Brutal Chris Trotter names names

Chris Trotter has named names in a column in The Taranaki Daily News, and it is brutal:

I’m told there were six of them, and that they hunted as a pack. Their prey?

Delegates who had voted the wrong way.

Moving through the excited crowds at the Ellerslie Conference Centre last November, an angry group of Labour MPs was seen taking dissidents aside and telling them, in no uncertain terms, which way was up.

Leading the pack was Labour’s employment relations spokeswoman, Darien Fenton, and her grim lieutenant, Dunedin South MP Clare Curran.

No surprises there. Ms Fenton and Ms Curran were among the caucus members most alarmed by the Labour Party rank-and-files’ sudden outbreak of democratic distemper. The other members of the pack, however, came as a surprise.

I had never thought of Jacinda Ardern, Megan Woods, Kris Faafoi or Phil Twyford as attack dogs, but my sources assure me that they were there – chewing people out. So what?

Such brutal vignettes are the stock-and-trade of party conferences. Certainly “The Pack” was far from being the only example of caucus aggression at the Ellerslie conference.

Fairly specific details…but there is more: 

It was Chris Hipkins who drew me aside long before the dramatic conference floor fight to murmur conspiratorially: “Our problems aren’t external – they’re internal.” And Andrew Little, who first characterised the rank-and-file’s bid to democratise their party as a statement of “anxiety” about the leader, David Shearer.

Even from the media table, the animosity directed towards caucus members who spoke in favour of the rank- and-file’s resolutions (the most effective of whom, by far, was Leanne Dalziel) was unmistakable. Mr Hipkins’ youthful countenance became an ugly mask of rage as he railed against the proposition that, to avoid a contest in Labour’s new electoral college, the party leader must be endorsed by 60 per cent-plus-one of his caucus colleagues.

The underlying cause of all this angst was, of course, simple political arithmetic.

The first thing all politicians learn how to do is count and the people backing Mr Shearer were fearful that a democratised party (with sufficient support in caucus) might decide to wrest the power of choosing the party leader from their hands.

They were terrified that they would then be saddled with the rank-and-file’s choice of December 2011: David Cunliffe. And it wasn’t Mr Shearer’s faction alone, who were counting heads.

And it wasn’t just David Shearer counting either.

Labour’s deputy leader, Grant Robertson, had as much to fear from the leadership question being decided early, by the party, as his boss.

Now was the time for all who were not for Mr Cunliffe to unite against him.

MPs from both factions fanned out across the conference venue to dampen down and/or extinguish the dissident hot-spots.

The Parliamentary Press Gallery were encouraged to interpret the rank-and-file’s attempt to “take back our party” as a leadership bid by Mr Shearer’s rival.

The roving pack made up of Shearer and Robertson MPs would be joined by an even more vicious media pack led by TV3’s Patrick Gower.

The rest is history.

I suspect that was only the start of the history that we are watching unfold before us. The Labour party is in disarray…if only the caucus would open their eyes.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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