Stepping up in the Labour boat

Andrew Little – obviously he has to step up big time. He’s put himself forward as leader, he has been chosen, and he has a massive job to do.

Labour caucus – while Little has to work on uniting his Caucus all the MPs need to unite behind Little and contribute to recovering and rebuilding.

Past leaders – Phil Goff, David Shearer and David Cunliffe have all had a go and failed. It is their duty to help Little succeed.

Grant Robertson – he ran a very close race and will be bitterly disappointed. He needs to take some time to get over it, then do his utmost to help Little and Labour succeed. He isn’t leading the party but he can and should take a significant role in leading the Caucus support of Little.

David Parker – has indicated he doesn’t want to be deputy and doesn’t want to be Minister of Finance. He may be disappointed and he may be hurting, but this is very disappointing. Parker thought he was good enough and committed enough to be Labour leader, so he must be big enough and committed enough to be a strong senior member of Little’s caucus. He go in on the Labour list for another three year stint, like all the other MPs he owes it to Labour to do his utmost repair the damage and rebuild.

Nanaia Mahuta – has been criticised for being low profile and insignificant in her EIGHTEEN YEARS as an MP for Labour. She felt she could take on the huge challenge of being party leader. She must step up and repay her party.

Andrew Little has taken on a huge challenge. His success will be partly up to him, and it will just as much be up to all other 31 Labour MPs in Parliament, as well as the Labour Party.

If they all don’t out in the effort and work together they will live down to National’s expectations (this was a multi-party dig but it could be applied to Labour’s past performance on their own):

LabourRowboatOr this will be the Labour boat:


Can a shitty Shearer stay?

David Shearer obviously still feels very hard done by and blames David Cunliffe for his difficulties as leader and his subsequent demise.

Is there room for both of them in the Labour caucus? Shearer says Cunliffe should resign.

After Shearer announced he wouldn’t contest the Labour leadership – I don’t think he was ever a serious contender considering his negative attitude to the job – he seemed to take every media opportunity he could get to lash out at Cunliffe and Labour.

I think this was ill-considered and destabilising at a time that Labour has to start to look like it can work together positively.

Shearer lobbed a hand grenade riddled with year old ill feeling into the leadership debate. He put personal bitterness before his party.

Most of Shearer’s lashing out has been directed at David Cunliffe – ironically at the same time that Cunliffe withdrew from the leadership contest. Old scores being unsettled.

Stuff reported David Shearer comes out swinging:

Earlier today, Shearer launched a bitter broadside at Cunliffe, his supporters, Labour’s brand and union influence in the leadership contest.

Shearer said that when he was leader, Cunliffe and his colleagues “undermined and white-anted me”.

Confusingly Shearer said he thought Cunliffe should have stayed in the leadership contest but now he has pulled out he should quit Parliament.

Talking to reporters before Labour’s caucus meeting – and after ruling out of another tilt at the top job – Shearer said it would have been better if Cunliffe had stood for leader, rather than pull out yesterday.

That would have presented a cleaner break and enabled everyone to get behind the new leader.

Now Cunliffe should quit Parliament, Shearer said.

Cunliffe’s response sounded far more reasonable.

But Cunliffe said he “rejected and refuted” the claims.

“It is simply untrue. There is no substance or truth in the allegation I white-anted him,” he said.

“I had no knowledge at all of the moves to replace him. … It was not done by my friends.”

Cunliffe said he wished Shearer well for his future and hoped all his colleagues would respect each other and put the best interests of the party first.

Right now Shearer is nowhere near respect and the party’s best interests.

Can Shearer and Cunliffe co-exist in the same caucus, with one and possibly both harbouring resentment at being ousted from leadership?

Cunliffe is currently the one making the right noises but can he be trusted? He hasn’t had much support from the Labour caucus and will have less now.

If Cunliffe remains in Parliament will Shearer quit?

This doesn’t bode well for Labour and will present major ongoing challenges for their soon to be chosen new leader.

Cunliffe’s belated withdrawal

David Cunliffe has belatedly withdrawn from Labour’s leadership contest, over three weeks after a demoralising election defeat. This enables a more forward focussed contest and probably saves Cunliffe from significant embarrassment.

