‘SPC’ on Labour’s predicament

Another response to Kiwi in America’s essay on Labour’s failings, SPC has posted at both Kiwiblog and The Standard.

FACT 1 – The Rogernomics era had no mandate from the party. It nearly destroyed Labour.

FACT 2 – It took till 1999-2002 and a Labour government that delivered on its manifesto to restore trust between caucus and party member – this lead to the end of any need for “New Labour”.

FACT 3 – However this alone was and is insufficient for restoration. The Labour Party is not yet over what Rogernomics did to it (but then nor is New Zealand).

To have a party based on democratic, and meritocratic, selection involves trust that candidates will remain loyal to the party and its manifesto. This was something completely breached in the 1980′s. So between 1987 and 2011, selection was based on a party faction patronage – this of course meant it was somewhat insulated from inclusive participation by the general public.

The Labour Party was so abused by its caucus in the 1980′s that only the recent party reforms, the retirement of the last of the 1980′s era personnel and the decline of the party factions of recent decades will enable renewal.

Too much focus on the people involved just obscures the circumstance in which they operated.


FACT 4 – Being expert in managing factions gave Clark an advantage in MMP.

The irony however is in that with a majority in caucus being of the ABC persuasion, when he was the choice of the wider party, we have continuance of the caucus and party divide that began their problems 30 years ago. And for the same reason, those dominant in caucus “knew better” (about policy or who should be leader).

FACT 5 – Cunliffe will only get confidence from his caucus if the membership of it changes or he wins an election.

FACT 6 – Labour Leaders are now required to retain the trust of their party, and thus the idea that a caucus leader can lead the party in new directions without first getting a mandate is now buried. The party can no longer be hijacked by turning its leader or finance spokesperson – a message to Treasury, whether in domestic and international aspect, as much as to the caucus.

Whether this makes for a more left wing party is harder to say. The party activist is less likely to want caucus to compromise for centrist votes, yet a more open party means more internal diversity and a broader base membership.


‘Ad’ on Labour’s predicament

Amongst some predicable knee-jerk messenger attacks in response Kiwi in America’s essay on Labour’s failings there’s been some interesting contributions.

‘Ad’ has commented at The Standard:

It’s a thoughtful piece.

I agree with the general point in it that the caucus talent is thin, and that this is the primary cause of succession difficulties. I cannot think of any around me in my forties who would consider it.

I also agree that the rump of the Lange-Moore administration forms the ABC club that has actively fought renewal from day one.

I don’t buy the Clark conspiracy. I simply view comprehensive and systemic HR internal promotion and selection as being part of successful leadership.

The difficulties that David Cunliffe is facing are not caused by Helen Clark’s legacy. They are different.

Firstly to get where he is, those seeking to reform the party from within have had to engage in nearly a decade of careful momentum-building. This included the Labour Party constitutional reforms mentioned in the piece in 2012. Given the intransigence and hard internal attacks of the rump, there was no alternative but to spend considerable energy focussing inwards paving the way for change. This no doubt appeared unattractive and blunted grassroots political evangelical confidence, but strengthened party membership and mechanisms considerably.

Secondly, Cunliffe’s principle of meritocratic promotion of talent, rather than promotion for factional control, is going to take time to weed out the poor performers and invite talent to compete and win selection. National’s internal reforms of caucus have certainly been easier precisely because the churn enables more strivers to see a future pathway to power. Meritocratic promotion is in my view the only way to break down factions, but it’s root and branch, and it takes years.

Third, the policy platform is having to be rebuilt from scratch. It’s a different path from both Clark and Lange/Douglas. David Cunliffe has had only since the abrupt leadership change barely six months ago to get this going.

Finally, changing leader one year out from election has a massive drop in momentum internally. We can see that through the uneven changes in his leaders’ office. I am not yet convinced that the media team there are coherent, for example. That is only an illustration of the internal shifts that the entire supporter, membership and caucus groups have to go through.

On David’s side are a few things.
First, how close Labour got last time. In MMP it really is down to the wire. The essay writer appears to have left political activism under FPP and does not understand that it really is down to a 2-3% shift in National’s fortunes and all is in play.

Secondly, Labour understand their base far better, and are mobilising far better than previously.

Finally, it’s him. As Colin James said in March this year, when he’s at his best, David Cunliffe is better than John Key. The vital question is whether those around him allow him to enable his confidence, surefooted preparation, and his kind of future Prime Minister, to be made apparent.


I can go along with what Ad is saying. It IS going to be close, right down to the wire – but there are a number of things going for Labour which are “behind the scenes” so to speak, and time will tell if what is happening there will achieve the result we want.


A very good summing of Labour’s position Ad. Thanks.

But I don’t agree with the assumption that the caucus talent is thin. I think there is quite a bit of latent talent that, for various reasons, didn’t get a chance to see the light of day under the Clark/Goff/ Shearer regimes. Add to them the fact it seems likely a number of people will join the caucus later this year who will significantly boost the talent pool.


