Chris Trotter writes about the ongoing coup taking shape within Labour.
The maelstrom of criticism into which Mr Garner has been unceremoniously pitched, since his predictions of last Thursday night were proved wrong, provides the strongest argument as to why he would not have tweeted without feeling extremely confident about the rumour’s veracity. (Just to make sure, however, he sought and received confirmation from a second Labour Party source.)
Two confirmed sources is not a rumour it is a fact. Garner…and Twitter just made the transmission of the fact quicker than the plotters were ready to act.
That Mr Garner was given what the Americans call “a bum steer” should tell him (and us) that the atmosphere in Labour’s Caucus is becoming increasingly toxic. And, as Julia Gillard would no doubt confirm, such a poisoned political environment makes rumours of an imminent leadership spill both inevitable and believable.
There are so many factions in Labour, they are at each toehr’s throat, and the unhelpful introduction of the ‘man ban’ merely exasperated some of those factions.
So, why did Mr Garner’s coup rumour fail to stack up? Let’s go through the explanatory options.
1) Some sort of leadership coup was on, but Mr Garner’s tweet alerted Mr Shearer’s supporters and the organisers were forced to abort. (Despairing Labour MPs may simply have been gathering sufficient signatures to persuade their leader to go gracefully and preserve the party from a debilitating civil war.)
2) No coup was imminent, but Mr Garner’s source considered it vital that Mr Shearer be forced to endure yet another destabilising round of media speculation concerning the viability of his leadership. (So vital that they were willing to abuse and lose Mr Garner’s trust.)
3) For reasons of their own, Mr Shearer’s backers decided to undermine Mr Garner’s journalistic credibility by deliberately misinforming him that a coup was underway.
Each of these explanations offers a slightly different take on the dire state of affairs within the Labour Caucus. Underlying all of them, however, is the undeniable fact of a leader (and the faction backing that leader) under extraordinary and unremitting pressure.
Mr Garner’s prediction may have failed to materialise, but it did, at least, remind us of Bismarck’s famous quip: “Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.”
And of course Grant Robertson has been at pains to official deny the existence of both the letter and a coup plot. Perhaps Bismarck, Garner and Trotter are right.