Choosing to endorse Andrew Little’s bid to lead Labour looks like a parting shot at Grant Robertson and ensures Cunliffe won’t be an unbiased bystander.

It has been reported that Cunliffe made the decision to withdraw last week so it’s curious why he waited until yesterday to make his announcement. He made himself off limits to media over the weekend due to “a family illness” – again showing his unsuitability to lead the party let alone the country.

He has been hiding away for most of the three weeks since the election with various reasons being given. It looks like bereavement leave. Most people who have career setbacks don’t have this sort of luxury, they have to continue earning their wage or resign.

Electorate associate and some time lawyer Greg Presland posted Some thoughts on David Cunliffe’s withdrawal:

And to David Cunliffe can I suggest a short holiday to get yourself ready for the next three years.

After spending a week after the election “soul searching” Cunliffe took a few days off “for a long planned holiday” and seems to have been largely out of circulation for two weeks since. Another holiday now? He has to get over it.

It’s often been said that if you fall off a horse you should get straight back and ride again. Cunliffe is no jockey.

Presland also made an interesting comment in his Standard post:

And you only need to read the overwhelming majority of comments on this blog to see what progressives think about him.

I think he is wrong claiming an “overwhelming majority of comments” supportive of Cunliffe, there have been very mixed feelings expressed. What Presland may be expressing is his own perspective as and integral part of the Standard machine and that those most involved in the running of The Standard have been overwhelming supportive of Cunliffe. That’s been evident going way back to how they tried to drive the so-called Cunliffe coup attempt.

There was a sign of a significant Standard shift in the weekend when they promoted and ran a Q & A for Andrew Little, who happens to now be endorsed by Cunliffe. The Q & A seemed oddly timed, until things became clear yesterday. Presland seems to be in synch with Cunliffe:

And who should the new leader be?  Someone who oversees rejuvenation in the party and ensures that caucus discipline is maintained.  And who is true to the principles of the party.  And who has the support of a majority of members.  Cunliffe has endorsed Andrew Little whose prospects now must be very good.  Andrew has been careful to hold himself apart from the factions and is someone who clearly will work to unite the party and I cannot emphasise how critical this is.

If Little fails to win the leadership what then from Cunliffe and The Standard?

(And while ‘The Standard’ appears to have swung from Cunliffe to Little it’s clear amongst the comments that Little isn’t a universally or anywhere overwhelmingly supported leadership candidate).

If Cunliffe finally finishes licking his wounds he could play a significant part in rebuilding Labour, if he visibly supports and works with the new leader and the revamped caucus.

There will be keen watchers amongst the media and opponents looking for any signs of dissent or disloyalty in Labour ranks, especially from Cunliffe, and if any is perceived it will be highlighted and amplified.

This could depend on what responsibilities Cunliffe is given by the new leader. He is potentially one of Labour’s most potent MPs but his attitude and application have to measure up. His endorsement of Little has a hint of utu.

He – and a number of other Labour MPS – have to put animosities behind them and work for the good of the Labour Party, and earn the generous wages and benefits bestowed on them by the taxpayers.

They have to do more than earn that. Unlike their wages credibility and respect aren’t  provided in their job packages and they will have to work very hard to build them back to the required level for elected representatives.

Unfortunately this will probably mostly be on hold while the Labour leadership is decided.

It may be six months into Labour’s third term in opposition before we finally start to see if Cunliffe has gotten over his double loss plus the dashing of a burning ambition to be Prime Minister, and before we see if Labour is on the mend with the combined efforts of all it’s diminishing group of MPs.

Presland said of Cunliffe’s decision:

Clearly he is prepared to put party interests ahead of his own.

That hasn’t been clear at all in the past and especially over the last three and a half weeks.

Labour desperately needs all it’s MPs to put party interests ahead of their own – including and especially all it’s ex-leaders who now include Phil Goff, David Shearer and David Cunliffe (and possibly David Parker will be added to that list).

Cunliffe has belatedly withdrawn from Labour’s leadership.

Can Labour very belatedly begin their repair and rebuild after their defeat in 2008? It will be 2015 before their next leader can crank up their caucus and begin to seriously try.

David Shearer doesn’t sound keen on leadership

While David Shearer didn’t rule out joining the Labour leadership contest when he was interviewed on The Nation this morning he sounded far from keen.