Outline them, and what they have contributed.

No response to that.

Why Labour is Struggling

Worthwhile reading for anyone interested in Labour’s progress (or lack thereof). Kiwi in America is an ex Labour activist with an in depth knowledge of the party.

Guest Post – Why is Labour Struggling in 2014? An Essay on the History of Labour’s Predicament

David asked me to guest post this while he was away so here’s some reading over this stormy Easter weekend (I’m in soggy Christchurch as I write this). With Labour consistently polling between 28 and 34% (current poll of polls has Labour at just under 31%) since its defeat in 2008, it has a number of problems convincing voters that they are an alternative government in waiting for the 2014 election. Labour’s problems are three fold and the purpose of this essay is to posit the origins of their problems by drawing on my time inside Labour to provide some explanations:

1 – Why its policies are less appealing to the vote rich centre ground of NZ politics
2 – Why Labour has such a shallow pool of caucus talent from which to choose an attractive leader
3 – How, under MMP, Labour have boxed themselves into a relatively narrow ideological centre left electoral corridor crowded out to the left by the Greens and Mana and to the right by National

KIA goes into detail on Labour’s recent history. He concludes:

Labour was once a great party. It attracted people of energy, passion and ability from many walks of life. It had reforming zeal usually tempered by the realism of its once broader membership base and if it went too far, the voters returned the Treasury benches to the safer hands of National.

Labour’s 1984 to 87 Cabinet, despite their leftist roots, embarked on a series of dramatic reforms that have transformed NZ into the more vibrant and dynamic economy it is today.

The left of the party waged a war so total and absolute to purge the party of that instinct that it has destroyed modern Labour and left it a shrunken left leaning shell of its former self that struggles to attract electable talent, will not rejuvenate its caucus, offers policies that excite only 25% of the country and fights with the Greens (who are seen as more pure and virginal) for the centre left vote.

The harder left base are tone deaf to the electoral realities of New Zealand politics believing that they will win the day if the great unwashed knew what was good for them and if the policies of the left were articulated better.

Without a major change of direction, Labour’s prescription is a recipe for long term electoral oblivion!

Posted at: http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/04/guest_post_-_why_is_labour_struggling_in_2014_an_essay_on_the_history_of_labours_predicament_.html

Grim Easter poll for Labour

An awful poll result for Labour. National are back up again.

National 48.5% (+5.5%)
Labour 28.5% (-3.5%)
Greens 11.5% (-1.5%)
NZFirst 5.5% (no change)
Conservatives 2% (-0.5)
Maori Party 1% (-0.5)
Mana 1% (+.5)
Internet Party 1% (+0.5)
Act 0.5% (no change)
UF 0% (-0.5)
Other 0.5%

Roy Morgan poll

Roy Morgan 14-04-13

“Right-wing Corin” and media bias

Corin Dann, TVNZ’s political editor, has been called on the resign “as his bias is a national disgrace” and an anti-GCSB protester now wants David Cunliffe to use the GCSB to spy on use the GCSB to track payments to MSM stooges like Corin Dann.

Without any apparent awareness of irony Dann’s interview of Cunliffe has been labelled “a nasty Tory disgrace”.

It’s common for people passionate about politics to lash out at news items and interviews that they don’t like. This is similar to what frequently happens in social media, if something or someone is deemed to be negative to a cause they are labelled as extreme opposites.

There is a good example of this on Labour’s Facebook page where they posted:

This morning the next Prime Minister, David Cunliffe, was on Q+A talking housing, a strong economy, and our cooperative relationship with the Greens.

We’d love to hear your feedback.

Link to interview: Cunliffe: Scrap National’s State Housing Policy (8:23)

Here is one response, from John McCartney:

Right-wing Corin, up to his usual nasty Tory line of questioning and tricks. How much is he being paid to spout the right-wing’s patsy questions? This is as bad, if not worse, than Shane Taurima’s apparent Left-wing bias. At least Shane did the honourable thing and resigned.

Corin should resign as his bias is a national disgrace. His blue tie, blue undies, blue “I love National badge” were all showing and it’s a disgrace to journalism.

About time for an inquiry into MSM media bias. When David is elected PM, he should use the GCSB to track payments to MSM stooges like Corin Dann.

It’s a nasty Tory disgrace.

Seeking responses in social media can be a double edged sword for parties. The aim is to encourage praise to to show how well supported they are, but it can also attract bizarre and extreme comments that don’t look good for the party.

Interviewers are supposed to challenge and press politicians of all leanings. They are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

I’ve often seen Corin Dann described as being soft on the left (and in much more critical language). That’s the nature of political commentary, disagreeing invokes extreme opposite abuse.

It’s preposterous to suggest that a Labour (or any) Government would use the GCSB to do anything like “track payments to MSM stooges like Corin Dann”.

