The Dim-Post

September 13, 2013

Life after the C Bomb

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 1:56 pm
  1. An intriguing radio interview with Shane Jones in which he announces a policy to round up unemployed people in Auckland and ‘forcibly remove them’ to Christchurch, after banning immigrants – especially Filipinos – from working on the rebuild. Be nice to get comment from Robertson and Cunliffe on whether this is likely to become official Labour policy; also whether they’ll rule out Jones from a senior position in their caucus because he’s a horrible lunatic?
  2. Brian Edwards ponders Labour’s post-election environment. Will there be unity or just more civil war? I ran into a Labour activist yesterday (anecdote alert) who assured me that even if Cunliffe wins he’d ‘only be the leader for six months’. The public will hate him, the theory goes, and so early next year there will be another leadership change with Robertson taking over.
  3. And, y’know, if that happens organically then that’s fine. Even the Labour caucus needs to be right about something, sooner or later, and maybe they’re right about David Cunliffe. But if Labour is polling poorly after six months of the caucus undermining the leader and secretly briefing against him . . . At some point you’d have to wonder if the party itself had any long term future, or if the internal culture is too toxic to survive. Worst scenario: it doesn’t actually die, just hangs around for another twenty years of perpetual National government.
  4. I know, I know. Political cycles. National got a really low result in 2002 and came back to victory. But that’s because National freaked out, realised they faced an existential threat to their existence and rebuilt their party from the ground up, not because there’s some mystical law of the universe that lets you drive a political party to the brink of oblivion and then somehow puts you back into government again.

42 Comments »

  1. I said it back in 2008, and I’ll say it again now. Worst. Opposition. Ever.

    Has any party, anywhere, ever, squandered so much political capital so stupidly for so long?

    Comment by Nathaniel — September 13, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

  2. realised they faced an existential threat to their existence

    heh.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 13, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

  3. I ran into a Labour activist yesterday (anecdote alert) who assured me that even if Cunliffe wins he’d ‘only be the leader for six months’. The public will hate him, the theory goes, and so early next year there will be another leadership change with Robertson taking over.

    So much wrong with that “theory” (or bigoted rant, really) …

    1) The public hate the devils they know (ABC hangers-on from 1980’s) more than the devil they don’t yet. Exhibit A: Trevor Mallard.
    2) Party rules … and now the party *does* rule.
    3) If Cunliffe really is that bad, the Labour “brand” will be so tainted that Robertson – or any saviour wannabe – won’t be able to save them in 2014. Grant would sit tight and move post-election.
    4) The old “Dolchstosslegende” i.e. you can’t move too soon, or the lost leader will become a victim/martyr. Even David Shearer – who was hopeless ten times a day – was allowed to continue long after the outcome was obvious.

    and so on.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 13, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

  4. National got a really low result in 2002 and came back to victory. But that’s because National freaked out, realised they faced an existential threat to their existence and rebuilt their party from the ground up,

    The perceived wisdom of the time (I was a Young Nat at university in the early 00’s and got to observe the post-election autopsy meetings) was that a lot of centre-right leaning people were terrified of the Greens being in power, so voted Labour in the hope Clark would get enough votes to govern alone, or at least enough to leave the Greens in the cold.

    Comment by Phil — September 13, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

  5. Amen, brother Danyl, testify! Best. post. ever.

    But on 1. Shane Jones is not a horrible lunatic. He is a lazy, bombastic opportunist who splurges into the media whatever witty one-liner occurs to him in the preceding nanosecond. Sometimes, those one-liners are less witty, and more excruciatingly embarrassing… It is lazy failure to develop policy or do any thing (plus corruption scandals in his past) that should preclude Jones from high office. Or just fuel his destruction – ask him if the Chch gulag detainees should be shackled and in orange jumpsuits. Then ask if the jumpsuits and shackles are NZ made, and why, oh, why won’t anyone think of the high quality shackles the Hillside workshops could make if only Shane would let them.

