Bill Rowling

Russell Brown on Labour’s propensity to aim for their feet

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Pots, pans and pannier bags blogger Russell Brown blogs about Labour’s dreadful week last week, almost entirely self inflicted.

I really don’t think Labour leader David Cunliffe had a cunning plan to hide the fine print print of his party’s Best Start policy from the public last week. Because, frankly, making a statement about how many families would be covered by the baby bonus that is contradicted by the policy paper you’ve posted on the internet is just too dumb to be a cunning plan.

Even Patrick Gower, who kicked off the story with a blog post declaring that Labour had been “deliberately misleading” and “dishonest” in not being clear that families already in receipt of paid parental leave (which Labour is promising to extend to six months) would not be eligible for the newborn payment of $60 a week subsequently started referring to it as a mistake. (After all, if you’re going to perform a bait-and-switch, it’s customary to wait until you’re safely elected, not do it on the same day.)

Allowing double-dipping would have have been inappropriate – indeed, that was the first criticism aired about the new policy by David Farrrar, when he thought that’s what the policy said. But although the URL for the full policy document had been noted in the material given out to journalists, the limit on eligibility wasn’t mentioned in the printed material or Cunliffe’s speech.

Thus, John Key and his ministers have had a week to smugly declare that Cunliffe couldn’t be taken at his word.  Read more »

Collins crushing on Contenders

Judith Collins guest blogs about what she calls the three Amigos in the dance of the desperates.

I grew up Labour – in the days of Norm Kirk and the more forgettable Bill Rowling.  I knew David Lange – having chosen to intern in his Mangere Electorate Office while at Law School.

So I can say that to see the self indulgent warbling of Labour’s Three Amigos  as they troop around the country promising anything to anyone (with the exception of Shane who has threatened only bad things to the PM) will be a mildly sad sight to those who still willingly pay their $10 to join the Labour Party.

Political parties should always be about their members but this strange and foolish exhibition of faked friendship and grandiose schemes has been nothing more than embarrassing.  Read more »

Why do unionists lie?

Watch this video from this morning on The Nation.

After Jami-lee Ross has his bit to say about his bill they let Darien Fenton have a crack and she lies right from the get go about Ports of Auckland.

She calls that dispute a lock-out when it wasn’t. It started as a strike and only became a lock-out near the end after some violent scenes at the gates of the port.   Read more »

Labour’s leadership woes – Guest Post

What a shambles.  What a disgrace.

Labour’s circular firing squad reveals many things about the state of that party.  Firstly it reveals a lack of character on the part of its leader, a man incapable of leading by example, by stature, or by design.  Secondly it reveals a lack of cohesion between the caucus and its wider constituent bodies.  Thirdly it reveals the jealousies that exist at all levels of the party.

Shearer’s ritual dismissal of Cunliffe is not a new strategy.  Shearer and his lieutenants Trevor Mallard and David Parker have taken a leaf out of Julia Gillard’s book.  When faced with destabilisation from Kevin Rudd, Gillard wheeled out her caucus surrogates to denounce Rudd as a demagogue unfit to lead his party or his country.  Whereas Gillard had Wayne Swan, Simon Crean and Nicola Roxon, Shearer had Hipkins and Faafoi front the media to denounce Cunliffe as a destabilising force within the caucus.

Next Shearer demanded endorsement at the point of a gun, no debate, no dissent.  Having achieved ‘unanimous’ endorsement from his colleague, Shearer then dismissed Cunliffe to the back bench.  In effect Cunliffe is now the excuse for low opinion polls, a man who is to serve as toilet paper for Shearer’s failed leadership, languishing at the bottom of the Labour Party’s political long-drop.

The problem with this scenario however is Cunliffe alone is not to blame.  Labour has yet to move to a level of political support it realised when it lost office in 2008.  This is extraordinary.  Students of history will know Bill Rowling lost the 1975 election, but outpolled Robert Muldoon in 1978.  Mike Moore led Labour to a landslide defeat in 1990, but he came within one seat of winning in 1993.

Shearer leads a party approaching its fifth year in opposition and he shows no sign of leading a recovery.  Relying of a coalition of friends based on Russel Norman and Hone Harawira is a declaration of defeat, the conclusion of a failure of leadership that he Shearer’s responsibility and Shearer’s alone.

The leader of the Labour Party is incompetent, mangles his words, struggles with basic policy concepts, and has little or no feel for human behaviour.  How does he expect his diminishing band of party members to raise money and knock on doors when he has just thrown their preferred candidate for leader under the wheel of a bus?

