  • The EPMU delegates and Meat Workers delegates are relatively powerful.
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Cunliffe standing again!

September 27th, 2014 at 2:35 pm by David Farrar

61 National MPs have just cheered as David Cunliffe announced he will contest the leadership of the Labour Party in the upcoming primary.

He will resign as leader at the end of caucus on Tuesday. I presume David Parker will become Acting Leader.

It is inevitable at least Grant Robertson will stand against him.

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A reverse engineering problem

September 27th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I want to try and work out what the relative voting strength of each union was in Labour’s leadership primary. My maths is too rusty to calculate it myself, but hoping some readers can help.

The voting breakdown for each union was:

  • DWU – Cunliffe 33, Robertson 0, Jones 6
  • EPMU – Cunliffe 25, Robertson 8, Jones 2
  • Maritime – Cunliffe 18, Robertson 3, Jones 2
  • MWU – Cunliffe 22, Robertson 1, Jones 6
  • Rail – Cunliffe 18, Robertson 3, Jones 2
  • SFWU – Cunliffe 254, Robertson 177, Jones 66

We know that the overall result was Cunliffe 70.77%, Robertson 17.3% and Jones 11.9%. So the question is what weighting is given to each union, to get that result?

Based on registered members, the DWU should be around 8%, EPMU around 40%, Maritime 3%, MWU 17%, Rail 7% and SWFU 25%. But the voting strength is based on affiliated members, not weighted members. The percentages above could vary by several per cent.

If someone can work out a formula to calculate voting strengths, that would be great. Why I want that, is to calculate the relative strength of a delegate in each union.

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Garner on Cunliffe

September 27th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

It’s beyond doubt that Labour’s caucus doesn’t like David Cunliffe.

Voters don’t either, with a woeful 24 per cent election result, the party’s second worst in history.

The voters are never wrong. Never. So Cunliffe must do the obvious and decent thing and resign before Tuesday’s caucus.

Failure to do anything less means his MPs will nail him.

My sources tell me he can count his supporters on one hand, with only four MPs left backing him. Even his most loyal and ardent supporters, such as Palmerston North’s Iain Lees-Galloway, have deserted him. Staying on is simply not an option any more.

The fact that Cunliffe can’t, or won’t, see the writing on the wall is part of his problem. He’s prolonging the agony and heaping more attention on Labour’s misery. He’s equally blind to his own failings and weaknesses. He sang the wrong tune on election night and he’s missed his notes all week.

Telling his deputy, David Parker, not to talk while Parker stood beside him was simply wrong. It was patronising and poor.

Yep his support base has gone from seven to four. Yet he could still win a wider ballot.

Robertson is the one to watch, and expect him to have Jacinda Ardern as his deputy.

She was at his side during the last primary when the party voted for a new leader. She is one of his biggest supporters.

I think it will be Robertson and Ardern. Both are talented politicians. Both worked for Helen Clark. Ther strength is their weakness – they are what you call professional politicians, who have only ever effectively worked for Government, or as political staff. Neither have ever worked post-study in the private sector.

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How will Cunliffe go?

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

Tracy Watkins writes:

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

In the old days he would have been gone already.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Numbers bad for Cunliffe

September 25th, 2014 at 6:40 am by David Farrar

Even assuming David Cunliffe got the same level of support from activists and unions as last time, the numbers look challenging for him in a wider vote.

Last time he get 11/34 votes in caucus. But four of those MPs have gone. He is now at 7/32. The seven are himself, Lees-Galloway, Mahuta, Moroney, Sio, Wall and Whaitiri. Doubtful any of the new MPs will vote for him. So he gets just 22% in the caucus vote, which is worth 40% overall, hence 8.8%.

Last time he got 60% of the members vote. I can’t imagine he would do as well this time, but even if he does that is 24% overall as members are worth 40%.

The unions loved him and voted for him 71%. Of their 20% that is 14.2%.

Add those up and Cunliffe gets 47%. He is 3% short.

Caucus may only be 40% of the vote but if they vote 4:1 in favour of someone else, then it makes it hard for the activists and unions to counter that. The key is the other contenders need to have a very clear agreement that they want their supporters to preference each challenger ahead of Cunliffe. I think that will be the case. Shearer supporters will put Robertson ahead of Cunliffe and Robertson supporters the same.

It is possible that Cunliffe could pick up support from some of the new MPs, but I suspect that is less likely after the mega-caucus he forced on them on Tuesday.