    Phil – but the flaw in that Nats theory is the Greens (and now Mana) have never had anyone else to dance with but Labour, and everyone savvy knows that (certainly Clark did, which is why she went with Dunne and NZ First, safe in the knowledge the Greens wouldn’t vote against Labour). The same still applies, which is not a bad thing (if liberal lefties stopped treating NZ First as demonic), as it leaves the Nats with no coalition options but (the now possibly unelectable) Banks and Dunne.

    Comment by bob — September 13, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

  6. I don’t think National rebuilt their party from the ground up post 2002. They just changed the leadership and got lucky with a rebranding. Exhibit A for this argument: Maurice Williamson

    Comment by Hugh — September 13, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

  7. …whether they’ll rule out Jones from a senior position in their caucus because he’s a horrible lunatic?

    They probably won’t rule him out. Apparently Jones running for leader has “rehabilitated” him; he HAS to get a frontbench and (eventual) Ministerial spot now!

    Who knew hoisting 50 million gorillas by their testes could serve as penance?

    Comment by Auto_Immune — September 13, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

  8. Like Hugh, I think you’re on pretty shaky ground with regard to point 4. I didn’t know many National activists at the time, but my impression is that they didn’t rebuild the *party* but rebuilt the *strategy*; ironically given what’s happened subsequently, they started to present themselves as ‘Labour Lite’ who would give you everything you liked about the then-current government but with less tax, stopping the gravy train to those lazy Maaaris, and letting you choose your own lightbulbs. Amusingly, based on their rhetoric Shane Jones would’ve probably been quite a good fit in the 02-08 vintage National Party.

    Comment by NBH — September 13, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

  9. I ran into a Labour activist yesterday (anecdote alert) who assured me that even if Cunliffe wins he’d ‘only be the leader for six months’.

    There’s a small cabal of Robertson loyalists with sincere fealty. Every other group of Labour activists I know seem genuinely committed to unity no matter which of the two leadership candidates win.

    Comment by George D — September 13, 2013 @ 5:28 pm

  10. They certainly wanted people to think they’d rebuilt the party for the ground up. They never talked about National’s prior policies in the 90s – to hear a Brash or Key speech you’d think National had never been in power before. But Danyl is mistaking the spin for the truth. It was, absent the inevitable personel turn over, the same party.

    Comment by Hugh — September 13, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

  11. I think that they have to dump Jones from anywhere near the front bench.
    As Danyl says they have to do it because he is a horrible lunatic.
    Imagine if, as I have seen some dreamers propose, that they were to make him the deputy leader.
    Would you like to lead the party into an election with the load of having a man who talked of castrating the PM in a senior position?
    Imagine trying to get the women’s vote when you had someone in a senior position who had dumped his wife, and seven kids, to take up with another woman?
    The only thing to do with Jones, if you can’t kick him out of the caucus, is to put him in the last ranking place for the rest of the term and make sure he cannot get back into Parliament next election.

    Comment by Alwyn — September 13, 2013 @ 6:43 pm

  12. Two observations.

    Robertson IS the only one who can unify the caucus – by telling his supporters to vote for Cunliffe. An overwhelming caucus vote for Cunliffe is the only way to silence talk of disunity – the votes for each section of the electoral college will be public – imagine if there was no story? Cunliffe won every section of the college?

    The second observation is that Jones must be given a role of some prominence for all the reasons given by Morgan Godfrey.

    Comment by MeToo — September 13, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

  13. But women love Shane Jones …

    http://www.pundit.co.nz/content/why-i-voted-for-shane-jones

    I think she’s being serious. Hard to tell.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 13, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

  14. “Imagine trying to get the women’s vote when you had someone in a senior position who had dumped his wife, and seven kids, to take up with another woman?”

    Don McKinnon did that, and voters manifestly didn’t care throughout the nineties. I believe Trevor Mallard did the same thing during the 00s, and again, nobody cared. NZ voters don’t seem to care that much about politician’s personal lives, and quite rightly too.