And Shearer need not think his so-called KiwiBuild policy will make a blind bit of difference.  Communism-meets-lotto housing based on cheap homes situated on cheap land around train stations is hardly going to motivated 200,000 mortgage-paying voters to switch their party vote from National to Labour.

Cunliffe is no better off today than he was last week.  Yes he has been demoted off the front bench, but in a caucus of 34 led by David Shearer, it was never likely that Cunliffe was going to feature in a government any time soon.  Once Shearer accommodates Norman, Turei, Harawira, Sue Bradford, and a mandatory quota of feminist unionists and others from the Rainbow sector, what role would a white heterosexual male possibly have in a future Labour-led government?

However Cunliffe alone deserves the odium that he is coping.  A weak-kneed to Shearer’s ultimatum is a disappointing end.  Yes, Cunliffe should not have hedged at the weekend conference; the smart thing would have been to publicly endorse Shearer there and then.  But having been called on to front up, Cunliffe should have done just that and tested the resolve of the Labour caucus.  Having lost, he could have then resigned and moved to the back bench rather than being dumped by a political featherweight.

Cunliffe has been unwise to rely upon the likes of Charles Chauvel, Moana Mackey and Louisa Wall.  None of his core supporters represent the aspirations of mortgageville New Zealand, and none of them were likely to have the fortitude to go through the fire on behalf of their candidate.

Cunliffe is a vain and flawed man, and someone who is deserves to be disliked by his colleagues.  But Shearer is ten times worse, a leader who seeks strategic direction from Trevor Mallard.

Well might Labour members throw up their hands in horror.  As John Key rightly points out, how can they run the country if they can’t even run a conference?

The correct response now is for Labour’s rank and file to force all MPs to face selection contests.  A contest of ideas is the only way to force its caucus to align with the party that carries it.

David Shearer – The New Bill Rowling

Dr Raymond Miller pulls no punches on David Shearer’s botched opportunity on Q+A/Um at the weekend.

Most cruel of all: “he seem to me a very reluctant kind of Leader in the Bill Rowling mode”.

Armstrong on Shearer

ᔄ NZ Herald

John Armstrong writes about David Shearer’s horror week:

If there were any lingering doubts about whether David Shearer’s political honeymoon is finally over, they were expunged by what has been little short of the week from hell for the Labour leader.

Two opinion polls last Sunday contained morale-sapping rebuffs for Labour with the gains the party was confident it had made on National since last year’s election seemingly melting away.

Thankfully the Roy Morgan poll came out last night and cooled down the willingness of caucus to knife him. God forbid Labour changes to someone else.

The biggest killer of a party is ill-disipline.

In a clear breach of Labour caucus protocol to keep arguments in-house, the party’s Mangere MP Su’a William Sio then publicly bagged the gay marriage bill sponsored by his neighbouring MP and colleague Louisa Wall as likely to cost Labour heaps of votes in south Auckland.

That was quickly followed by the surfacing of apparent renewed hostility in some quarters of the caucus towards David Cunliffe, who lost out to Shearer in last December’s contest for the leadership.

The off-the-record remarks of a couple of unnamed senior MPs carried on TV3′s website produced a feeding frenzy on the political blogs, leaving Labour activists deeply disturbed the party was again doing its dirty washing in public but confused as to whether Cunliffe, who has been on holiday overseas, was actually mounting a coup against Shearer.

Cunliffe isn’t mounting a coup. You can’t charge forward with zero back up. The EPMU is locked in behind Shearer for some reason, probably because they see him as a seat warmer for Little. It is Robertson that Shearer should watch out for.

What is not in question is that the ructions completely overshadowed Shearer’s midweek launch of a sustained campaign by Labour to win back the “heartland” – the provincial cities and towns where elections are won and lost.

The launch was the culmination of weeks of careful planning and extensive research by Shearer’s already-stretched staff. Copious amounts of official data were collected and collated to measure the progress in every region – or rather the lack of it – across a number of economic and social indicators following more than three years of a National Administration.

Labour is hoping the material will jolt voters out of their seeming sense of resignation that while things are not that crash hot in economic terms, they could be a lot worse and it is better to stick to the status quo.

It is bizarre that Shearer is tourin National’s heartland. And Armstrong is wrong about where elections are won and lost…that is in Auckland.

Leaders of the Opposition are always hostage to the polls. The very real danger for Shearer is that repetition of the results of last Sunday’s polls will see the “Mr Invisible” title becoming impossible for him to shake off.

Other unsuccessful Leaders of the Opposition – Bill Rowling, Jim McLay and Bill English – were handicapped by their intellect and reasonableness which made it difficult for them to find fault with everything their opponent said or did.

