The Dim-Post

December 12, 2011

Quote of the day, yep – there’s your problem: your party’s full of hysterical simpletons edition

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:09 am

The Herald has brief essays on the Labour leadership struggle by various supporters of the Shearer/Cunliffe camps. Labour Party member David Hawkins endorses Cunliffe and writes of his noble, titanic struggle against the implacable force for evil that is David Shearer:

This battle for Labour’s leadership is a choice between obsolete zero-sum politics and a progressive aspirational social democracy . . . Labour MPs must decide: change or irrelevance.

Man, the National Party must just how with laughter when they read shit like that. Labour’s ‘battle’ is not to pick the right leader: it’s to pick a leader without the party dividing into vicious camps who despise the other, with the eventual victors ruthlessly demoting the losers, who then spend three years undermining their hated foes.

The stakes here are pretty low. Cunliffe will probably be an adequate leader. Shearer might not turn out so well, but might also be an exceptional leader. So that’s a risk the party needs to assess in light of its recent loss, not a Manichean battle of good against evil. Will there be vast policy differences depending on the outcome? Since Cunliffe and David Parker were the principle architects of Labour’s current policy package, I’m guessing no.

37 Comments »

  1. Not being from the Labour Party, I don’t understand the code. Could someone please help? What are “obsolete zero-sum politics”? Also “progressive aspirational social democracy” – other than the usual “social democracy” (whatever that really means) with a couple of more modern adjectives?

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — December 12, 2011 @ 6:46 am

  2. Let’s not knock this guy’s credentials: (former) Executive Assistant to Chris Carter.

    Comment by Neil — December 12, 2011 @ 6:53 am

  3. There’s not much apparent difference in policy approach, but who Labour chooses as it’s new leader will be quite important for the party – will they sink it or teach it how to swim again.

    “Hopefully now all MPs will consider the views of their activists when they decide who to support. If they do not there will be some tension caused as these meetings have raised huge expectations on the part of members that their views will be taken into account.”

    Some will end up disappointed. How they deal with that disappointed will matter, otherwise the party will continue to flounder.

    Comment by Pete George — December 12, 2011 @ 7:20 am

  4. So insightful, Danyl

    …..Man, the National Party must just how with laughter when they read shit like that. …….

    Of course, columns like this do a great deal to speed the flow down the sewer.
    it helps channel floaters like Hooters and Neil and I guess it cements in your qualifications to be commissioner

    Comment by Galeandra — December 12, 2011 @ 7:32 am

  5. Ah, Matthew Hooton’s here. I wouldn’t have expected it, as he’s recently provided us with an excellent example of hysterical simpletons mistaking a political choice for a Manichean struggle of good vs evil:

    The teacher unions, of course, oppose the idea with extraordinary ferocity. They know that, if the charter school trial is successful, their vision of a single system, controlled by them, with no ability to compare either students or schools, and therefore no possibility of accountability, will be dashed. They also know that, without their intervention, the trial is likely to succeed.

    Vicious campaigns will be launched against the new schools and the teachers who work in them.

    Pickets will try to prevent students from attending them. The atmosphere the unions engender will encourage attacks on students planning to attend the schools …

    Comment by Psycho Milt — December 12, 2011 @ 7:39 am

  6. You’ve never been to meeting of the National Party, I take it, Danyl.

    That a party has many hysterical simpletons is not a problem that precludes it from doing well at elections.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — December 12, 2011 @ 7:46 am

  7. Cunliffe is accusing Shearer of betraying the revolution. That is a fairly stock standard charge during left wing leadership fights. Same old same old.

    After Cunliffe becomes party boss he will move out Shearer supporters one way or other. Another time honoured left wing tradition.

    “The stakes here are pretty low”

    Yep when it comes to Statists the new boss is usually the same as the old boss but “progressive aspirational social democracy” sounds pretty cool.

    If I wanted to tax the fuck out of people who provide sustainable employment and increase the size of the welfare state then Cunliffe the word smith would be one I choose to gaze with wonder at.

    Comment by Simon — December 12, 2011 @ 8:16 am

  8. Jiminy Danyl, you’ve flushed the deniers from the rabid left out of the bushes with this one.

    Comment by merv — December 12, 2011 @ 8:21 am

  9. It seems to me as if the Labour Party, yet again, is attempting to rebuild from the top down, when really they need to rebuild from the grass roots up. I think you nailed it in an earlier piece when you said that it surely made more sense to figure out where the party should be going and _then_ pick a leader. But that never seems to be the way.