Labour’s David Shearer says being leader of the opposition may be the worst job he’s ever had, but he’s considering whether or not to have another crack.

Mr Shearer says he is going to consult and think before making an announcement about whether he will stand for Labour’s leadership.

“It won’t be today,” he told The Nation today.

He doesn’t have long to decide with the nominations closing on Tuesday.

Mr Shearer said he would only run if he felt he could win and change Labour to make sure it goes in the right direction.

“If I can’t do that then I don’t believe I should be in the race.”

His family aren’t keen, because they saw him last time he was leader, he said.

“It’s incredibly stressful; it takes an enormous amount of time.

“Ask any opposition leader what it’s like. It’s the worst job in politics – possibly the worst job I’ve had in my life. It’s satisfying on the one side, but it’s also incredibly, incredibly difficult.”

That doesn’t sound like someone keen to have a go. Which is not surprising considering what he said after he stepped down from the leadership last year:

“The thing I found most difficult really was the pettiness of politics and being in opposition. A lot of it was petty, a lot of it was venal,” he said.

“Politicians from all sides come in to make difference, to actually get something done. And what you get caught up with, particularly as a leader, is point-scoring and that sort of pettiness.

“I just found it boring, I found it beneath me and I wasn’t very good at it because of that. Other people thrive on it, they love it, I mean that’s the thing they love about the arena of politics. To me, I found it below me.”

I don’t think the job of Labour leader has risen since then, so it would seem odd if Shearer lowers himself to contest the leadership.

Popular Prime Ministers

There’s been some interesting charts published of Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition poll popularity.

Dim-Post On popularity:

Helen Clark was a widely respected Prime Minister who won three elections and led Government for nine years. John Key has ranked high in the popularity stakes since becoming Prime Minister.

Clark and Key have tracked very similar paths over their second terms.

Leader’s of the Opposition struggle to get recognition in polls. David Farrar at charts this at Kiwiblog in Opposition Leader in the Preferred PM poll:

Clark languished as low as 2% for her first three years as Labour leader and then shot up, presumably around the time of the 1996 election which Labour came close with 34.68% to Bolger’s National’s 35.05% to be thwarted by NZ First siding with National in coalition.

Key started much higher and kept rising until and after National won in 2008.

Phil Goff started much lower until a late climb for the 2011 election but withdrew from leadership soon after.

David Shearer had modest ups and downs before pulling the plug on a position he never looked comfortable in.

David Cunliffe picked up from there but has slid since. He’s got time to recover and challenge Key in September – but not much time.

“Labour face disaster at the next election”

Labour have struggled to make an impression since Helen Clark and Michael Cullen departed after their 2008 election loss.

They struggled under Phil Goff.

They struggled more under David Shearer.

And they continue to struggle under David Cunliffe.

It must be more than a leadership deficit. The Labour caucus and the Labour Party machinery seem to be in perpetual struggle mode.

In the last few days alone – launching their election year, a time when it was essential Cunliffe and Labour made a strong impression – Labour have lurched from embarrassment to stuff-up.

Their ‘baby bonus’ launch has been overwhelmed by controversies. As well as strong criticism for offering people on high incomes a baby benefit the policy has been beset by controversy and David Cunliffe has had to admit he made mistaken claims.

And amongst this Dunedin North MP David Clark, once promoted as a fast riser in the Labour ranks – Shearer promoted him to 12 in the Labour rankings – has made a major blooper suggesting the Government should be able to threaten to ban use of Facebook if the multinational didn’t pay enough tax.

3 News reported:

Banning Facebook was an extreme suggestion from Labour Party MP David Clark – and it took party leader David Cunliffe just 24 hours to shut it down.

Mr Cunliffe has now ruled it out completely, but ridicule from the Government still came hard and fast.

Just 24 hours? That was far too long, this embarrassment should have been dealt with swiftly. It wasn’t.

In yesterday’s post David Clark attacked from all sides on Facebook farce ‘Goldie’ commented on the litany of Labour errors.

The comment by Kiwi in America is spot on.

First, it underlines the lack of talent in the Labour caucus. Dunedin is a Labour stronghold, so the MPs should be the stars of the party – instead you have Clare Curran and David Clark.