The net result of that syndrome is the leader suddenly finds himself or herself less than 100 per cent confident of his or her own party’s policy or position. The doubt is immediately apparent in hesitation in the leader’s voice and visible in his or her body language, all of which is conveyed in cruel detail by television which demands and gets instant judgement from the watching voter.

The thankless job of Leader of the Opposition requires seeing everything in black and white terms and delivering simple, short and very direct messages.

Shearer knows that. But Labour has a tendency to overcomplicate things. Shearer needs to take a few risks to avoid being stereotyped likewise. He must hammer a few stakes in the ground, some of which will not be always to his party’s liking.

He has already copped criticism from within for a recent speech attacking those on welfare who are not “pulling their weight” and are “ripping off the system”.

Shearer’s play at being Act leader, or even trying out for Paula Bennett’s replacement has angered Labour’s based who think bludgers can do no wrong and need to be showered with cash. However his major problem is precisely what Armstrong says…that he is perceieved…no not as the case may be, as the Invisible Man.

Labour are in terrible trouble. Let’s see what happens next week to further salt the wounds.

Brian Edwards on Shearer

ᔄ Brian Edwards

Brian Edwards writes an interesting post about the wisdom of commentary, and blows his own trumpet (justifiably). But his comment on the un-trainability of David Shearer is interesting.

Brian is a considered commentator, for him to opine so publicly shows that he (and Helen Clark) are over David Shearer:

This morning my co-commentator on The Nation and fellow media trainer Bill Ralston joked about Shearer, ‘He should have had some media training.’ But it was a joke. Media training would have made not an iota of difference to Shearer’s fortunes. He would have proved untrainable.

That sounds harsh, but it is not intended to be. Shearer is simply miscast as the leader of a political party in opposition. To change his image, he would have to change his personality and that, in human terms, could only be a change for the worse. Shearer is genetically challenged as a Leader of the Opposition. The killer instinct and the showbiz gene are both missing. He can be reasonable but he can’t project.

Media training is a waste of time for such politicians. Worse, it’s transparent, an ineffective cover-up job that listeners and viewers can recognise and see through. And that is damaging.

Bill Rowling, whom I mentioned in the earlier blog, was a strong personality who looked weak on television. Attempts to make him more forceful made him look like a weak man trying to appear forceful.

A similar fate was met by the rather wooden Geoffrey Palmer, who was Prime Minister for a year and who, I’m told, received media advice from some Australian gurus in the art. The advice was apparently to be physically more animated and smile more. The effect, however, was to make him look remarkably like the American Eagle on The Muppets.

Media trainers need first and foremost to be skilled diagnosticians. A wrong  diagnosis, followed by inappropriate treatment can be fatal to the patient’s prospects of survival. Sometimes, as in the case of David Shearer, it is kindest to admit that there is no cure and wish them a happy life – perhaps doing something else.

The roll of a Deputy

There is talk that Grant Robertson is loyal deputy…even David Shearer is indignant about the rumours that his Deputy is about to roll him:

He appeared most irritated at suggestions [on The Standard] that Mr Cameron had been installed in advance of a leadership takeover by Mr Robertson.

“I speak to Grant three or four times a day on the phone. We’re in and out of each other’s offices when we are in Parliament together, all day.”

I’m not so sure that he should take comfort in that.

If David Shearer took a good  look at New Zealand political history he would have cold shivers running up his spine.

Rob Muldoon was Jack Marshall’s deputy, he knifed him on 4 July 1974.

David Lange was Bill Rowling’s deputy, he knifed him on 3 February 1982.

Jim McLay was Muldoon’s deputy, he knifed him in 1984, after National lost the 1984 schnapps election.

Jim Bolger was Jim McLay’s deputy, he knifed him in 1986.

Geoffry Palmer was David Lange’s deputy, and he took over in September 1989 as Lange gave up.

Helen Clark was Mike Moore’s deputy, she knifed him on 1 December 1993.

Bill English was Jenny Shipley’s deputy, he knifed her in October 2001.

Based on recent political history David Shearer has much to fear from Grant Robertson, who was raised politically under the tutelage of Helen Clark, one of the plotting deputies who rolled their leader.

Based on New Zealand political history it really the role of the deputy to roll the leader.

The fact that his deputy (and their people) are talking to you means nothing.  The interesting thing will be when the House goes back.  The numbers of MPs popping in and out of each others office late at night.  The corridor action that is going on.

If I was Shearer I’d ensure my programme keeps me in Wellington next week.

One weird thing about David Shearer is his distinct lack of loyalists.  See, when the in-Parliament chattering behind closed doors occurs he needs to have his loyalists countering.