    Having said that, I agree that Jones might be pretty toxic to the women’s vote, just not for the reason you’ve cited.

    Comment by Hugh — September 13, 2013 @ 7:08 pm

  15. Lest I appear a shill for Jones, the ‘no immigrants working on the rebuild’ policy is utter drek. It’s not possible to run a rebuild of that scale with only indigenous labour, the national pool of trained professionals simply isn’t that big.

    Comment by Hugh — September 13, 2013 @ 7:09 pm

  16. You liberal lefties really hate Shane Jones don’t you?

    Comment by Swan — September 13, 2013 @ 7:10 pm

  17. You liberal lefties really hate Shane Jones don’t you?

    For me, it’s not so much ideological, just yer basic evidence-conclusion.

    Pagani makes the case for the (ill-defined) centre, and of course it’s a familiar one. But she’s not talking about the electoral potential of Bill Clinton or Tony Blair. She’s talking about … Shane Jones.

    It’s the same nonsense we had with Shearer. “Look! Smart strategy! It’ll work!”. Except … the guy chosen is a joke. So, no it won’t.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 13, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

  18. What is this Labour you speak of?

    Too busy watching yacht racing….

    Comment by grant — September 13, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

  19. MeToo – if Robertson threw his supporters behind Cunliffe so there was a ‘consensus vote’ for Cunliffe, the media would just smell the rat of hiding disunity. You would still have a drip feed of stories about Robertson plotting to overthrow the Cheshire Cat.

    Hugh – we have about 150,000 unemployed workers. Much of the rebuild is unskilled construction labour (yes, I’ve done that kind of work) requiring minimal training. And govt could easily get more in-depth training done by offering ‘No Fees’ options for building courses – proven to attract students by Southland Institute of Technology. Especially if they offered a guarantee of work on the rebuild after training in a bond arrangement.

    And I agree with Alwyn – Jones is toxic to a big chunk of the female *and* male vote for his dumping his wife and kids. McKinnon and Mallard got a soft ride from the media on their splits, but I doubt Jones will (Lange didn’t). And why should he? What kind of man ditches his wife and kids? The kind who then preaches Jones’ kind of ‘pick yourself up by the bootstraps’ nonsense? None of us are perfect, but surely a leader would support and build families and society up, not wreck them?

    Comment by bob — September 14, 2013 @ 12:17 am

  20. An awful lot of faithful are dancing around the need to rebuild the party. Seems like a key element of becoming relevant to those pesky voters.

    Comment by toby — September 14, 2013 @ 6:09 am

  21. @bob: I agree that the majority is unskilled or low skilled labour, but there’s also a relatively large pool of highly skilled labour needed – all those foundation engineers and geologists, just for starters. Without sufficient numbers of specialists it doesn’t matter how many construction workers you have, the inability to do the specialist work creates an enormous bottleneck. It takes five-six years to train somebody to an acceptable level in one of these fields. Even assuming that there’s a sufficient number of NZers willing to do the requisite training and work in Christchurch afterwards, and that the country has the institutional capacity to train those people, you’re talking about putting a further five-six year delay on the project, all in the name of economic autarky.

    Comment by Hugh — September 14, 2013 @ 6:13 am

  22. “… they faced an existential threat to their existence and rebuilt their party from the ground up …”

    The real existential threat is that of ‘Bad Faith’ – which Satre described as one who takes on all the trappings of a pubic identity, (like a waiter) and their act is so effective it fools everyone into thinking they are the most shining example of such a person but is acting and saying that for appearances. Their persona is a mask, because deep inside they hate their role. Pretending is how they show their contempt for a world which ‘forces’ them to do what they do.

    Pop-Quiz – does that sound like anyone in the current leadership race? Because if it does then I’d suggest they are perfectly-placed in the dysfunctional circle-jerk of the modern LPNZ.