    Comment by David in Chch — December 12, 2011 @ 8:24 am

  10. Looks to me as though you are becoming a recognised member of the mainstream media, Danyl, judging by some of the comments here.

    It’s all your fault!

    Comment by Neil — December 12, 2011 @ 8:34 am

  11. The comments are typical of the political thinking of the political activist – even an internal leadership debate is “us vs. them”, “good vs. evil”. I’m not sure why, but the left side of politics have more of these types of people, i.e. those that have a black or white, polarised view of politics. This leads them to see people from any party that proposes a different policy solution to their ‘brand’ as actually evil, not just incorrect or less than ideal solution – thus the other side is accused of ‘destroying NZ’ – or other such hysterical polemic of the activist. Once in this mindset they see everything political in the same light, thus a leadership choice becomes equally polarised – to their own party’s detriment, as these internally inflicted wounds are hardest to heal.

    Comment by Stephen — December 12, 2011 @ 8:53 am

  12. I know for a fact that a senior labour party member wrote a far more measured and rational argument for Cunliffe for that article but it was not published. I suspect that the Herald either decided the Hawkins piece was more controversial and thus more newsworthy (and look – it’s got itself reposted on a well-read blog) or it thought it was a good chance to stir up some trouble in the Labour party.

    As Graeme points out, there are no shortage of enthusiasts in any political party. It’s just most of them don’t get published in the Herald.

    Also, I think tomorrow’s decision will make a significant difference in the policy, presentation, and democratisation of the party over the next three years.

    Comment by irishbillI — December 12, 2011 @ 9:08 am

  13. Hmm – something went awry with my name. Danyl, can you please remove that extra “I”?

    Comment by irishbill — December 12, 2011 @ 9:10 am

  14. The long-term significance of the leadership contest will be determined by the decisions Shearer makes afterwards (he’s going to win, obviously).

    Clark appointed Cullen to Finance; ditto Key and English. The leader picked the rival, knowing he was the best person for the job.

    The best person is Cunliffe, therefore Shearer should pick him. That’s what Shearer the savvy UN mediator would do. If he doesn’t, we’ll know he’s left that “real world” experience behind, and has been fully immersed in the caucus club.

    Comment by sammy — December 12, 2011 @ 10:09 am

  15. I think you nailed it in an earlier piece when you said that it surely made more sense to figure out where the party should be going and _then_ pick a leader.

    Yes! Now Labour has decided not to go this way, so it stands to reason we should be talking right now about where Labour should be going. But every time somebody brings up policy or values, the punditocracy (inc. the blogpunditocracy) says “LA LA MANICHEAN I CAN’T HEAR YOU” or “there’s no real difference”, which implies they know what Shearer stands for, in which case they should tell the rest of us, because Shearer hasn’t. From the Q+A debate:

    GUYON So capital gains is a must do?

    DAVID SHEARER I’m not gonna- Yes, I agree with capital gains tax, but I think we still need to go back on everything – and I’m not just saying it about capital gains tax – on everything and take a look at it. One week out from-

    To be fair to Shearer, he’s used to having a translator.

    Now former Chris Carter assistant David Hawkins didn’t bring up values in an elegant manner, but to be more fair the Herald only published him because they hate their readers. Anyway, he’s right to be wary of what can happen to Labour when it’s led by a guy with policy expertise in limited areas: remember Lange and Douglas? Anyone who thinks that Labour would never do anything that stupid again should take a look at the party’s recent history of competence.

    Comment by bradluen — December 12, 2011 @ 10:15 am

  16. remember Lange and Douglas?

    I keep hearing that comparison. I don’t think its valid, because Grant Robertson and David Parker aren’t Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble.

    Comment by danylmc — December 12, 2011 @ 10:20 am

  17. Roger Douglas wasn’t a Rogernome in 1981 either. At some point between then and 1984 he lurched way to the right. Maybe he read Atlas Shrugged.

    Comment by bradluen — December 12, 2011 @ 10:43 am

  18. I picked this up because this whole ‘good guys against the forces of darkness mentality’ is something I think is endemic in the Labour Party, and hugely harmful.

    Comment by danylmc — December 12, 2011 @ 10:52 am

  19. Roger Douglas wasn’t a Rogernome in 1981 either. At some point between then and 1984 he lurched way to the right. Maybe he read Atlas Shrugged.

    Maybe people shouldn’t vote for Cunliffe, on the off-chance Mahuta reads ‘Road to Serfdom’ over the Christmas holidays.

