The Dim-Post

December 4, 2011

Labour leadership: assorted thoughts

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 11:53 am

The contest

I was in favor of a lengthy ‘primary’ style leadership contest for the Labour Party, but the two week show-down is working pretty well. Mostly because the Nats can’t really negotiate with the Maori Party until the specials come in, so they can’t form a government, so there’s a media vacuum that Shearer and Cunliffe can fill. And the leadership of the party will be done and dusted by the holidays, which gives the new leader a break to plan and put together a team and a strategy over Christmas and New Years.

The pro-Shearer right-wing conspiracy

I think people like Michelle Boag and David Farrar endorsed Shearer because (a) they were genuinely impressed by him, and (b) he stood no show of winning the leadership battle, which was a contest between Cunliffe and Parker, so (c) supporting Shearer was a nice way to undermine whoever eventually won, while still voicing a genuine opinion. The Nats ‘researchers’ will now be working over-time to try and find dirt to throw at Shearer, so I expect to see ‘serious questions’ raised about him in the event he takes over the party.

Performances on the Sunday talk shows

I thought Cunliffe was ‘better’, but only marginally so, and not to a degree proportionate to his superior political experience. I have this (unfounded) theory that the Labour Party has decided to commission a nationwide poll in the week before the caucus decision, and that this will help inform the undecided voters in the caucus – which is why we have, say, Cunliffe announcing Labour needs to clean out the old guard, when he needs some of the ‘old guard’ to vote for him.

Strategy going forward

In one of the debates Cunliffe announced that the Labour Party needed to win votes back off the Greens. Maybe I’m just sensitive to this because I voted Green this election, but this seems like a zero-sum strategy.

Labour lost votes in three directions this year: low turn-out among core-demographics, centrist voters voting National or New Zealand First, and urban liberals voting Green. I guess Cunliffe would say that the party needs to address all of those issues – but you can’t really pivot left to peel urban liberals off the Greens, and also move right and win back National-leaning centrist voters, because both National, New Zealand First and the Greens can then wedge-issue Labour on both fronts. And even if you DO win, say, 5% of the vote off the Greens, when the elections done and dusted and you’re trying to form a government you still have the exact same number of seats for a centre-left coalition.

In addition to that, one of Labour’s big problems is that they can’t win marginal electorate seats because the Green candidates split the left-wing vote. Going to war against the Greens isn’t likely to solve that.

Re-building the Labour party

There seems to be consensus that Labour needs to (a) rebuild and (b) distance themselves from the Clark era. I think these two things are linked. Clark was party leader for seventeen years – this may even be a record – and during that period the party transitioned from an FPP to an MMP electoral system. And Helen Clark handled this transition very well, but because of her personal genius, none of the party processes and institutions were updated to reflect the new environment – which is why Labour’s candidate selection and party list process seem so broken.


  1. Interesting, where do you see the unions in your final point though?I can’t think of another party that has such an influential group in it.

    Comment by Raumatibeach — December 4, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

  2. Shearer isn’t ready, that’s obvious to anyone who’s watched him (i.e. in good faith, without the tiresome grinding of axes).

    But of course he can learn on the job. Key and Clark certainly did. So the question is, who’s he going to learn from? Will he call Trevor Mallard into his office and say …

    a) “You are precisely what is wrong with Labour’s image in the public mind, and your self-destructive services will not be required. Oh, and don’t ever go near a computer again.”


    b) “Teach me, oh Sensei, for I am new and you are wise …”

    If it’s the latter, then he’ll look “fresh” and “attractive” for a few months, max.

    Comment by sammy — December 4, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

  3. Clark was party leader for seventeen years – this may even be a record
    There’s a small correction if Wikipedia’s correct, that Helen Clark was only leader for 15 years from 1993 to 2008. It still looks like a record over Harry Holland’s 14 years as the party’s founding leader (but never PM) from 1919 to 1933, and Walter Nash’s 13 years from 1950 to 1963.

