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.


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  • John1234


    But… yeah.

    So what is it to be, NZ? A majority National government, or a thoroughly dysfunctional minority Labour led coalition relying on a raft of special interest payoff deals between Harawira, Peters and a Green party providing its unreformed communist leader as Minister of Finance?

    • It will probably be a dysfunctional minority. We had the chance to get rid of MMP and yet the spineless masses decided to keep it under the misconception that MMP is more democratic…despite the fact that payoff deals will always exist.

      Plus a huge number of the Gen Y and beyond of voters that seem to see validity the greens policies. They think they are the ‘green’ focused party and refuse to see that they really are the worst kind of socialism by stealth with very little actual environmental focus (not saying that I think we need any more!!!).

      • Sir Cullen’s Sidekick

        “Once Shearer accommodates Norman, Turei, Harawira, Sue Bradford, and a
        mandatory quota of feminist unionists and others from the Rainbow sector” – is there worst nightmare scenario than this?!

        • Nope. And it happens we may as well all stop working as well, what would be the point (I’m speaking on behalf of my husband & provider of course who is actually busy working so doesnt have time to access blogs during the work day!).

        • Mediaan

          Yes, they could bring back the Helen.

      • blazer

        the spineless masses,i.e those who don’t agree with my politics…!!!You are not very well rooted…..are you

  • Gazzaw

    Cameron – who is your guest poster? A very good analysis. Give that man a DB………& a job at NZ Truth.

  • Allyson

    If Shearer were to stand up to those awful state sector Unions he could still swing things around. Just stand up man and demand the Union nasties start representing workers rights again. Let everyone know he will crush the Education Trade Unions if they prevent much needed reforms to provide choice and improve educational outcomes for ALL. Oh yes, and a position supporting jobs for the bros . Thank you, I think that would help

  • Petal

    Labour is completely dysfunctional and in dire need of some circuit breaker (event).

    If the numbers get together in such a way that Labour/Green/Mana can make a government, I’m going to make sure I get front row seats to this handcart going to hell.

    • Am thinking along similar lines. Such a Govt might last 1 term though I doubt it, and it would bring people around to understanding National is really the best we have got accepting its’ nuances and inept ministers which will plague any Govt. Such a term may well end up the best long term outcome – a bit like a vaccine.

      • Lion_ess

        They’ll still be fighting over who going to be “he”.

      • blazer

        a vaccine that kills the patient….great!

  • cows4me

    Perhaps if they talk nicely to the Melons they might adopt them, Liarbore are after all leaning further left everyday. Both parties are infected with far left lunatics, the disease is just more advanced in some. It will in the end come down to socialism/ totalitarianism or conservatism / freedom. The middle ground is getting harder and harder to define.

  • In Vino Veritas

    Not bad. Not bad at all. I like the “Resevoir Dogs” type circular firing squad analogy. Where too for Shearer now? I’m not sure there is any strategy for him to utilise that may save him in February. Or get his caucus back together. Even if Cunliffe wins in Feb, where to from there for Labour? Divisions will be rife, those Shearer supporters that survive the subsequent pogrom will still remain embittered.

    • Bunswalla

      Yes, watch out for Mr Pink…

    • Mediaan

      I’m disagreeing, because I think Labour and its gang have another few nasty grenades to launch at NZ.

      They will do anything to hurt NZ if it will make this government unpopular by the end of 2014.

      We need to watch carefully whom they keep in their top job, because that sort of thing will indicate the weapons they are creating to use against us. If they keep Shearer, that tells us they are preparing to put him up against popular John Key, because he is the closest they have to likeable.

  • What a brilliant & astute analysis. The only problem I have is that despite such obvious failings, Liebor and its whinging comrades have the coalition numbers.

    So rather than preaching to the converted on here, I would like to see something on how to get the part of middle NZ that still clings to the left swinging across to the right.