    But let’s not be too harsh, this could be said of all the vast range of political parties we are blessed with.

    I have to go, I have to go and kick my dog now.

    Comment by Lee C — September 14, 2013 @ 6:59 am

  23. But if Labour is polling poorly after six months of the caucus undermining the leader and secretly briefing against him . . . At some point you’d have to wonder if the party itself had any long term future, or if the internal culture is too toxic to survive.

    This is just plain wrong. The Aus Labor caucus spent years doing that under two different PMs and… OK, actually you’re right.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — September 14, 2013 @ 7:05 am

  24. Ps Annette King should have run – I think she would have trounced it. So maybe in six months?

    Comment by Lee C — September 14, 2013 @ 7:06 am

  25. Gawd, if Cunliffe wins and doesn’t purge the dross then he’s a fucking idiot. Here’s a start: get the Dunedin South and Hutt South LEC’s on board and get rid of Curran and Mallard. That should send a nice clear message to the rest of the fuckwits.

    Comment by geoff — September 14, 2013 @ 11:35 am

  26. The Hutt South LEC loves Mallard. He’s a good constituency MP, very solid on the issues, and a senior figure in the party. They won’t roll him. Dunedin South rolled Benson-Pope, and look how that worked out.

    Comment by The Fan Club — September 14, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

  27. >At some point you’d have to wonder if the party itself had any long term future, or if the internal culture is too toxic to survive.

    We’ll find out soon enough, since Cunliffe just crushed it. My guess is that they’ll all declare total support for Cunliffe and some of them might even mean it. I think if they smell an electoral win in the air then this talk of them throwing the election just to spite Cunliffe is pretty silly, since most of them would lose their jobs anyway. Ain’t gonna happen. They’ll swing behind, and over time, this year’s kerfuffle will be gradually forgotten. I think that this would have happened with Shearer too, if he’d been a bit better at the job. They do actually want to win the election – politicians prefer to be in power.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — September 15, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

  28. Of course, if I’m wrong, and there’s still committed dissent, Gower will out it soon enough, and a minor purge might happen.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — September 15, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

  29. Political analysis here in NZ is always so crippled. Anecdote alert. A friend of mine went to Cuba and tried to engage a few locals in political discussion. He told me it was hopeless. The Cubans were so short of information, and the information they did have was so wrong, and they were so narrow in their political perspectives, there was no way any discussion could arrive at a sensible outcome.

    Its a bit like that in NZ, where since the progressive left have captured the culture, political discussion goes back and forth in a kind of vaccum because there are no other ideas discussed except socialism. So really there is no discussion. No ideas from the right are discussed or reported on. Very little or virtually no criticism from the right is applied to any party or leader, almost always from the left.

    So elections cannot be decided on policy when there is no real debate on policy. That’s why each election is really the outcome of a kind of random throw of the dice. Each party is pretty much the same, but if one leader is perceived to have “charisma”, or happens to score some publicity attracting but in reality meaningless point over the other, they will win the election.

    So in the end, there’s no way to predict what is going to happen. Whether one leader will help or not. It really all comes down to what happens in the few weeks leading up to the election, and whether one leader is perceived, for completely irrational reasons, as “better” than the other on election night.

    Until elections become an opportunity for the public to vote over competing political systems, then they cannot be rationally analyzed. What matters is whether the All Blacks win or lose, or whether it rains or its sunny, or whether one leader is the subject of a silly photograph, or is caught out in a sound bite that can be used to humiliate him.

    The true worth of the leader to a party’s success can be judged by Labour’s recent jump in the polls when they didn’t even have a leader.

    Comment by Redbaiter — September 15, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

  30. If Cunliffe doesn’t turn things round plan B is that in 2017 we’ll have a radical Green-led government with Labour taking a few hardcore electorates as an overhang. Peters and/or Dunne will probably have croaked or retired by then, and Key will be off to his mansion in Hawaii.

