The Dim-Post

January 12, 2013

Trotter on Shearer. (Heh.)

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:30 am

Col Trotter has a column up at his site titled: Behind the Mask: Who’s Backing David Shearer and Why? in which he argues that Shearer is the front man for a neo-liberal cabal that has seized control of the Labour Party and plans to unleash a second Roger Douglas style policy era when they’re back in government:

Ideological mummery is also the key distinguishing feature of Shearer’s principal backers in the Labour Caucus. Phil Goff, Annette King and Trevor Mallard all dipped their paper cups into the neoliberal Kool-Aid in the 80s and none of them have ever publicly recanted (let alone repented) their supporting roles in Roger Douglas’s Economic Salvation Show. They no longer defend (at least not publicly) Rogernomics’ legacy, but behind their hands they dismiss its critics as “paleosocialists” who simply don’t understand how the world works.

My first huge problem with Trotter’s thesis is that these people ran Labour during the 2011 election, in which their policy platform was really very left-wing. I don’t think they promised to extend Working For Families to beneficiaries or introduce industry standards for wages and conditions because they thought it would be wildly popular, I think they promised to do them because they wanted to do them, and I think it’s impossible to reconcile that with a neo-liberal agenda.

My second problem is that I don’t see how it’s possible to launch a Douglas-Lange style reform in an MMP government, especially if your largest coalition partner is the Greens, who will simply withdraw confidence and send the country back to the polls.

Maybe Trotter’s right, and Shearer is a secret neo-liberal; my counter-theory behind the stumbling train-wreck that was Shearer in 2012 is that he’s a very inexperienced politician who spent his first year as opposition leader being advised by an imbecile. The threat to his leadership seems to have galvanized him: he now rehearses his lines with his staff – like any other politician – instead of trying to seem ‘natural’ (‘Let them see the real David Shearer’) and coming across like a babbling fool.

My concern about a Shearer-led government is less dramatic than Trotters’. It’s that many of the senior Labour Ministers will be the usual gang of loyalist idiots, that Shearer would be unable to manage Winston Peters (assuming New Zealand First is a part of the coalition), that Labour will wage an unrelenting covert campaign against any Green Ministers, and that the whole thing will see National sail back into office three years later.


  1. I almost don’t want Labour to win in 2014, even though I’d rather see them govern than National. The thing is though Mallard et al cannot possibly survive another defeat, so there would have to be a cleanout of the old guard. That would seem far more likely to deliver a long term coalition government from 2017 onwards, as the leaders of Labour then would likely all be of the MMP era.

    Comment by alex — January 12, 2013 @ 9:38 am

  2. the whole thing will see National sail back into office three years later.

    My concern too, with a side order of the Greens disintegrating as well. 2017 would then be a return to almost FPP, with NZ First playing the middle piggy, Labour a shattered wreck, and a generation of boring status quo muddling along with the Nats.

    Comment by Will de Cleene — January 12, 2013 @ 9:49 am

  3. Yes, Trotter fell in love with his theory and doesn’t want to see a simpler explanation. Shearer got the job because he wasn’t Cunliffe, and he’s been rubbish at the job because he’s rubbish at the job. (Danyl’s penultimate paragraph is a bit generous, suggesting that Shearer has got his act together. In fact, he simply hasn’t said anything for a month, and this has improved his standing).

    Obviously Grant Robertson will take over, and he’s smart enough to manage the relationship with the Greens, but until he does, we just have to wait and twiddle our thumbs.

    Worst case scenario: Shearer survives until the election campaign, and then National make the predictable moves (pick your favourite distractions, wedges, talkback bait) and Shearer responds by agreeing (“Middle Ground! Waitakere!”) and disagreeing (“The Party! The Greens!) and saying three different things in two minutes and generally falling apart. Third term duly follows.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — January 12, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

  4. Will, why do you think the Greens might disintegrate?

    Comment by steve — January 12, 2013 @ 4:07 pm

  5. Man, you simply cannot predict anything but a 100% rosey future for the Greens around here without somebody jumping down your throat.

    I wonder if I said that Russell Norman sometimes farts whether people would start demanding that I prove it.