    Let’s face it, Liebor did a very smart thing when they extended and expanded WFF – a policy that goes against everything right wing ideology is meant to stand for.

    If the right or centre right was completely honest it would lose a huge amount of support in the blink of an eye as most of NZ taxpayers are feeding off the taxpayer’s tit and worse, seem to think they are different to the benes.

    To call it like it is and say that they are no different would see National et al drop dramatically in the polls as ideals are all well and good until people are personally hit in the pocket. Few people would sacrifice their own financial advantage for the sake of decent policy.

    • Troy

      And the problem is the toxic Green followers and those in the Labour Party who switch to the Greens because they are pissed off with the Reds. Easy solution – don’t vote left for the next electoral cycle because the product will be loopy policies from the toxics and being in coalition with a failed politician as Leader – are Kiwi’s really that stupid to allow it to happen – maybe they are.

      • I agree. But we know that. How do we tell their voters? While much of NZ might be pro welfare changes, they arent going to want to see their own benefits cut. Most families in NZ are getting some form of welfare so that leaves the baby boomers which tend to change as often as the wind (especially now they are getting super – they are going to want to protect their interests there). Or worse, they have become rich like Gareth Morgan have gone from speaking sense to absolute nonsense.

    • blazer

      so right voters are deluded and selfish and really have no core values….you’re probably right.

  • Ford

    so much for cunnliffes leadership takeover..haha..losers..he should join the other morons in the national party..him and key are would make a good couple..both full of shit

    • Travis Poulson

      On that basis you and Blazer should start a party.

      • stinkeye

        I don’t know if between Blazer and Ford they could use enough punctuation to fill out the application form.

        • blazer

          do you even know what punctuation is ?

          • Travis Poulson

            I would have used a capital D when making a comment like that.

          • blazer

            as opposed to a communist D.

          • Travis Poulson

            You’d know!

          • Mediaan

            My guess, no, Blazer is not a communist. If a man, more a frustrated mover and shaker who is held down by some stupid muffling factor, like a membership that doesn’t permit him to be himself. If a female, well… Females are held down by being female.

            Frustrated, and looking for somebody (this blog will do) to snipe at.

          • Travis Poulson

            Do you feel disadvantaged by being a female?

          • Mediaan

            Wait for my dazzling autobiography, Trav.
            But females in general limit their activities all the time. They modify clothes, speech, mannerisms, to try and please and appease men and to ward off possible violence. In part it is social training.

          • Travis Poulson

            That doesn’t answer my question.

          • stinkeye

            From Wikipedia:

            “Punctuation marks are symbols that indicate the structure and organization of written language, as well as intonation and pauses to be observed when reading aloud.”

            An example of your lack of punctuation, as expressed on another comment on this article:

            “the spineless masses,i.e those who don’t agree with my politics…!!!You are not very well rooted…..are you”

            You missed out a capital letter at the beginning of your sentence, a space after the first comma, a full stop after the e in i.e., a space after your suspension and a question mark at the end.

            Would you like more examples, or is this enough of an English lesson for you?

            I suppose you lefties support txt spk in exams so this might be a wasted effort.

          • blazer

            do really read these posts aloud?You sad stinking excuse for a prose detective .

          • stinkeye

            OK, I’ll shorten the quote further.

            “Punctuation marks are symbols that indicate the structure and organization of written language”

            Or for you:

            “Pntuatn mrkz r simbles dat indikate da strkcha nd orginiztn of wrttn lngage”

          • Mediaan

            Starting a sentence with a capital letter is part of punctuation.

  • blazer

    this is politics everyday.It wasn’t so long ago the Nats had the same problem…Brash,English …thats the way it works.The PM atm is having a charmed run.As the so called ‘safe pair of hands’ is exposed as a 1 trick pony borrow and hope merchant,the tide will turn.NZ needs policies more than personalities thats the reality.Capt America ,former forex gambler is already preparing for retirement in Hawaii.

