Did Parker tip off Hooton?

I blogged yesterday how both Scoop and NBR have reports that Parker is planning a coup against Phil Goff.

Both media outlets quote Labour insiders, which means they have spoken to at least two separate people. It doesn’t mean that it is 100% certain a coup is on, but means that some people within Labour are saying there is one. Either Parker is planning a coup against Goff, or the rumour has been put out there by supporters of another leadership aspirant, to damage Parker (and Goff).

has claimed he doesn’t aspire to the leadership, but I’ve never heard an MP admit they do. Remember Winston saying he was happy to be the MP for Tauranga. I’ve seen three coups in my time in National, and they were all denied up to them occurring. If an MP truly wishes to make it clear they are not seeking the leadership, then their denial would take the form of a Shermanesque statement.

I have no special knowledge of whether a coup is on, beyond what Scoop and NBR have reported. I do have to say though that if Goff’s handling of the Hughes affair is not enough to get him rolled, I really don’t know what would be.

But there is one aspect to this that makes me very curious. Up until recently the only names seriously speculated about as leadership contenders were David Cunliffe and Shane Jones. Grant Robertson and Andrew Little are mooted as future leaders, but not current ones. So how did David Parker’s name come to the fore? And remember both Scoop and NBR say their Labour sources say that Parker will be the candidate, if there is a coup.

Well on the 11th of March, Matthew Hooton wrote in NBR (paywall):

Attention is turning within Labour to the question of Phil Goff’s successor. …

The overlooked candidate is David Parker, who has emerged as Labour’s genuine backroom intellectual and whose ambitions are now being made clear to selected media. …

As far as I can tell, this is the first time Parker’s name has been raised as a serious contender for the leadership. And the date is fascinating. It was two weeks ago. The Hughes incident was only known to Goff, King and Hughes at that stage.

Hooton makes it quite clear in his column, that he has been briefed by either Parker or someone close to Parker. And while you might wonder whether Hooton would have any relationship with Parker, the answer is he does. Off memory Hooton represented the interests of several major sectors or companies who wanted the ETS drafted a certain way, and Parker was the Minister in charge of the ETS.

So when Parker, or someone close to Parker, tipped Hooton off as a leadership contender, the Hughes affair was not a factor. In other words if there is a coup against Goff, the planning for it started before the Hughes affair – Goff’s handling of it will be a catalyst, rather than a cause.

Again I have no direct knowledge of if Parker is planning a coup. But when you consider someone obviously briefed Hooton several weeks ago, and that in the last 24 hours at least two Labour insiders have been putting Parker’s name out to Scoop and NBR, it does make you suspicious.

Adding to this is this article in the Dom Post by Tracy Watkins and Vernon Small:

The Labour Party is in turmoil, with senior figures questioning leader Phil Goff’s judgment over the Darren Hughes affair and a crucial frontbench meeting on Monday and Tuesday likely to discuss the issue. …

Yesterday he dismissed talk of a move on his leadership as “bullshit” and said he had received no criticism of his handling of the affair and expected none.

If Goff has received no criticism of his handling of the affair, then things are dire for him, as it means no one is telling him the truth. Worse, he comes across as arrogant in saying he expects none. By his own admission, his actions has been totally inconsistent with his previous statements and he has had to do a mea culpa.

But one of the party’s rising stars, who asked not to be named, said next week’s meeting was likely to crystallise how angry MPs were over Mr Goff’s handling of the issue and whether there was the will for a leadership challenge.

“It depends if people like Charles Chauvel, Shane Jones, David Parker and Trevor Mallard have the balls to say something.”

A rising star, is a term that can only apply to an MP or a very high profile candidate.

Sources said the appointment of Mt Albert MP David Shearer to the plum education job, after Mr Hughes was stood down, had only made the matter worse.

“How much consultation was there on that? There are already those in the 2008 intake who were brooding about being overlooked,” one source said.

Now that is definitely an unhappy MP being quoted.

Party president Andrew Little, who steps down on April 2 and is running for Parliament, is thought to be furious at not being told about the accusations against Mr Hughes, which he heard from reporters.

So he should be.

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