Well, who counters for Shearer? It isn’t Robertson….and Trevor Mallard is running his jihad against John Banks, not watching Shearer’s back.

Citizens for Shearer

the tipline

Guest Post – Rebutting Rudman

David Garrett has sent in a guest post to rebut Brian Rudman. Apparently the NZ Herald prefers running opinion pieces from Labour hacks like Bryan Gould – Britain’s answer to Bill Rowling. They refused to look at a rebuttal of Rudman’s crim hugging whine.

A watchtower at the northeastern corner of Mou...

In a recent Herald article Brian Rudman writes – utterly predictably – that imprisonment does nothing to reduce crime, and we should not follow what he calls  the “
bray of the ‘lock ’em up’ lobby.” About the only surprise in his piece is the admission that New Zealand doesn’t after all have “the second highest imprisonment rate in the world” as is  claimed ad nauseum, by those on the left  but  is in fact fifth in the OECD.

Leaving aside that the imprisonment rate in a population is meaningless unless one also considers the offending  rate in that same population, Rudman’s conclusion is simply not supported by the evidence from overseas jurisdictions, particularly the United States. Nor is it consistent with an emerging trend here.

It is well known that  crime rates have plummeted in New York State since the introduction of  so called “broken windows” policing in the early 1990’s. Homicides in New York City fell from a high of 1,946 in 1993, to 673 by the turn of century – a  decline of  more than 60%. What is less well known is that as well as “broken windows” policing, New York also introduced “sentence enhancement” laws,  of which New Zealand’s “three strikes” law is a variant.

In California – the home of “three strikes” – the decline in  crime has been second only to New York’s, with violent crime reducing by 43% during the decade after the introduction of “three strikes” in 1994. Although the rate of decline has since leveled off, crime rates in California  remain about half what they were at their peak in 1991.

On the left, there has always been the greatest reluctance to ascribe any reduction in crime rates to more punitive policies. As the late Dennis Dutton once observed, the precipitate decline in homicide and crime generally  in New York prompted a feverish search by left wing academics across the country to find the “real” explanation – any explanation would do – because it couldn’t possibly be the result of more intense policing and longer prison sentences. Could it?

On this subject as on  others, left wing commentators such as Rudman have no hesitation in massaging data, or selectively quoting from scholarly works. The best example is the theory promulgated by economist Steven Levitt –  in ‘Freakonomics’ and elsewhere  – that more readily available abortions from the mid 1970’s onwards led to a drop in crime twenty years later  According to Levitt’s theory, children of the poor –  who are supposedly  more crime prone -were aborted instead of growing up to be the next generation of criminals.

Aside from the huge holes in that thesis itself, what those who quote Levitt  never  say is he identifies six factors which in his view explain the drop in US crime over the last 25 years. The sixth and  least effective, says Levitt, is more readily available abortions. The top two, in order of effectiveness,  are more comprehensive ‘community’ type policing, and more punitive sentencing laws.

When New Zealand’s “three strikes”  was passing through parliament, the Howard League for penal reform toured a Californian prison chaplain through New Zealand to talk up the iniquities of the Californian law – notwithstanding that New Zealand’s version is utterly different, and under it the famous “locked up for life for stealing a   chocolate bar ” simply cannot happen.

Columnists such as Mr Rudman breathlessly reported the view of Mr Kim Workman, once head of prisons  before he lost his job following a disastrous rehabilitation program he designed  called He Ara Hou was abandoned in the mid 1990’s following its spectacular failure. Mr Workman confidently predicted that if “three strikes” was enacted, the prison population would triple in two years, assaults on prison officers and policemen would increase sharply, and if there was any effect on offending at all, it would likely increase.

Almost two years later the  reality  has been very different. Prior to Christmas, Justice Minister Collins announced that the prison muster per head of population  had fallen for the  first time since the 1930’s. Recently it was announced that a new prison at Wiri would be built after all, after serious consideration was given to abandoning it because of falling prisoner numbers.

For those willing to examine the evidence honestly, and without ideological bias, the reasons for this change are clear. In 2010, the police quietly adopted a New Zealand style version of “broken windows” in Manukau, the country’s most crime ridden district. Offenders coming before the courts for serious violent “strike” offences – more than 900 thus far – are now warned that if they continue to so offend they will spend much longer in jail than earlier in their criminal career.

What is happening in New Zealand mirrors what happened in New York twenty years ago, whether Rudman  acknowledges it or not. A combination of more effective policing and more punitive sentencing has led to a decline in crime. If we do not lose our nerve, that decline will continue. The worst thing we could possibly do would be to repeal “three strikes” – as Labour has pledged to do.

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