    Comment by Hugh — January 12, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

  6. Hugh, yeah I hate when people do that! Can you point out who jumped down someone’s throat? I will then join you in being very grumpy about it.

    Comment by steve — January 12, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

  7. I do agree it’s cock-up rather than conspiracy. In any case, I still think the Greens have by and large learned from the lessons of Mauri Pacific, Alamein Kopu, and Tariana Turia, among other waka-jumpers.

    Comment by deepred — January 12, 2013 @ 6:55 pm

  8. Whatever happened to the membership the the LP used to have?

    Whatever happened to the people that used to bother turning out to vote for the LP ?

    What the hell does the LP offer to to those of us that are not bankers (either financial or political), finance companies or large corporations? San Fairy Ann.

    The NZLP is moribund,, certainly the parliamentary wing is utterly detached from what remains of a once vibrant involved membership.

    Wall Street could do with an offshore tax haven. No wonder John Key arrived, and delivered.

    John Key as Minister of Tourism also sets the Wall Street message by going to Hawaii for his holidays.

    Now privatising armies is not a bad idea at all on Wall Street. Just ask John Key. He is sure to be relaxed about it.

    Actually, through human recorded history most armies, most of the time have been private.armies so what is new?

    What is the difference between Shearer and Key? San Fairy Ann.

    Labour needs a neo liberal agenda because it keeps banks and business relaxed, so does John Key..

    Comment by peterlepaysan — January 12, 2013 @ 11:59 pm

  9. I can’t think of an example in a comparable democracy of the main party of government being absolutely devastated after one term in power. They might lose, but when first-term governments lose, it tends to be close (Labour 1975 is an exception but I wouldn’t call 39.6% of the vote in defeat being devastated). The rare occasions when the main party of government gets annihilated happen after they’ve been in power for multiple terms (the classic example being the Canadian PC in 1993, who fell from 156 seats to 2).

    Notwithstanding this, you want to avoid Winston if you can, and if you must deal with him, you want to be good at politics.

    Comment by bradluen — January 13, 2013 @ 8:52 am

  10. I have become bored with this. All of this stems from the seizure of the party machinery for candidate selection by a caucus cabal The subsequent failure to renew the party’s parliamentary wing in the wake of the 2008 defeat led directly to the 2011 disaster. As Robert Winter has eloquently put it the Labour caucus is full of “…deadwood, timeservers and those that have served illustriously, but are in need of rest, and should move on….” who are out of touch and who run the party as a self-srving oligarchy. Either caucus accepts that it needs reform and accepts the greater input of members, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then Labour’s fate is slow decline, although the vandals who engineered it’s destruction – Mallard and co – know they will be in retirement by then, so I am sure they don’t really give a fuck.

    Comment by Sanctuary — January 13, 2013 @ 11:19 am

  11. Will, why do you think the Greens might disintegrate?

    Because being in coalition is hard, and requires parties to make compromises. So far, the smaller parties in such arrangements have not tended to do well out of them. NZ First (1996 edition), the Alliance, United Future (2002 edition)… even those which have survived (NZ First (2005) and the Maori Party) have been deeply damaged by the experience.

    This is a known risk, and it is foolish to pretend it does not exist.

    Comment by Idiot/Savant (@norightturnnz) — January 13, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

  12. Is Col Trotter Chris’s Aussie cousin?

    Comment by Roger — January 13, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

  13. I think the advantage the Greens have is being part of a coherent international movement that’s bigger than any one person. Those other parties (even the Alliance) were more about egos and fallings out.

    Comment by richdrich — January 14, 2013 @ 9:28 am

  14. >This is a known risk, and it is foolish to pretend it does not exist.

    It’s a historic trend, certainly, based on 20 years of data. But that’s hardly an iron law. An explanation can be raised for each of those collapses. They can be learned from. Occasionally, the entire political dynamic does change.

    I don’t think the change is going to be driven by anything that Labour or National does (and not just because they won’t do anything). It’s going to be externally driven, by the changing face of society, and technology. The mindset that sees a Nat/Labour power cycle as axiomatic has nearly reached its three-score-and-ten.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — January 14, 2013 @ 9:53 am

  15. …that Labour will wage an unrelenting covert campaign against any Green Ministers, and that the whole thing will see National sail back into office three years later.

