Fran O’Sullivan on Shearer and Labour

Fran O’Sullivan discusses Shearer’s demise and Labour’s mis-step in opposing the GCSB Bill.

When the Wellington cocktail party set starts chattering openly about Labour’s leadership, using slogans about how a “fish stinks from its head”, it is obvious something is up.

So it was on Wednesday night as even the MPs at Wellington public relations and lobbying firm SenateSJH’s annual bash talked freely about who was likely to replace David Shearer.

The symbolism was obvious.

Shearer’s “dead fish” stunt – where he waved a couple of dead snapper in Parliament to make a point about Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy’s botched attempt to lower the snapper catch limit – had backfired.

In reality, the only dead fish was Labour – a leading Opposition party still floundering in the polls and led by a politician who this week again proved he lacked the leadership skills to capitalise on opposition to the Government Communications Security Bureau legislation.

I am now convinced that the “dead fish” stunt was a set up, supposedly to be the final nail in the coffin so that caucus could present the letter of no confidence at tuesday’s caucus. 

What the plotters couldn’t know was that John Key prepared to throw Shearer under the bus and out his secret meeting over the GCSB Bill. That meeting showed that Shearer wasn’t keen on what is increasingly looking like Robertson’s game over the GCSB.

[H]e simply wasn’t up to open duelling with Prime Minister John Key and second (and more important), because his heart wasn’t really in it and he knew in his bones that Labour should have forged an accommodation with Key to change the bill, not simply sniped from the sidelines.

Unlike many of his colleagues, Shearer is a man of the world. He has operated in international troublespots. He knows about terrorism. It should be no surprise that he seriously entertained cutting a support deal with Key on the legislation. That is what a responsible political leader should seek to do.

But he did not put realism first.

That is why his speeches lacked vitality…he simply wasn’t convinced of the position that Robertson’s advisors, Including Fran Mold, place him at. His body language told, and his words and demeanour showed.

Unfortunately, today’s Labour Party is so hooked into opposition for opposition’s sake that it would rather end up publicly shackled to the personage and rhetoric of the dubious Kim Dotcom and tugged every which way by the Green Party than take the hard steps to position itself as the real leader of the opposition parties and forge a compromise with the Government when needed.

By Wednesday evening, speculation on Shearer’s longevity as Labour’s leader was down to a matter of when he would go, not if.

The Labour party and David Shearer haplessly kneeling in supplication before Kim Dotcom has been embarrassing.

I suspect David Shearer, when he recovers from the brutality of his knifing, by the very people who put him there in the first place [Goff, King and Mallard] he will be very relieved. I don’t believe he will hang around, why would you?

 [J]udging by Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly’s comments, whoever wins the leadership will be hostage to the unions. That is because Kelly has made it clear that the unions will block-vote their 20 per cent for one contestant only, rather than split the percentages in line with what individual union members want.

Kelly’s gerrymander needs to be scotched.

Moira Coatsworth has declared there will be no bloc voting, I suspect the unions will ignore her. If they do she should go too. A president who is ignored by the party and others is no president at all.


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  • niggly

    Good points and ultimately wouldn’t the unions want to knock out Roberston (and perhaps Helen’s old guard eg Goff, King, Dyson etc), by getting behind Cunliffe and reset the agenda (sort of economic focus via the worker angle. Ya know things kiwis really care about not identity politics and manbans)?

    It’s been reported that Little should wait this round out as putting his name forward as leader, why not instead go for deputy leader?

    Otherwise it’s a Cunliffe & Robertson or a Robertson & Cunliffe combo meaning more years of egos & factions being checked in and out and a media’s obsessional paradise – I think the poor public have had enough of this mockery of democracy by those groups!

    • kayaker

      Niggly, your last para in particular rings true – ‘egos & factions being checked in and out…’. Whichever of the C&R combo gets the leader’s spot, the deputy will roll him before long anyway. Back to square one, or square zero.

    • Roland

      Dont you mean the poor Labour supporters might have nearly had enough of this mockery… ?I think they can go a few more rounds yet

  • Jaffa

    John Key offered Shearer a second chance to withdraw the question,”Has the Government ever consulted Labour about the GCSB bill?”, “because you might not like the answer”
    So Shearer asked it again?????

    • peterwn

      That is a fundamental issue. IMO John Key did not want to throw David Shearer under the bus, but to have stayed silent on this in the face of David Shearer’s re-asked question would have soon drawn more claims of lying, brain fade, etc, something John could well do without. John would have had no idea whether David Shearer told others of the meeting, or whether others suspected that a meeting had taken place. Why David did not take the hint goodness knows – perhaps he was under stress and not thinking straight.