Even if he can lift the union vote to say 90% (which would give him 50.8% overall), then Cunliffe wins but it will be on the record that 80% of his caucus voted against him. Hard to get the public to back you when they know that.

As a Nat, I should want Labour to prolong the infighting for as long as possible, but I don’t think it is fair on Labour members and supporters for this to occur.

It seems there is only one solution. Only one person can fix this. Helen Clark.

Helen needs to pick up the phone, ring DC, and says that while he gave it his best, it is all over, and for the good of the party he needs to step down. I don’t think he’d take that advice from anyone else. Also there would be an implicit threat that she might repeat her advice publicly if he does not. Clark is the one figure who did and can unify the party. She won’t want to comment publicly, but she might do so to save the party she led from what would be a very messy public leadership battle. It would not be polite and matesy like last time. It would be brutal.

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Caucus in Charge

September 24th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Carnage. After a seven-hour crisis meeting with his caucus, Labour leader David Cunliffe emerged bloodied and weakened. The caucus is now firmly in charge after foisting its choice of Whips on the leader, including Chris Hipkins.

Whips are supposed to be the leader’s loyal lieutenants, their eyes and ears in the caucus. Hipkins is a known enemy who was demoted in one of Cunliffe’s first acts as leader.

The MPs also imposed their will on Cunliffe over the timing of the next leadership vote, outmanouvering him over his plan to steamroll the vote through before Christmas.

It was a Mexican stand off. Cunliffe wants a leadership ballot but won’t resign. Hence he effectively is demanding the caucus sack him, so the ballot is triggered. And they will sack him – but on their timetable. They have until 20 December to pass a confidence vote.

3 News reported:

By saying he wants a no confidence vote, Mr Cunliffe is getting in ahead of his own enemy MPs doing it. There are 32 Labour MPs. A no confidence motion requires 20 MPs, which is 60 percent of the caucus plus one MP, as the rules require.

The “anyone but Cunliffe” camp is made up of 19 MPs, which is 59 percent. They are almost there.

3 News has got this wrong. The caucus don’t need 60% to sack him. Cunliffe needs 60% to survive. Caucus only needs 40% to sack him. Just 12 of the 32 MPs can sack him.

Camp Cunliffe has just seven MPs, or 22 percent, and the views of five MPs are unknown. Just one needs to be anti-Cunliffe and he is gone.

The leader has only 22% support in his own caucus. Unheard of. When they do sack him, imagine if he wins the members and unions vote. He’ll them preside over a caucus where he can trust just one in five.

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Labour’s woes increasing

September 23rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Rotorua Daily Post reveals that the former Chair of the Rotorua Labour Party voted National!:

A former Rotorua Labour Party spokesman says he has become disillusioned with the party and spent Saturday night celebrating with Rotorua MP Todd McClay.

Rotorua Weekender columnist and local businessman Fraser Newman said he had given up his Labour Party membership, saying the party had lost its way.

Mr Newman said he also voted for Mr McClay on Saturday saying he was an effective local MP who worked hard and had delivered for the city.

“It’s time for Labour to think about its future.

“Does it want to be a small left wing minority party or a centre-left party that appeals to middle New Zealand?”

Again this is from someone who was an electorate chair for them not very long ago.

And you know Labour has troubles when even Steve Maharey says the party has become too left wing!!

Labour moved left to secure what it assumed was its base and never moved back. Over six years it failed to effectively oppose the Government and propose a coherent policy platform that won the support of 40 per cent of voters. It persisted in arguing New Zealand was on the wrong track (which it may well be) when most voters thought the opposite.

In addition, it confused voters by vacillating between behaving like a major party and then like just the largest of a left grouping. When it began arguing that it really was a major party it was too late.

Maharey makes the point:

It should start by understanding that in New Zealand politics the foundation for victory is in the centre. A party seeking to form a stable, strong government has to have a message that appeals to around 40 per cent of these voters.

The Labour leadership contest forced the candidates to try and compete with each other to come up with the most left wing policies they could, to appeal to the base. Their strategy was to be hard left to energise the base and the million non voters. It totally failed as a strategy. They claim they were also trying to target centrist voters – but you know what – you can’t really do both – as the voters are not stupid.