    • Mostly_Harmless

      It’s true that New Zealand needs policies rather than personalities – but Labour has neither.

    • Gazzaw

      So what’s your beef blazer apart from what we can attribute to a giant chip on the shoulder. So JK has a great public acceptance factor (where is Shearer currently, where was Goff?). The PM spelt out the policies loud & clear in 2011 & labour went on to its biggest loss ever based on its own policies of more tax to redistribute to the bludgers. Former forex gambler? Don’t you mean very successful banker? Retirement in Hawaii, so what’s wrong with that?

      Tall poppy stuff, blazer. Tall poppy.

      • blazer

        do you really want NZ to be an american lapdog satellite?Successful banker?Merrill Lynch destroyed a decade of investors savings,through irresponsible gambling.Key left before the shit hit the fan.If they didn’t have their own man E.Holder as attorney gen,most of the Wall St crims would be facing serious charges by now.From Dotcom,to asset sales,to the TPP,every policy benefits american interests.

        • Gazzaw

          You forgot ‘capitalist running dog’ blazer.

        • RightOfGenghis

          As the world decends into chaos I want NZ to be as friendly with the Americans as we were on December 8, 1941

        • Mediaan

          You appear not to have noticed that Key is quietly paying attention to both the trade groups, WTO and the Asian Group. That’s why he is at the current Asian Group summit.

          He is a top business brain. We are just so lucky to have had him in power at this difficult financial time.

          • blazer

            oh the irony!This ‘difficult financial time’ was CAUSED by him and his ilk!Top business brain…any evidence?People thought Muldoon was a competent finance man for gods sake.

          • stinkeye

            It wasn’t entirely caused by them – it was caused by everybody who was greedy from the top right down to mum and dad investors.

            They just enabled people to get out massive loans and debt and spend far beyond their means.

            Its like blaming the gun dealer for making a profit on selling guns to James Holmes, he just sold the guns and made a bit of money.

          • blazer

            yes,it was only 99% caused by ‘them’!These financial paper shufflers are parasites on the productive sector.They are 3rd party interlopers who impose costs on the rest of society…contrary to what they say…they serve no useful purpose.

          • Alloytoo

            This sounds like Labour’s housing policy.

          • Mediaan

            Business management is a set of skills. People who don’t have those skills don’t understand what they are. You get all sorts of quite powerful people who are totally useless in things that, to a good manager, are fairly basic. John Key is proceeding as a good manager would, through these difficult times.

            (Like you), Muldoon was a bright litle bugger. But (like you) there was no idea that he was a good-quality manager.

        • In Vino Veritas

          “destroyed a decade of investors savings”. Sort of like the left wing US government did with Fannie Mae and Freddie mac blazer. Sort of like what the Greek socialists did to the greek people blazer. And similar to what the socialists are doing to spain as we speak blazer. Socialism is gambling blazer. Its great. Until you run out of other peoples money.

          • blazer

            I guess in your world…Alan Greenspan,Bush and all of Wall St are left wing socialists!!Do me a favour IVV!

          • In Vino Veritas

            Selective history is it blazer? As always. Clinton. Glass Steagall. Pressure to loan at at marginal capacity to low income families. Ring any bells?

            You’ll also be aware that BoA was issuing mortgage backed securities and securitised residential morgages that were not backed by a government sponsored enterprise as early as 1978. They were also distributing these morgage backed securities to private investors since they were classified “bank-eligible” under G-S. So, for nigh on 20 years, banks seemed to do OK, and investors didn’t lose their money (or if they did, it would be because the securitised package was priced more risky).

          • blazer

            selective!Greenspan lobbied for the repeal of GSteagall on behalf of his Wall St cronies,as I’m sure you know.He more than any other person is culpable for the whole mess.Forget about pre repeal of GS…the repeal unleashed a snowball of unregulated ‘risk taking’ fuelled by ludicrious bonus and any ethical confines.The oft trumpeted ‘free mkt’ was an absolute disaster….govt bailout to the rescue…but importantly ..WHAT HAS CHANGED REALLY…?SFA!