Second, it shows the lack of discipline in Labour – there is absolutely no way, when the policy focus should have been the “baby bonus”, that Clark should have been permitted to talk on anything else. Cunliffe’s office is not operating as it should. It lacks grip over its MPs, and can’t control its own issues (witness the speed with which the “baby bonus” policy got derailed).

Third, Labour have not been able to uncover a single major scandal on the Government and Labour have not been able to make a single policy that has not been widely shredded within days in three years. It says to me that the political machinery behind the scenes – the party researchers and advisers – have become “hollowed out”.

In contrast, the Greens are busy, focused and confident. They have the great advantage of not needing to appeal to either centre or apathetic voters, but only to people who are going to vote left anyway. As National look increasingly like they will win the election, left-leaning voters will have less reason to stay disciplined to Labour, and will “shop around” (like what happened to National in 2002).

Labour face disaster at the next election.

It’s very early in election year but Labour, who desperately needed a strong start, have stuffed up again. And again.

Unless Cunliffe can transform himself into a strong and positive alternative (too many mistakes and too much sneering snark), unless the Labour caucus can look united and competent, unless the Labour media machine can provide competent advise and support and unless the Labour Party can function effectively then it’s on the cards that Labour could face disaster at the next election.

If that happens it will be bad for New Zealand politics. We need strong party leadership and performance, especially from the large parties. Labour is losing it’s way, losing credibility. If this continues we all lose.

Update: It appears to be continuing unabated. Good grief. David Parker this time, in Parliament yesterday. See Labour says Apple et al plundering NZ economy.

Government utilising Shearer’s strengths

Ironically David Shearer’s strengths are being utilised by the National Government for the good of the country, in contrast to Labour’s disastrous elevation of Shearer to a role he totally unsuited to and didn’t like.

Newstalk ZB reports David Shearer taps his UN contacts:

David Shearer is back on his old stomping ground in New York, pushing New Zealand’s case for a seat on the Security Council.

He’s doing so at the request of Foreign Minister Murray McCully, who’s asked him to tap his old UN and diplomatic contacts.

Mr Shearer says he’s working in the country’s best interests, and a bipartisan view is needed.

The last time New Zealand had a seat was in 1994, when Mr Shearer was in Rwanda.

“And we took a very strong stance against Rwanda and what was going on. People really acknowledged and recognised it and I felt as a New Zealander being on the ground there incredibly proud.”

Mr Shearer says New Zealand can do the same again.

This was a smart move by McCully who has recognised Shearer’s strengths, and it’s good to see Shearer putting the interests of the country before the petty politics many opposition MPs indulge in.

Like all MPs Shearer was elected to represent and work for the country. This enables him to make a worthwhile contribution.

The country benefits. Shearer also benefits – apart from doing something useful he is gaining valuable experience. Should Labour lead the next Government Shearer will be better prepared to step up to a ministerial role.

This sort of bipartisan co-operation may (or may not) be common but it isn’t seen by the public.

An important role of opposition MPs is to hold Government to account and question problems and bad policies. But that doesn’t mean they should be always negative, nitpicking, opposing just to be contrary.

All MPs in Parliament should be working for the best interests of the country as a priority.

So it’s good to see Shearer doing this.

Street clarifies aid money question

On Thursday Radio New Zealand reported that Maryan Street, Labour’s associate foreign affairs spokesperson, was critical of the Government campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Labour criticises UN bid as Shearer lobbies for support

The Labour Party has criticised the Government’s UN Security Council campaign at the same time as its foreign affairs spokesperson David Shearer is in New York lobbying for support.

I posted on this yesterday – Labour foreign affairs disconnect.

Maryan Street has responded to that:

I didn’t criticise the SC bid. I support it. I think Shearer is doing good work in NY right now.

What I did ask, in case you are interested in the facts, was whether or not there was a firewall between our disbursement of foreign aid and the SC bid campaign. In other words, has McCully been using aid money to lubricate our SC bid. A legitimate question.

John Allen said no, he hasn’t. Good answer.

Radio NZ reported it as criticism and it could be seen as a dig at McCully and raises an issue that wouldn’t help the bid Street makes it clear she accepts Allen’s assurance that it isn’t happening.