    Interesting trivia that Phil Goff would only be the third Labour leader who’s not served as PM, but I guess that has to happen from time to time when someone’s mostly taking over in a caretaker role of sorts. Arnold Nordmeyer, who followed Walter Nash lengthy time as leader, was the only other one besides Harry Holland.

    Comment by MikeM — December 4, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

  4. Not sure why there’s so much concern about Labour’s electorate vote when (i) Labour won more electorates this time despite a crash in their party vote, and (ii) party votes are what matter, and, with a few exceptions like the much maligned Ross Robertson, electorate votes don’t help you get them. Grant Robertson more than doubled his majority in Wellington Central, yet Labour’s share of the party vote declined even more in that electorate than it did nationwide.

    Comment by bradluen — December 4, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

  5. On another topic, it appears David Cunliffe reads the Dimpost (see

    “I don’t stand for a paler shade of blue, and I want to look down the barrel and say this – if the Government is going to sell off precious state assets then we would not rule out re-nationalising some of them. And people need to be aware of that regulatory risk.”

    Comment by Grassed Up — December 4, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

  6. Green supporters always get antsy when Labour treats the Greens like another political party. It’s not weird but it is funny.

    Comment by Hugh — December 4, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

  7. “…none of the party processes and institutions were updated to reflect the new environment – which is why Labour’s candidate selection and party list process seem so broken.”

    The party list process is not a response to MMP? Yes it is, and in intrinsic to the constitution, but a fundamentally flawed one.

    Comment by arants — December 4, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

  8. Raumati Beach: Are you kidding? The business round table and the farming lobby hold huge sway in the National Party.

    This whole ‘unions wield too much power’ thing is a tad ridiculous. Around 20% of the wage earning public actually belong to a union (or 380,000). Yet this substantial group actually have less influence than the Business Round Table (54 members) or the number of farmers (120,000 odd). There is also this tendency to treat unions as separate from actual people. A union is simply a collection of people expressing their view. They are not a group of 50 people making decisions on behalf of everyone else. It is actually the voice of people that earn wages.

    My gut feeling is that Labour could not afford to ignore 20% of the vote and give the fingers to the unions. Mana/Greens would mop up those votes in a shot.

    Comment by Tim — December 4, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

  9. Fed farmers dont get voting rights in every national electricte.
    to join national you have to be an individual person
    80 percent of workers choose not to belong to an union that should be a warning to you if you want a union dominated party
    in national there would be 4 farmers max

    Comment by graham lowe — December 4, 2011 @ 6:13 pm

  10. Where I live the electricte comes through wires and you don’t get to vote for it.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — December 4, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

  11. Tim, point here……

    …….You here.
    Your post read like through the looking glass waffle I’d expect to see on the Standard.Do you ever see the Business roundtable or Fed farmers scrapping over candidate selection like this ?

    Btw you pointed out 80% of workers choose not to have anything to do with unions yet the unions get to choose canididates in the largest opposition party..If Labour gave them the cold shoulder.I’m sure Mana would love to have the unions on board but they [the unions that is] aren’t that stupid, the Greens might have them sniffing around but to be honest I doubt it.

    Nice try though.

    Comment by Raumatibeach — December 4, 2011 @ 7:06 pm

  12. Do you ever see the Business roundtable or Fed farmers scrapping over candidate selection like this ?

    Yeah, transparency’s a bitch…

    Comment by Psycho Milt — December 4, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

  13. I think the idea that the Business Roundtable had more influence on National than the Unions had on Labour would come as a shock to the members of the Roundtable who have become used to relatively marginal status politically since the early 90s. I would also venture to suggest farmers as a group (but not Federated Farmers who were a byword for abject political incompetence until relatively recently) have had more political influence on Labour than National in the last 20 years, partly because National were less uniformly sympathetic to single desk selling (Fonterra, Kiwifruit Marketing Board) than Labour.

    Comment by Tinakori — December 4, 2011 @ 8:46 pm

  14. 12.Do you ever see the Business roundtable or Fed farmers scrapping over candidate selection like this ?