    Comment by richdrich — September 15, 2013 @ 9:08 pm

  31. “If Cunliffe doesn’t turn things round plan B is that in 2017 we’ll have a radical Green-led government with Labour taking a few hardcore electorates as an overhang.”

    So the Australian election is no example of what might happen in NZ in the future then?

    Comment by Redbaiter — September 15, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

  32. Redbaiter – I find myself in the strange position of broadly agreeing with what you in principle, but from a completley different perspective.

    I would content that rather than the “progressive left” having captured political discussion – though I’ll admit that this bloc has captured noisy but essentially marginal areas of political debate – quite the opposite is true. Both essentially centrist main parties are deeply market liberal while paying lipservice to social liberalism in order to get elected – they rationally conclude that to rock the boat too much is unpalatable to the electorate. There is basically no radicalism present in mainstream NZ politics, left or right.

    I think the reason that elections are not an opportunity for the public to vote over competing political systems is because that is not the purpose of voting.
    No one votes for a revolution and if they think they are, then they’ve been sold a pup (ref. Obama).

    Comment by Gregor W — September 16, 2013 @ 10:25 am

  33. @ Gregor W – times 2.

    Comment by nw — September 16, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

  34. “there are no other ideas discussed except socialism”

    Oh bedwetter, you must have missed the neolib experiment we’ve been subjected to for the last few decades.

    Comment by Sacha — September 16, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

  35. No one votes for a revolution and if they think they are, then they’ve been sold a pup (ref. Obama).

    The only people who think they got sold a pup with Obama are those that though he’d be ringing Chomsky for advice on foreign policy.

    He was never going to stray very far from the sort of approach that Bill Clinton established. A certain set of liberal middle class male pundits thought he was something else – enough of something else to start calling Hilary a waring evil witch.

    But that was an obvious delusion at the time and they look very silly now.

    Comment by NeilM — September 16, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

  36. Sacha, it is just completely crazy and irrational to say that a small country like NZ with the government spending $72 billion and with a tax rate of 34% of GDP (twice that of Singapore’s for example) is going through some kind of “neoliberal” phase.

    Comment by Redbaiter — September 17, 2013 @ 12:12 am

  37. @Red: $72 billion seems like a lot in isolation but as a % of GDP it’s smaller than it was forty years ago.

    Comment by Hugh — September 17, 2013 @ 1:16 am

  38. Also, 33% is the highest individual tax rate – the average earner pays 15% tax. And even the highest income people don’t pay 33% tax, because the income under the threshhold is taxed at the lower rate. To effectively pay anything near 33% you’d have to be extremely wealthy.

    Comment by Hugh — September 17, 2013 @ 1:19 am

  39. >To effectively pay anything near 33% you’d have to be extremely wealthy.

    In which case you’ll have the best accountants on the case, finding every way imaginable for you to pay no tax.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — September 17, 2013 @ 1:50 am

  40. The only people who think they got sold a pup with Obama are those that though he’d be ringing Chomsky for advice on foreign policy.

    I think the “Change” meme – possible the most context reduced, open-ended political pitch ever – appealed to far more people than just Chomskyites.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 17, 2013 @ 9:01 am

  41. Does anyone know if the “Anyone But Cunliffe” club exists outside of the right wing blogosphere/circlejerk?

    People seem to talk about it a fair bit, but I yet to see hard evidence of it

    Comment by Michael — September 17, 2013 @ 10:38 am

  42. Brian Edwards has mentioned the “Anyone But Cunliffe” club on his blog. I’m sure he would be surprised (and horrified) to learn that he is part of a right wing circle jerk.
    Unless, of course, you are one of those strange little people who accuse life-long Labour supporters of being class traitors or whatever the second they question the direction or leadership of the Labour party.

    “In which case you’ll have the best accountants on the case, finding every way imaginable for you to pay no tax.”

    Care to provide some facts or figures to back up that assertion?

    Comment by Exclamation Mark — September 17, 2013 @ 11:17 am


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