Jim Anderton

Chris Trotter on why changing leaders won’t be enough for Labour

Chris Trotter is a wise man of the left, more’s the pity that they don’t listen to him more often.

WHY DOES LABOUR do this to itself? Yes, they have just suffered an unprecedented (post-1922) election defeat, but that’s only because the 2014 General Election was itself unprecedented (post-1951).

And, besides, I’m tempted to say ‘so what?’ In 2002 the National Party suffered an even more embarrassing result when Bill English led his party to its worst defeat ever. National’s Party Vote plunged from a bad 30.5 percent in 1999, to an even worse 20.9 percent in 2002. (A whopping percentage point slide of 9.6, compared to David Cunliffe’s 2.8.)

The interesting thing about that debacle, however, is not what the National Party did in response, but what it didn’t do.

For a start, it didn’t change its leader. National understood (as Labour apparently does not) that a debacle on the scale of 2002 has many more contributing factors than simply a poor performance by the party leader. Defeat on such a scale is clear evidence of systemic – as well as personal – failures. Which is why the first priority of National’s hard-headed businessmen and farmers was to give the party organisation a very solid kick in the bum – not to sack Bill English. (He would keep.)

In the months following its 2002 defeat National thoroughly renovated itself: achieving for the Right what Jim Anderton, between 1979 and 1984, had achieved for the Left. Namely, the transformation of an ageing party into a vehicle more appropriately aligned to the economic, social and political context in which it operated.

Crucial to the success of such operations is the concentration of decision-making power in the hands of those best equipped to wield it. Under MMP, one of the most important functions to streamline is the formation of the Party List. National has achieved this by means of an all-powerful board of directors; the Greens by giving the job to their party members. For Labour, however, the list formation process remains the Party’s Achilles’ heel.

Bluntly, party list formation in the Labour Party is a colossal rort; a travesty of democratic principle on the scale of the “rotten boroughs” that once allowed the British aristocracy to control the composition of the House of Commons. More horse-trading takes place during this dangerously opaque process than at an Irish county fair – with considerably worse outcomes.

It’s ironic really, because Labour once boasted the most ruthless and centralised mechanism for selecting candidates of all the political parties. Seventy years ago it was the selector representatives of the all-powerful Labour Party Executive who called the shots – and they seldom missed. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then National, when renovating its structures, post-2002, paid Labour the most fulsome of compliments.

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And the criticism still mounts…

The Nation was brutal this morning.

This is what Jim Anderton had to say about Labour’s party vote campaign strategy.

Lisa Owen: We saw Mana, Mt Albert, Christchurch there, where the party vote was seriously eroded. What do you think went wrong there on the ground? What was wrong?

Jim Anderton: Well, there’s two serious points you haven’t mentioned — one is that 13 of the Labour electorates got less than 15% of the party vote, and in the strong Labour electorates, mostly the Labour vote went down in the party vote. In truth, we had more people not on the roll or not voting than the entire vote that the National party vote got or the entire vote of all the parties opposing National. Now, that’s a very worrying trend for the first time. And the worrying thing for Labour is that this isn’t the worst result that’s ever been had. I mean, the National party had a worse result in 2002; they got 22% of the vote, but in the three years following that, they caught up and nearly beat the Labour party in 2005, and in the three years since 2011, when the result was not good for Labour, they’ve done even worse. So this is really a very major problem to face.

Lisa Owen: It took them two terms to come back, and we’ll talk more about that later, but I’m interested in what your thoughts are and why these people didn’t come out and vote. Why couldn’t they be bothered?

Jim Anderton: Well, I think the Labour party are very wise to have put a stamp on having a very careful root-and-branch review of what actually happened, and I’ll give you one example — 10 months ago, a young Cook Island girl, if she wouldn’t mind me calling her a girl, probably woman, from Auckland came to Christchurch and thrashed the National party in Christchurch East, thrashed. They got a hiding to nothing. And over 60% of the vote; she actually polled more votes than a very well-respected long-time member, Lianne Dalziel. Now, how come 10 months later, in the whole of Christchurch, the vote in Christchurch was lower than the national average? Now, that’s a very serious question to answer. I have one idea about it, and that’s organisation. I was a campaign manager for that by-election, and I said to Labour, ‘The reason that we’re doing well here is that we’re highly organised. We’ve focused on the policy.’ And I agree with Helen about reflecting to people what they really need and what their aspirations are and working out specific policies that meet those needs. Now, that’s exactly what we did in Christchurch East, and I don’t think that was done in this election.

Lisa Owen: I just want to do a round robin here.

Jim Anderton: And one of the reasons for that is that Labour no longer has the mass membership of a party that can accomplish that. It can do it in one by-election, but you can’t do it across the country, and that’s the lesson from this election.