Street also makes it clear that she supports what Shearer is doing and supports the Security Council bid.

Labour foreign affairs disconnect

Another example of two Labour MPs working against each other, but this time it’s the spokesperson and the associate spokesperson for foreign affairs at odds.

Labour criticises UN bid as Shearer lobbies for support

The Labour Party has criticised the Government’s UN Security Council campaign at the same time as its foreign affairs spokesperson David Shearer is in New York lobbying for support.

At a parliamentary select committee, Mr Shearer’s associate foreign affairs spokesperson, Maryan Street, raised questions about the Government’s use of foreign aid in its campaign for a seat on the Security Council in 2015-16.

Mr Shearer was, meanwhile, lobbying representatives of the Palestinian Authority and Somalia, among others, at the United Nations. He says New Zealand’s bid is based on its reputation as a small country with an independent foreign policy.

The chief executive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, John Allen, dismisses Ms Street’s suggestion aid is being used to win a Security Council seat.

What is the official Labour position? Who speaks for Labour on this? Or do individual MPs say whatever they like.

Labour on drilling – Yeah, Yeah-Nah, Nah

There has been many confusing messages from Labour on oil drilling, ranging from Yeah! to Nah! with a number of “yeah, nah” in between.

Another Labour statement on oil drilling yesterday, yet another vague position. David Parker has sort of clarified but also added to the confusion over Labour’s position on deep sea drilling. Especially confusion over Shane Jones’ promotion of drilling, seemingly supported by Andrew Little, which seems at odds with a number of colleagues.

Summaries of positions:

David Cunliffe – yeah, nah: “We are not opposed in principle”, “we’d get the standards in place and then we’d take them on a case by case basis“.

David Parker – yeah, nah: Labour supports Anadarko’s drilling, would not close down existing consents, “all future consents will require to be at world’s best practice if they are to get approval”.

Shane Jones – Yeah!: says Anadarko has a statutory right to be there, “we mustn’t assume that Anadarko doesn’t have the necessary expertise on hand”, “if oil is discovered we can use that to benefit New Zealand and create job opportunities for our young people in this industry”.

Andrew Little – yeah: Toured Taranaki in July talking to the oil industry with Jones who was reported saying “Offshore oil and gas drilling was an essential feature of domestic and export growth and businesses and enterprises enabling it would get full government support.

Moana Mackey – Nah!: Appears to back protesters and said the regulatory environment under which Anadarko was permitted to drill was “deliberately permissive” and the process had been a shambles.

Phil Twyford – Nah: “protesting at the Government’s reckless promotion of deepsea drilling”.

David Shearer – alternatives policy: Is Labour’s Energy and Resources spokesperson “renewables – the way of the future for a clean and clever country like ours”, clean energy versus fossil fuel industries is a “logical choice” and aims to make it policy.

Green Party coalition partner – NAH!

Details of these stated positions:

NZ Herald reports: Labour split on deep sea drilling:

Mr Parker said Labour did support Anadarko’s drilling.

“It’s legal and we’re not saying we would close down existing consents.”

“I’m not saying Anadarko’s doing world’s best practice because I simply don’t know. What I’m saying is we acknowledge that what they’re doing is legally in compliance with the law but we’re going to tighten the law to ensure that world’s best practice is met and that all future consents will require to be at world’s best practice if they are to get approval.

“The industry tells us they’re confident they can meet that standard. We’re not reversing current approvals or banning duly approved drilling into the future.”

He denied his party’s position had changed.

“Our position is that we’ve been saying that the existing consent processes for deep sea drilling in our view are opaque and lax and it’s unclear that New Zealand’s got the response capacity if something goes wrong.”

David Cunliffe told NZ Herald late last month that Labour’s position was that it would potentially support Anadarko’s drilling if it met best-practice and environmental and clean-up standards, but it didn’t yet.

Cunliffe was pushed by Duncan Garner to clarify his position on drilling and eventually confirmed it was Yeah, Nah for n0w – Cunliffe would stop deep sea drilling.

Garner: So you’d put a moratorium on all deep sea drilling until you were satisfied as Prime Minister.

Cunliffe: No, I haven’t said that Duncan, I haven’t said that…

Garner: You’ve effectively said it…

Cunliffe: I’ve said based on what we currently see in the public domain, I’m not convinced that those standards have yet been met.