  • Michael

    “I think David Cunliffe has made it very difficult for the Labour Party caucus to work with him” – so said Chris Hipkins MP, Chief Labour Whip on 19 November 2013

    If the Unions don’t bloc vote Robertson then Labour will be even more divided than before Shearer’s fall.

    • Orange

      That’s months away.

    • Roland

      Back to the future there Michael

  • Yvette

    Note –

    Fran O’Sullivan: An earlier version of this column misinterpreted comments by CTU president Helen Kelly as indicating unions would block-vote their 20 per cent for one candidate only.” The error is regretted.

  • I still make the point that whoever wins the leadership/deputy battle, Labia will move to the left of where it is now. That will impact on the Greens and spring some middle ground voters back to National. Bring it on, Labia!!!!

  • Sir Cullen’s Sidekick

    Bros – Stop all the rumours. I have spoken to many of my labour insiders. Everybody is uniting behind Curryleaf. Once Curryleaf wins he will appoint rolly polly Robertson bro as his deputy. Horse women will get no: 4 ranking. Sheep will get a nominal portfolio and will stand down at 2014 election. Curryleaf is energised and is planning some bold policies. He is talking of a 45% rich prick tax on incomes over 100K. Get ready to be crushed guys.

    • AngryTory

      Only 45% and 100K – -come on?

      60% at 60K
      70% at 70K
      80% at 80K…

      • Sir Cullen’s Sidekick

        Sounds like a great idea!! Let me put it to the Labour council. My National inside sources are telling me that John Key is really gutted that Sheep had gone. He is so worried that Curryleaf will make mince meat of him in the house…..

      • Roland

        Im outa here then…

  • When Cunliffe was at Harvard, he wrote this poem:

    Halcyon days
    Bronze walls strong rising
    From lime green glimmer.
    White towers and golden domes –
    Revelries and reveries
    Reflect in sleepy waters.
    Forget me not
    For I am Harvard
    And I am yours.

    For one short year or two
    I suckled you
    With potent milk
    Of truth and learning.
    You know my strength
    You know my weakness.
    They are in you
    For I am Harvard
    And I am yours.

    I did not teach you
    Your most important lessons,
    Of life and love
    And learning with your peers.
    Go now forever different –
    My driven sons and daughters
    Relaxed, impassioned, persevered.
    Go now and take me with you
    For you are Harvard
    And you are yours.

    FFS! APologies if you couldn’t hold down your lunch!

    • Mr Sackunkrak

      That’s not poetry, that’s … fucking weird.

    • cows4me

      “I suckled you with potent milk”, I’m betting it wasn’t fucking milk he was suckling.

      • Cadwallader

        Is this a veiled reference to Darien’s genitalia?

        • cows4me

          Who would know, the whole sorry lot belong in the freak circus.

    • Cadwallader

      It is reputed that when Caspar Weinberger heard “99 Luftballons” he screamed at the radio…”Euro_Fag Commies Suck my Dick!”: He’d say worse to Cunner-verse.
      Perhaps Philip Larkin ought have the last word on Labour…”Something like nothing happens anywhere.”

  • JC

    “because his heart wasn’t really in it and he knew in his bones that
    Labour should have forged an accommodation with Key to change the bill,
    not simply sniped from the sidelines.”

    I think this is the first statement from a major journalist that pins the blame for the GCSB fiasco on the Opposition lack of cooperation on national security.. add in Helen Clarks continued comments in the same vein and this is an important tool in John Key’s hands in the election runup.. particularly as the security situation around the world continues to deteriorate.


  • LesleyNZ

    The dead fish stunt has got to be set up. How horrible to be knifed and gutted like that by your colleagues and so-called friends. You are right. David Shearer has seen the world unlike most of us have – he knows about terrorism. The closest we come to see this is on the TV screen. Pray that it never happens in NZ. I think David Shearer knew that the GCSB bill had to go through. How awful it must be to have to go against what you really think is right. Maybe Helen Clark will look after David Shearer and get him a job. David – enjoy the rest of your life – those who set you up are not worth a bean.

    • AngryTory

      he knows about terrorism. Pray that it never happens in NZ

      NZ has had real terrorism — Taame’s Army.

      More to the point, NZ has had economic/industrial terrorism of the unions, facilitated by their political wing, the Labour party.