    There will be nothing covert about it considering the ability of the actors involved.
    I can only hope that the GP caucus have the cojones to publicly call the perpetrators on their shenanigans when the inevitable happens rather than play nice.

    Comment by Gregor W — January 14, 2013 @ 10:30 am

  16. “13.I think the advantage the Greens have is being part of a coherent international movement that’s bigger than any one person.”
    Common Purpose indeed.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 14, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

  17. >I can only hope that the GP caucus have the cojones to publicly call the perpetrators on their shenanigans when the inevitable happens rather than play nice.

    The Green Party of today is one hell of a lot more politically experienced than the one the Clark sidelined with ease. Also, Clark was actually popular at the time, rather than squeaking in, and National had a catastrophic result in the previous election. However, the election was a close call in the end, since the collapse of the Labour coalition was beginning right then, before 2005, with the Maori and the Greens fighting them, and NZF bleeding its racists to Brash. Labour from 2005-8 was on the back foot the entire time. If they have half a brain amongst them they won’t actually wish to repeat all of that. But, as Sanctuary says, their problem is so obvious and so old that it’s actually boring. They’re still the same people, who have been around far, far too long.

    So who knows? Maybe it will go as Danyl says, a one term train wreck. Or maybe Shearer, looking forward, will try to give high placing to such fresh blood as they have in Labour, and a more effective coalition will actually be able to get stuff done. Labour does have a chance to run a new broom through before the election.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — January 14, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

  18. I like Shearer but I have to critique him in some way at this point. I wouldn’t go with Trotter’s theory but rather with what you have alluded to in past threads, Danyl, namely that he’s a dithering nanny goat devoid of direction. He could, I feel, find a way to go about things and be successful as a PM but he has to get rid of the I-Can-Please-Everyone complex.

    Comment by Dan — January 14, 2013 @ 3:36 pm

  19. So basically your hypothesis is Shearer would be amazeballs if he wasn’t Shearer?

    Comment by Gregor W — January 14, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

  20. Or, rather than Shearer being incompetent, he could be a stammering, bumbling wreck because of the inherent difficulty in presenting a coherent vision to the public when….. your entire belief system is liberal capitalism, yet neither your party members nor the voters want that.

    Comment by bob — January 14, 2013 @ 4:02 pm

  21. He’s not being Shearer now, mate, he’s dithering around like Key did, trying to work all things out for everyone. It’s PC crap. Key became a typical National MP, making lewd comments about minorities and borrowing huge amounts of money to give tax cuts to the rich and then turning around and promptly reducing budgets in areas that are vital such as health, education, the environment. Shearer will either try to please everyone and get cut to pieces in the process, or do what he’s meant to be doing as Labour Leader and admitting what he really believes and end up scoring a few goals for the working class amidst a series of increasingly bizarre in-fighting schemes and scandals, much like Helen Clark. Cut the crap now, so I know that he’ll not sacrifice Labour’s idealisms and policies for the sake of momentary popularity (resulting in being ripped to shreds, pulled in too many directions), and I will probably respect him a little bit more.

    Comment by Dan — January 18, 2013 @ 11:15 am

  22. Your critique would carry more weight, Danyl, if the policy platform of the Labour Party in 2011 had been the work of Phil Goff, Annette King and Trevor Mallard alone. But this is not the case. The genuinely social-democratic policies were the work of the party’s left-dominated Policy Council, while the more conservative policies, such as raising the age of eligibility for NZ Super and the relatively innocuous CGT, were the handiwork of David Parker.

    All-in-all, however, you are right about the manifesto’s leftward tilt – which almost certainly explains why the person responsible for Labour’s 2011 election campaign (Trevor Mallard) appeared to do everything he possibly could to ensure that Labour’s Party Vote was the lowest since the advent of MMP.

    Comment by Chris Trotter — January 23, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

  23. Totter on Trotter

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 23, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

  24. Trotter on Danyl on Trotter on Shearer.

    CF – Are you suggesting that the venerable Trotter is preparing to shuffle off this mortal coil, CF?

    Comment by Gregor W — January 23, 2013 @ 4:17 pm

  25. Heh, maybe time for a new keyboard. Or an extra finger.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 23, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

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