          • Gazzaw

            Watch that blood pressure blazer.

          • In Vino Veritas

            Repeal. Glass-Steagall. Clinton. Democrats. Not Greenspan. Pressure to loan to low income families with no capacity to repay. Clinton. Democrats. Not Greenspan. However you want to spin it blazer, there is the firestarter.

          • blazer

            Greenspan was reappointed by Clinton…Dem or Rep matters not…Wall St owns them and Wall St fucked the whole capitalist system.The only pollie in the U.S with answers is Ron Paul IMO and hes a retiring Rep.

          • In Vino Veritas

            When the facts don’t suit, bring in the obligatory conspiracy theory.

          • blazer

            when you cannot counter fact,trot out the predictable….conspiracy theory accusation.Wall St…Greenspan,Rubin,Summers,Geithner,….etc,etc,its easily verified.Greenspan 87-06 …served dif presidents.

          • In Vino Veritas

            counterfact a rambling argument like yours blazer? The left destroyed peoples savings. It wasn’t Greenspan that passed G-S or pressured lenders to lend to people who couldnt afford to borrow. As I say. Conspiracy theory, or alternatively the sky is a different colour in your world of make believe.

          • blazer

            it may suit you to stick with that feeble excuse pedaled by Wall St .The facts are derivitives ,the bundling of sub prime mortgages and the ‘trade’ in these creations was the cause of crisis and yes the skies were always blue!Next thing you’ll be saying you still believe in the ‘trickle down’ theory.

        • Troll Alert !

          Semi-smart , semi-stupid that Blazer . Lobotomy ?

    • Mediaan

      National has never had this same problem. This is uniquely self-destructive and naff.

  • Marcus50

    It is a shambles and by no means over for Labour. What conference? the chance to establish some meaningful policy platforms completely lost to backstabbing, petty squabbles and a leadership wrangle. Cunliffe is calculating and his failure to endorse Shearer was deliberate and you have to suspect he knew what the outcome would be. Whether he has overplayed his hand and scored a significant own goal, only time can tell.
    What is clear however is that the party is completely dysfunctional and not in a position to promote itself as a credible alternate to National. Is it any wonder that the Greens are winning the left support at the expense of Labour. Watch the polls over the next few weeks, the Greens could benefit yet again from this shambles.
    Shearer has a very short time frame now to turn things around or he is toast. The bigger fight is going to be between the unelectable Grant Robertson and Cunliffe. Robertson seems to have the support of the old guard but if Shearer crashes and Burns Robertson could well be collateral damage now that the Party has a say in the leadership choice.
    National have been poor in the past 6 months and have offered up enough free hits to labour to gain some real momentum in the polls. ACC, MSD, Education, Dot com, dumb comments about David Beckham but not once has labour been able to make contact. Skippy made Parata look unprepared and dithering in the house but that is about it. Now that the extent of the Labour party shambles has been exposed is it any wonder.

  • Liberty

    More good news Cunliffe is gone.

    Cunliffe might be a
    smarmy Git. He was also the only one in Labour with

    The ability to rattle National.

    Purged from the front row and now a albatross around Labour

    In fact the purging of Cunliffe would
    have to rank very high in really dumb

    moves by a political party.

    John A lee purged
    from labour party

    David Cunliffe
    purged from Labour Party

    R Muldoon calling an election while pissed

    Jim Bolger reneging on the removal of the surtax.

  • TayheiNotts

    You are wrong to say that Rowling out polled the Pig in 1978. Yes, Labour got more votes than National, but a huge number of New Zealanders chose to vote Social Credit hoping like hell that they were a minority. They would never ever vote for a party that was lead by a person (not a man) that resembled a shiver looking for a spine to run up. And they disliked the Pig, but not as much as they disliked pricks like Martyn Finlay, Freer etc.