Chris Trotter gets into the metaphors:

Overall, the image presented to the electorate was one of John Key as the embattled matador. Alone in the arena, he faced charge after charge from a seemingly never-ending succession of bulls. But with every twirl of his cape and flash of his sword, the pile of dispatched cattle-beasts grew higher.

The crowd cheered. The roses rained down. “Bravo!” shouted 48 per cent of New Zealand. “Three more years!”

As the dust of combat settles, the identity of the matador’s defeated attackers is revealed. Among them is the political corpse of the redoubtable Hone Harawira, his thick hide pierced by multiple lances. And, sprawled alongside this mighty bull of the North, his blundering sponsor, the massive German beast called Kim Dotcom.

Some distance apart lies the slim political carcass of the brave little steer known as Colin Craig – his wide-eyes still staring imploringly up at the crowd. (Missing from the pile are the bodies of those bulls whose horns actually drew the matador’s blood: Nicky Hager, Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden.)

But in all that vast arena, the most pitiful sight is that of the old bull called Labour.

Its ancient hide is pierced and bleeding; around its mouth a bloody froth. The matador’s sword has penetrated the unfortunate animal’s lungs and heart, but the poor creature still stands there, defiant. Panting noisily, quivering legs about to fold beneath its battered body, Labour seems unaware that its wounds are fatal. That it is dying on its feet.

And Stacey Kirk blogs on today:

So that press conference was a train wreck. Cunliffe says he takes “full responsibility” for Labour’s loss, but they may be hollow words to the caucus as he refuses to take the blame.

He won’t be apologising to his caucus, and he’ll be asking them to trigger a new leadership primary under their constitution.

He’ll effectively do that by asking them to pass a vote of no-confidence in him, (which many would probably gladly do) but then have every chance of regaining the leadership with the backing of the unions and wider party.

That would hardly bring stability to Labour.

And no less than five minutes after Cunliffe spoke of his “disappointment” in Labour MPs speaking to media on their strife, were two MPs speaking to the media – David Shearer and Phil Goff. (I’ve got videos clips of boths of those – I’ll post shortly)

The party is in disarray.

Time to order up a three month supply of popcorn!

UPDATE: John Armstrong reflects:

An extraordinary morning in the Labour Party’s wing of Parliament Buildings. There were only two words to describe things – absolute mayhem.

And that was even before Labour MPs had even begun their crucial post-election caucus meeting, at which there was expected to be some very blunt language during a preliminary post-mortem on last Saturday s crushing defeat.

David Cunliffe is fighting tooth and nail to hang on as leader. His chances of doing so would seem to deteriorate further with every wrong tactic and mistaken ploy he uses to shore up his crumbling position.

Time is Cunliffe’s enemy. He needs an early party-wide vote to refresh his mandate as party leader before the true awfulness of Labour’s thrashing really sinks in and his support among the mass membership and trade unions affiliated to the party which backed him in last September’s leadership ballot rapidly erodes.

Other senior figures like former leader David Shearer are arguing vociferously that the leadership question be left in abeyance until a proper and fundamental review of the party’s failings and the reasons for its dreadful showing in last week’s general election are thoroughly examined. The results of such a review are unlikely to reflect well on Cunliffe.

Cunliffe wants caucus to roll him now, so he can have a quick members ballot. But the craft ABCs won’t play along, and they have three months before they have to have a vote.

UPDATE2: The Labour caucus meeting has now been going for seven hours. Generally they last two hours. It must be brutal in there.

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Two post-election mistakes that will haunt Cunliffe

September 23rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

David Cunliffe had a reasonable chance of not being challenged for his job despite the loss, but he has made a challenge almost inevitable. It wasn’t foregone as Grant Robertson is incredibly nervous about standing and losing for a second time.

The first mistake was Cunliffe’s election night speech. It sounded like a victory speech at times.

Stuff reports:

Leader David Cunliffe’s demeanour will fuel their rage.

Cunliffe found many factors to blame for Labour’s defeat – the economy, being starved of oxygen by dirty politics, the Dotcom bomb and secret surveillance, and the party’s utter failure to fundraise.

But the one finger he did not point was at himself.

Another Stuff article reported:

Behind the scenes, the finger pointing began in earnest, with some in the caucus questioning Cunliffe’s commitment to win the election.

One suggested he gave up on the election campaign weeks ago and shifted his attention to manoeuvring to launch a primary campaign as quickly as possible.

This is the other big issue that has pissed the caucus off. Cunliffe gave up on winning the election and started focusing on how to remain leader.