Garner: So would you stop deep sea drilling as Prime Minister until you saw something that gave you confidence to let it go ahead?

Cunliffe: Yes we would need see material that gave us confidence on a case by case basis.

Garner: So you would stop it until you saw that?

Cunliffe: We are not opposed in principle, we are absolutely up for a mature discussion with the industry…

Garner: Are you opposed on current standards? And I think this is very important…

Cunliffe: No no, we are opposed to the current standards. The EEZ legislation under which this is happening is currently too weak. We have jettisoned a lot of the jurisprudence under the RMA and it needs to be tightened up.

Garner: Ok, so you’d stop it for now and wait til you could get better standards, local standards that you were satisfied with.

Cunliffe: We’d get the standards in place and then we’d take them on a case by case basis.

Labour’s Environment spokesperson Moana Mackey has contributed to Cunliffe’s anti-drilling position information. In September – Block offer 2014 premature without protections:

“Labour has repeatedly stated drilling should only take place if we have the capability to manage a disaster and once robust safeguards are in place.

Labour’s Wellington MPs are also concerned about the considerable expansion of the Pegasus-East Coast Basin with an area of 75,136 square kilometres now up for consultation.

“A Labour government will ensure there are strong environmental protections and listen to affected communities concerned about environmental risks,” Moana Mackey says.

Stuff reports this week: Drilling could split Labour

But Mackey appeared to back the protesters and blamed the Government for Greenpeace’s announcement that it intends to challenge the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision to allow Anadarko to carry out deep sea drilling off the Raglan coast .

She said the regulatory environment under which Anadarko was permitted to drill was “deliberately permissive” and the process had been a shambles.

She also accused the Government of being desperate to expedite deep sea oil and gas exploration because it had no plan B for jobs – which also puts her at odds with Jones, who believes mining is a potential boon for jobs.

From that same stuff report Shane Jones seems to be at odds with Labour colleagues on drilling.

Labour MP has backed oil drilling giant Anadarko in a move which puts him at odds with other members of the caucus, including environment spokeswoman who today called for a slow down in the mineral exploration programme. …

Speaking on Maori TV’s Te Kaea tonight, Jones was outspoken about attempts to stop Anadarko from deep sea drilling and said the protesters should remember that the company had a statutory right to be there.

“Protesters need to bear in mind we are buying oil out of the Gulf of Mexico and other far-flung places when we should be focusing on making an industry in our own country.”

Shane Jones (and Andrew Little) in July – Labour duo keen to talk jobs and growth:

Controversial Labour Party bigwig Shane Jones has moved to position the party well clear of the Greens and their “anti-development” message.

In Taranaki for a two-day visit with party justice spokesman list MP Andrew Little, the regional development spokesman spent much of the first day pow-wowing with oil and gas industry players.

“I am keen to defang these misapprehensions that are abounding that somehow industry has disappeared from our purview.

“Nothing could be further from the truth and if my visit provides the opportunity to reinforce the centrality of jobs, the importance of industry and the need for a future Labour-led government to assuage whatever anxieties might be there in the minds of employers or future investors then I am up for the task,” he said.

Offshore oil and gas drilling was an essential feature of domestic and export growth, Mr Jones said, and businesses and enterprises enabling it would get full government support.

There was an appetite for such growth in Taranaki but the “anti-development” message was strong on the East Coast, where oil and gas exploration is on the increase, and in the Far North, where he was attending an anti-mining hui next month.

David Shearer hasn’t made any media comments as spokesperson on Energy and Resources – – but he has posted on his Facebook page:

26 October

As Labour’s energy spokesman I’ve had some great meetings with experts in renewables – the way of the future for a clean and clever country like ours.

International research shows that an investment in clean energy creates two to four times as many jobs as the same investment in fossil fuel industries #logicalchoice

He also answered a comment:

Robyn Harris-Iles Make it Labour policy, David!

David Shearer yes, that’s the aim

Phil Twyford protested against drilling last weekend. He tweeted:

I’m at Piha protesting at the Government’s reckless promotion of deepsea drilling risking Gulf of Mexico spill with Dads Army response capacity


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