    Comment by danylmc — December 12, 2011 @ 10:53 am

  20. Roger Douglas wasn’t a Rogernome in 1981 either.

    Douglas was sacked from Rowling’s shadow front bench in 1980 after publishing an unauthorised ‘alternative budget’ that provided a pretty clear indication of what was to come.
    At a televised public meeting during the 1984 election campaign, Lange appeared on stage with his cabinet-in-waiting seated behind him. “I give you Ann Hercus, future Minister of social welfare”, drew wild cheers from the crowd. “I give you Roger Douglas, successful in business” (proving Lange to be utterly clueless about such things) was greeted by an embarrassing silence.

    As Denis Welch said of Douglas back then, he’d spent many years in the political wilderness cultivating his moustache, which bristled authoritatively and sent strong signals to the market. The traditional Labour electorate saw him coming, but were gulled by Lange’s reassurance that he had him on a short leash.

    Comment by Joe W — December 12, 2011 @ 11:04 am

  21. hmm for some reason my post didn’t post.

    @IrishBill: Was just asking, any chance we might see the more moderate and reasoned post in favour of Cunliffe? Or is it lost to posterity?

    Comment by sheesh — December 12, 2011 @ 11:12 am

  22. Maybe people shouldn’t vote for Cunliffe, on the off-chance Mahuta reads ‘Road to Serfdom’ over the Christmas holidays.

    I heard he asked for his copy of ‘The Prince’ back.

    Comment by Gregor W — December 12, 2011 @ 11:18 am

  23. Huh, Douglas has the text of his 1980 alternative budget online:

    http://www.rogerdouglas.org.nz/budget.htm

    It’s, uh, eclectic. Abolish company tax. Introduce a capital and assets tax. Nothing on deregulation or privatisation. On balance it’s right wing, but I have no idea what audience he’s playing to.

    Comment by bradluen — December 12, 2011 @ 11:38 am

  24. “I suspect that the Herald either decided the Hawkins piece was more controversial and thus more newsworthy (and look – it’s got itself reposted on a well-read blog) or it thought it was a good chance to stir up some trouble in the Labour party.”

    Several people seem to have been approached, with, on a least one occasion, an explicit statement that the more partisan, the better.

    The New Zealand Herald – fair and balanced since ages ago.

    Comment by rich (the other one) — December 12, 2011 @ 11:49 am

  25. Not so sure about that. I told Claire Trevett I was 60-40 or 55-45 for Shearer and they published mine.

    I think they wanted more of a cross-section of involvement: an MP, an official, flack or other big-noter, and a random nobody.

    L

    Comment by Lew — December 12, 2011 @ 11:56 am

  26. Well, I guess Scott over at Imperatorfish would have been one of the people approached as a ‘random nobody’.

    http://www.imperatorfish.com/2011/12/and-locusts-too.html

    “It’s also a partisan opinion that a journo sought out. I know this because I was asked to write a piece in favour of one of the candidates for the same issue of the Herald. I had to decline, because they wanted me to pick sides and I didn’t want to.”

    Comment by rich (the other one) — December 12, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

  27. In fact, Scott recommended me to Claire as his replacement. When the aim is to publish a piece on which of the two candidates you support, people who don’t have a clear preference aren’t very useful, no?

    At risk of stating the bleeding obvious, “you have to pick a side” isn’t the same as “the more partisan the better”.

    L

    Comment by Lew — December 12, 2011 @ 1:11 pm

  28. I don’t know about parallels to Douglas, but there are parallels between Lange and Shearer – Lange was elevated to party leadership extremely quickly, upsetting a lot of people on the way. His rise wasn’t quite as rapid as Shearer’s – he was deputy leader for a good while before he became leader, although he was always on the outside of Rowling’s political circle – but he made a much bigger splash in his short time in parliament than Shearer did. (Lange featured prominently in Labour’s 1981 election campaign – where was Shearer in November? Mt Albert, obviously) And Lange was a better TV performer than Shearer.

    But the rise of a politically inexperienced candidate to contest the leadership with the backing of the party’s right faction is not unprecedented. Take a look at the people behind Shearer. They’re all on the right of the party. They may not be Douglases or Prebbles or even Caygills or De Cleenes, but they are recognisably on Labour’s right.

    Comment by Hugh — December 12, 2011 @ 1:13 pm

  29. Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern seem to be two of Shearer’s most valuable supporters. Are they on ‘the right’ of the Labour party? If so, what does that term even mean?

    Comment by danylmc — December 12, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

  30. I have challenged a bunch of people to substantiate this “Shearer represents the Labour right” argument and have seen no evidence whatsoever to support it.