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Astonishing hypocrisy and sanctimony from David Cunliffe

David Cunliffe continues to astonish me with his stupidity.

This morning he has attacked the mere suggestion of a deal between National and the Conservative party, and at the same time maintaining his silence over the Internet Mana party deal.

Labour leader David Cunliffe has launched an attack on Conservative Party leader Colin Craig amid growing speculation of an electoral deal with National.

Prime Minister John Key told media this week he would be looking to make three deals to give minor-party candidates a chance at winning seats, and would announce them before the September 20 election.

It is widely understood one of those deals would be with Craig, who is set to announce this month the electorate he will be standing in.

Craig has already indicated his preference to stand in one of the northern Auckland electorates – East Coast Bays, which is held by Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully; Upper Harbour, in which National is standing Social Development Minister Paula Bennett; and Rodney, which is held by National back-bench MP Mark Mitchell.

If National gave way for Craig to win a seat and the Conservative’s gained more than 1.2 per cent of the vote, an extra two MPs could be brought into Parliament to form a coalition with National.

Cunliffe today said the situation with Craig was a “strange turn of events”.

“I wonder whether the people of East Coast Bays like the fact that their choices are being taken away from them, that MMP is being manipulated and they’re being told they have to vote for somebody who basically thinks the earth is flat,” he said on Firstline.

“That is a very, very strange turn of events and I think it underwhelms public confidence in the MMP system.

“I also think the prime minister should be aware that something like 75 per cent of New Zealanders object to coat-tailing.    Read more »

Comment of the Day – Coat-tailing

Grendel_from_the_dead comments about coat-tailing and gives a little history lesson on the way through.

Sorry but “coat tailing” only became a bad thing when the left stopped getting the advantage from it. It was very clear when MMP came in that it was a valid way for a party to get into parliament.

I remember watching the first MMP election (also my first election at all), and the experts reminding us that getting a seat got you all your party vote % of seats. It was not good or bad, it just was. The theory I vaguely recall them saying was that if a party was able to generate enough support in one area to win a seat, it could get all of its support from across the country. But if you were just spread across the country, you needed to get more. This enabled small single issue parties located primarily in one area to get more benefit focused to one area, rather than trying to fight all over the country. This was back when everyone thought we would get heaps of parties.

To me it’s the same as the overhang from getting too many electorates. The rules state that you are supposed to get as many seats as your party vote, but if you win more electorates than you were allowed seats, you still get the number of electorates. Other than actually winning electorates, I don’t see the difference.

But lets look at the facts:

1996 – No one gets an electorate and less than 1% and gets more than 1 seat (Dunne wins his seat but not enough party vote for a 2nd seat).

1999 – NZ first gets 4.26% and gets 4 extra seats due to winston winning tauranga. The greens were looking like needing to do the same with Coromandel, but specials put them over the line (the media had no issue with the ‘coattailing’ when the greens might have needed it). With NZ First, Labour is able to keep the Greens out of govt. If NZ First did not get the extra 4 seats, its possible the Greens would have been in govt to give Labour the majority.   Read more »

Colin Espiner on Kim Dotcom and his marriage of convenience

Colin Espiner is snarky in his article…very snarky indeed.

Say what you like about the sacrifice of conscience for cash – a great big German spanner has just been flung into the machinery of this year’s election campaign.

I wasn’t going to write about Kim Dotcom’s vanity party again this week. It has had far more publicity in its short life than it deserves.

Plus, it seems that everywhere you look Dotcom is there. Giving evidence in the John Banks trial. Breaking up with his wife, Mona (on Twitter, of course). Fighting Hollywood over access to his millions. Calling on Prime Minister John Key to resign (again).

Shortly, it will be Dotcom in the dock as he fights extradition to the United States on fraud and racketeering charges. Forget Banks and buckets of mud – that hearing is going to be the trial of the year. So a bit of Dot-gone seemed like no bad thing.

And then suddenly, there he was in a civil union with the beneficent ghost from socialist Christmases past: Laila Harre.

And Colin Espiner thinks Laila Harre is the bee’s knees…or does he?

The media was expecting Dotcom’s Internet Party would announce a flake as its new leader. Or a complete moron. Either would have done just fine. We could have ridiculed them, and moved on to more important matters.

But Harre isn’t a flake. And she’s certainly no moron. She’s one of the most driven, persuasive and intelligent politicians I’ve met. I don’t know how Dotcom managed to put a ring on the darling of the Left but on the face of it, it’s a major coup.

The question, though, is for who?     Read more »

NBR says Internet Party leader will be Laila Harre [ UPDATED ]

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Granny Harre will inspire kids to vote!