    “No Brash, no cash”

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — December 5, 2011 @ 7:56 am

  15. National has no brash and also has cash

    Comment by graham lowe — December 5, 2011 @ 8:05 am

  16. Act went the other way and had did it work out? so both labour and act have something in common doing what the money men want rather than the general voteing public

    Comment by graham lowe — December 5, 2011 @ 8:08 am

  17. Graham, perhaps you don’t ecall, but in the mid nineties Brash took over the leadership of the National party. A person from within the BRT told Brash to tell his colleagues that without Brash being leader there would be no cash for national from thaose quarters. Brash took the leadership shortky after, and the cash flowed from ACT to National.

    Relatedly, you can also read about how the BRT deliberatly keeps it’s head down these days, having realised exactly how popular their ideas are. Instead, they focus on a more out of the public eye style of lobbying. You can read all about it in emails between the players that form the bulk of a widely discussed book.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — December 5, 2011 @ 8:33 am

  18. “Graham, perhaps you don’t ecall, but in the mid nineties Brash took over the leadership of the National party.”

    I can’t speak for Graham but I don’t recall this at all!

    Comment by Hugh — December 5, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

  19. “but in the mid nineties Brash took over the leadership of the National party”

    That will come as a surprise to Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley, not to mention Bill English, the eckshall leaders of the National Party in the 90s and early part of this century.

    Comment by Tinakori — December 5, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

  20. @ Hugh and Tinakori

    You’re blind sheeple mind-slaves of the highest order. Pascal (and Hagar!) know the truth; Brash didn’t take over the public face of the National Party – he’s waaaay too smart for that.
    Instead he and his banker mates, the Koch’s, Greenspan, etc worked through the shadowy back channels of the BRT to install a pro-illuminati puppet-candidate on the throne.

    and 9-11 was an inside job

    Comment by Phil — December 5, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

  21. Phil, any comment on the Royal family being shape shifting reptilian aliens?You know they’ve never denied it.

    Comment by Raumatibeach — December 5, 2011 @ 6:53 pm

  22. I’ve always found the whole hagar thing hilarious. To the left, he’s a god, despite being a trustafarian living on family money made through speculation. Yet wishart is the devil, full of lies and mistruth controlled by national and the “denier” conspiracy leaders.

    Based on their investigative style, a logical person would have to believe one if they believed the other or neither together. Wishing for logic from partisan types is like pissing in the wind though.

    Comment by morofrujurashuns — December 5, 2011 @ 7:05 pm

  23. “Based on their investigative style, a logical person would have to believe one if they believed the other or neither together.”

    Yawn – as a logical person would say. Hager sometimes may overplay the conclusions that can be drawn from his evidence, but there is plenty of actual factual material presented and footnoted. I mean, if the content of “The Hollow Men” was all crap based on nothing at all, why exactly did Don Brash rush off to the Police to claim he’d been hacked? For all the claims “it was a crime, I tells ya!”, there wasn’t any real denying of the books content (as opposed to its conclusions, of course).

    So equating Hager and Wishart is lazy thinking based on the fact they are both conviction writers rather than “journalists” with a claim to objective balance. But one sees lesbian plots and thinks that AGW can’t be real because God wouldn’t let that happen. (Take a look at this for a sample of Wishart’s credibility: The other gets leaked stuff … which he then bundles into a narrative that fits his own world view. But so what – are you unable to make your own judgments based on the actual facts? And isn’t it better to see what a writer assumes/believes, rather than get it all buried under an “objective” view of what happened?

    So what REALLY is hilarious is the way the right will gleefully parrot Wishart’s ravings when these happen to say things they like, then use him as a comparator for “craaaazy!” Hager when they want to discredit his research (without ever engaging with it, of course … far too difficult, that would be).

    Comment by Grassed Up — December 5, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

  24. But Wishart is the devil…no really, he is.

    Comment by Tim — December 5, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

  25. Ha. Yes. Mid 2000’s of course.

    And yes. Those emails were never written, let alone leaked or published. Consequently there is nothing that can learned from them; they tell us nothing. Talking about them is exactly like trutherism or creationism.

    Keep saying that and it will all just go away.

    Dissonant much guys?

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — December 6, 2011 @ 5:46 am

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