    The best explanation I’ve seen is that, as a blank slate, folk project their fantasies onto him. Trotter thinks he’s Waitakere Man. Audrey Young thinks he’ll be “more pragmatic” and “less ideological”. Others, including me, hope he eviscerates the factions. And some folks want to scaremonger about how he’s a right-wing puppet. But I think only some of these propositions are actually based on any evidence.

    L

    Comment by Lew — December 12, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

  31. Yeah, that’d be Jacinda “Comrade” Ardern of the International Union of Socialist Youth. If that’s the right, I want to know where you think Clayton “My Favourite US President Is LBJ” Cosgrove stands.

    L

    Comment by Lew — December 12, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

  32. OK, it’s inaccurate to say that everybody backing Shearer is on the right of the party. While I’d say Arden’s membership of the ICUSY doesn’t make her a “socialist” in the manner the term is commonly understood, you’re correct, she’s not on the right of the party.

    What I ~meant~ to say is that all of the people on the right of the party are backing Shearer. Cosgrove is a great example of that.

    Comment by Hugh — December 12, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

  33. “…Others, including me, hope he eviscerates the factions…”

    Just go to publicaddress – in many ways the home of yesterdays Labour Party – to see them all lining up to take potshots at Shearer. To be pro-Shearer is apparently to be, amongst other things, an anti-intellectual. Of the two candidates the thing that I find most persuasive about Shearer is he struck me as the one more interested in big ideas unencumbered by a weary obsequience to factions, not Cunliffe. Cunliffe offered up the typical – and endlessly recycled – provincial New Zealand solutions. A fundamental dismissal as impractical the idea that big ideas are the engine for political change. Tinker with the process, reinvent the wheel, hype band-aid solutions as major policies, slap a fresh coat of paint on the sinking ship of democratic participation, smile a lot and vote for me. But nothing really changes. David Shearer struck me as someone much more interested in finding fresh ideas and a new direction. So much so what you think, inexperienced ideas people are a dime a dozen, and their ideas might as well remain the thought balloons of a useless internal monologue on the bus on the way to work for all the use they are in the real world. But yet. Shearer has the CV that indicates to me he can get things done, turn intentions into concrete actions. If he really is interested in ideas and he can turn those ideas into actions, then to me that is a powerful combination indeed.

    This why I am a guarded Shearer supporter. Shearer offers the much more thoughtful and realistic diagnosis of Labour’s current problems. The Cunliffe supporters still don’t get it. They are in complete denial of both how much damage they’ve done to the party and the political irrelevance of their obsessions to wider New Zealand society. They’ve been around to long; they think they are bigger than the party. Talk to them about economics and poverty and inequality and they pretend to listen. But in reality, their eyes have glazed over; what they really want to discuss is the mechanisms the party will adopt to ensure more Maori women are progressed up the list.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 12, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  34. “Talk to them about economics and poverty and inequality and they pretend to listen. But in reality, their eyes have glazed over; ”

    True, but there’s nothing to suggest Shearer is any different. The contention between the two camps is not about the degree to which poverty and inequality should be at the centre of Labour party policies.

    Comment by Hugh — December 12, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

  35. @ Sanc

    The guy I’ve seen can’t even string a coherent sentence together let alone promulgate the ‘big ideas’.
    Maybe Shearer is the guy that can sell the sizzle and not the steak in 2014 but I’m yet to be convinced.

    Comment by Gregor W — December 12, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

  36. Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern seem to be two of Shearer’s most valuable supporters. Are they on ‘the right’ of the Labour party? If so, what does that term even mean?

    It means: “a bit more Pol Pot than Joseph Stalin.”

    Comment by Uncle Helen — December 12, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

  37. Sanc- Shearer is an anti-intellectual bid because of his supporters like Pagani in that Herald running those kind of lines. Pagani said that Shearer was ‘authentic’ which we’ve seen echoed a lot, but that Cunliffe used a word like “complementarity” which meant he wasn’t authentic. This was Pagani’s big gotcha.

    Anyway, by the sounds of it Sanctuary for PM. Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh. Generalisations much? Sounds like you’ve got the answers.

    In reply to Lew- Shearer has the support of the Labour right, and some of the Labour left who don’t see that they’d have much of a chance of rolling Cunliffe. But yeh- Shearer as blank slate is a worry. We don’t really know what he’d do and some those Labour voters who lived through the betrayal of the 1980s don’t want any of the conditions that allowed it to happen repeated. Cunliffe has a track record and has set out fairly clearly where he stands on things.

    Comment by sheesh — December 13, 2011 @ 12:11 am


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