It looks like Kim Dotcom has convinced yet another hard left leader to sell out and has secured Laila Harre as the leader of the Internet party…according to NBR. [Paywalled]

The Internet Party’s leader is to be former Alliance leader Laila Harre, according to a well-placed source.

NBR ONLINE understands the long-time left wing activist, who joined the Green Party only 18 months ago and worked with that party as “issues director” in Auckland is to be named tomorrow as leader of the new Kim Dotcom funded political vehicle. Read more »

Selection results for National and Labour

Wayne Walford

Wayne Walford, National candidate for Napier

Three people won selection over this weekend. Two from National and one from Labour.

In Whangarei National selected Shane Reti ahead of incumbent scum List MP Paul Foster-Bell, showing that a strong local presence usually sees off a carpet-bagger pretending to have local roots.

The Herald profile for Shane Reti states:

He worked in general practice in Whangarei for 17 years, and was a member of the Northland District Health Board for seven years, before being awarded a Harkness Fellowship to Harvard, in 2007. …

In April this year Dr Reti was called on by the NZ Embassy in Boston to visit the city’s hospitals with NZ Honorary Consul Simon Leeming, to see if any of the dead or injured from the Boston Marathon terror blast were New Zealanders or Australians.

Dr Reti said he was to the right of centre in his political leanings, believing in strong fiscal responsibility. “But I also believe in a social safety net, so that makes me egalitarian. I also believe in reward for hard work, which makes me centre right,” he said.

In Napier National selected Wayne Walford to replace Chris Tremain’s sudden departure.

Walford is a former CEO of the Waikato Chamber of Commerce. He is currently a business mentor and trainer, and has an MBA from Waikato. He has a womble profile on Linkedin as well as a hippy pony-tail!

Amazing people and brilliant organisations have lead me to a point where working with people, empowering potential and adding value to organisations through people spin my wheels, and fast.  Read more »

Sorry, not buying the narrative as media attempt to beatify a leftwing tax-dodging ratbag

Many commentators, especially those of the left persuasion are framing the narrative that Matt McCarten is an organiser extraordinaire and will be able to “get out the vote”.

I think they are misguided. Even John Armstrong falls for this hooey:

One question is on everyone’s lips: is this move a “game-changer” for Labour?

McCarten’s campaign skills should help draw voters back to Labour in its metropolitan strongholds. The real test is whether his input can break National’s stranglehold on provincial New Zealand, as well as broaden Labour’s appeal among lower middle, middle and upper middle income earners.

Given the country’s present conservative disposition, the initial impact may be the reverse. Regardless, winning over those voters to Labour’s cause is likely to require him to compromise personal beliefs, something that has not been part of the McCarten fabric.

I think this is lazy commentary and accepting the framing without any credulity of the claims. The people I have spoken to over the years who go to the dark Alliance days tell me of a man who thought he was the supremo but who never actually delivered. Some of those old New Labour types will quietly be scoffing into their beers and wines and looking at the beatification of Matt McCarten with incredulous eyes. Read more »

Trotter’s Forlorn Hope

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“The Devil’s Own” 88th Regiment at the Siege of Badajoz. Watercolour en grisaille by Richard Caton Woodville Jr. (1856-1927)

Chris Trotter writes an impassioned post about the ‘game changer’ appointment of Matt McCarten as Chief of Staff to David Cunliffe.

It reads more like a forlorn hope.

“MATT McCARTEN? CHIEF OF STAFF! SERIOUSLY?” How many times have those words been spoken in the past 48 hours? Sometimes with barely suppressed excitement; other times in barely suppressed fury; but most of the time in a tone of utter disbelief that the speaker made no attempt to suppress at all.

The New Zealand Left suddenly finds itself in the position of the dog who caught the car. For years, slagging off the Labour Party as a bunch of neoliberal sell-outs has been one of the Left’s favourite pub and parlour games. But now, with one of this country’s most effective left-wing campaigners just one door down from the Leader of the Labour Opposition, the Left, like the bewildered pooch for whom the fun was always in the chase, has finally got what it wanted and must decide what to do with it.

That bewilderment had better not last too long. Because unless David Cunliffe and Matt McCarten start talking with unprecedented clarity about what’s wrong with New Zealand, what changes need to be made, and how Labour proposes to make them, then the Right’s political narrative – that Labour under Cunliffe has executed a lunatic lurch to the extreme Left – will be the story that sticks.  Read more »

Apparently there was a by-election yesterday

As expected after holding the seat for nearly 100 years Labour has retained the Christchurch East seat in a by-election.

Labour has cruised to a comprehensive win in the Christchurch East by-election.

Former social worker Poto Williams, who moved to the area from Auckland only nine months ago, was regarded by some as a surprise pick to contest the seat for Labour but staged a strong campaign, spearheaded by former long-serving Christchurch MP Jim Anderton.  Read more »