The Herald reported:

In an apparent attempt to get a headstart on any likely rival, Mr Cunliffe effectively started his re-election campaign on election night by sending out an email to the party members and unionists who vote on the leadership.

In that email, obtained by the Herald, he said the party needed to refresh and modernise. “That’s why I will be seeking a new mandate from the party, the affiliates and the caucus by the end of the year.”

So get this. He actually had the e-mail written declaring he wants to stay on as leader, before the election, and his focus on election night was not what went wrong, but how to keep his job.

These two things have galvanised the caucus, and many activists. Former President Mike Williams has effectively said he thinks Cunliffe should go, and Mike is a very astute and connected observer of Labour.

The Herald further reports:

Labour MPs will demand David Cunliffe release potentially embarrassing internal polling results on his popularity to them in caucus as part of a brutally frank post-mortem of Labour’s dismal election campaign.

The party’s new caucus will meet for the first time today to review what went wrong and Mr Cunliffe’s wish to put his leadership to the vote. Mr Cunliffe will face calls to release Labour’s tightly guarded internal polling and focus group research – something that could be potentially embarrassing to him.

Several MPs said with the rest of the party under scrutiny over its performance, caucus should be also able to assess how much of a factor his own leadership was in the result. Labour’s polling company, UMR Research, polls on how favourable voters’ impressions are of the party leader and other key MPs – but the results are closely held by the leadership team.

If David Cunliffe won’t share Labour’s polling with his caucus, maybe the Labour MPs should ask National if they can see National’s polling on leader favourability. Steven Joyce might be quite co-operative :-)

Stuff looks at the contenders for leader and deputy:

  • David Cunliffe
  • Grant Robertson
  • David Shearer
  • David Parker
  • Jacinda Ardern
  • Andrew Little
  • Stuart Nash
  • Nanaia Mahuta
  • Annette King
  • Sue Moroney
  • Chris Hipkins

So over one third of the Labour caucus fancy themselves as leader or deputy leader. This is going to be fun!

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Cunliffe calls for full leadership vote

September 21st, 2014 at 12:15 pm by David Farrar

I said yesterday to a few people that if David Cunliffe loses, and wants to stay leader, he needs to call the leadership vote himself, and he effectively has done so.

He knows caucus would no confidence him in the vote scheduled post-election. And having been no confidenced by caucus, he could never be credible as the leader, even if he won the members and union vote.

But by saying he wants a full vote himself, that is a signal he will not accept responsibility for their disaster, and will fight to keep the job. It is all on. David Shearer made it pretty clear he was not ruling out a challenge, and Robertson said he was considering it also.

But Labour’s challenge is not just the leadership. It is also about their strategy and direction. As Kelvin Davis said you can’t be relentlessly negative for three years, and then put on a positive face for two months and expect people to buy it. Also they need to learn that victory lies in the centre, not in competing on the hard left with the Greens.

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Cunliffe says don’t sack me if Labour loses

August 22nd, 2014 at 1:30 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

David Cunliffe would like to remain Labour leader and take the party into the 2017 election, even if the party loses at the September 20 election.

“In general, and with any new leader, you go through a learning curve,” he said.

“I think there is a very strong argument that it would be a waste of time, energy and resources to go through that process and start again.”

Asked if he planned to stay on no matter what the result, he said, “Unless I feel like I have done such a bad job that it would be in the interests of the party for me not to put myself forward – if that question arises.”

If Labour gets a lower vote percentage that they got under Goff in 2011, then I can’t see how he can make a case for staying. If he gets Labour into the 30s, then his position is strengthened and he probably can carry on despite the lack of confidence from his caucus. If Labour’s results is between 27.5% and 30%, that is the uncertain zone.

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Labour chess

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

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

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

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

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Caucus anger at Cunliffe

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The return of Shearer

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

Click here for full poll results in graphics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cunliffe won’t go if he loses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labour2041

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

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Caption Contest

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

The Three Amigos

 

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

 

 

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Dom Post says Cunliffe leadership is a train wreck

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

The Dom Post editorial:

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was the high point.

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

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

My God, that is a harsh editorial.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Caucus can safely roll Cunliffe from next week

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

Claire Trevett writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Will he rise to the challenge?

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Campbell – step forward. Your country needs you.

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Did Collins and Jones save Cunliffe?

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

Claire Trevett writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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Cunliffe says Labour will win – but maybe not until 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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