Even more so when you see what John McCartney has posted criticising the GCSB and spying (he was active on a Facebook page Revoke the GCSB Bill).

Election year should sort it. End of story and end of GCSB.

OMG John Campbell – there are enemies of the state in New Zealand. Quick, urge politicians to give GCSB more power to catch the powder senders!!!! Hurry up and get them do it under urgency – we need to be safe from these spies and enemies that are sending powder to innocent people.


A comment on a blog post The GCSB Act – some history…

It was 92 people illegally spied on by GCSB (or other agencies) and Peter Dunne himself was one of them, Andrea Vance was the other, the Cuppagate journalist and the Cuppagate journailist’s lawyer were the others….

Grow some cochones Dunne and veto this abhorrent GCSB Bill.

McCartney was the twentieth of 203 people to pledge on #stoptheGCSBbill

John McCartney has pledged on 1 project.

And a comment on TVNZ Shane Jones unapologetic for targeting PM’s ‘sensitive spot’

John McCartney · The University of Auckland

Hmm…. bit colourful Jonesy. But we have had had a Prime Minister and his band of merry men and wonen who have rammed thruogh GCSB Laws, masterminded a Sky City CONvention Centre, paid a bribe to Tiwai Aluminium to stay in NZ..better to have the comments in public, than John Key being forwarded the comments by the GCSB. It’s ok for JK to talk about his vasectomy, but when the microscope goes on his sensitive parts by somebody else he blushes.

Methinks he doth protest too much.

McCartney is protesting a bit much about Dann’s interview with Cunliffe.  And his proposal to spy on journalists using the GCSB he has actively campaigned against is hypocritical and absurd.

Media will always appear to be biased to people like McCartney – except when media gives favourable coverage to their favourite politicians.

Could a minority Labour lead a coalition?

Cunliffe’s Labour has shown that it wants to contest the election alone and not alongside the Greens. Part of the reason for that is to keep options open with both Greens and NZ First, and acknowledges the reality that NZ First could decide if the next government is National or Labour led.

Labour has also indicated over time that they see themselves as the major party of the left, even to the extent of implying they are deserving the majority of the votes from the centre-left and left.

But the way things are shaping up, especially if the Internet Party picks up some if the votes from the left, Labour may struggle to hold it’s current share.

Labour have been polling in the low thirties in the polls, as they did leading up to the last election. They ended up getting 27% in 2011.

The following spread of support is not out of the question:

  • Labour 25%
  • Greens 15%
  • NZ First 10%
  • Mana/Internet Party 4%

It would be enough to form a Government should NZ First go that way, or if NZ First stayed on the cross benches. But Labour would have a minority in that mix, 25% to 29%.

That would be an very interesting scenario.

Could we have a minority Labour Cabinet?



Cannabis law reform alive overseas, dead as a cold turkey here

Cannabis law changes are happening around the world, including in some US states. But the chances of anything happening on it here in the foreseeable future look slim.

The use and abuse of cannabis and the associated legal and criminal issues surrounding cannabis in New Zealand are substantial, but politicians don’t want to go there.

National are not likely to consider let alone allow any relaxing of the laws related to cultivation and use of cannabis.

David Cunliffe has said Labour are not interested in doing anything.

“They can put on the table what they want to put on the table, but Labour’s policy is not to decriminalise cannabis,” says Mr Cunliffe.

‘They’ is the Greens but they don’t seem very interested. From Labour, Greens crack over cannabis views:

If the Green Party had its way it would immediately allow for medicinal marijuana and legal action for violent offences would be prioritised over possession.

The next step is decriminalisation with a legal age limit of 18.

For one party it’s the only issue, and before joining the Greens Ms Turei was a member of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party.

“It won’t be one of our major priorities, but it is our policy and we’re not ashamed of that,” she says.

And when interviewed on The Nation last week Russel Norman also sounded less than enthusiastic.

And that could include carrying on fracking, now decriminalisation of cannabis. We had Colin Craig on here, he spoke to Simon a few weeks ago – we asked him this, have you ever smoked a joint? Have you ever smoked a joint?

Yeah, yeah, of course I’ve smoked a joint.

Yeah, so decriminalisation of cannabis, that’s a Green party policy, it’s been a Green party policy down the ages. Will you pursue that in a Labour/Green government?

It’s still part of our policy and so whether it’s part of the priorities – so what we do is before each election is we announce our ten point priority list, right? And we did it last time and we’ll do it again this time and so in any post-election negotiations, you’ll know the what are the key areas we’re going to prioritise. So, I doubt –

So where will that be?

Yeah, yes. So I doubt – we haven’t decided it, right? But I doubt that decriminalisation will be one of the top ten. But, that’s up to the party to decide, but I doubt that will be.

Sure, ok. So, decriminalisation, you’re not into it really. But the TPP -

Well, no Paddy. You can paraphrase it like that, but it doesn’t mean that we -

But let’s move on…

Not a priority and Norman virtually ruled it out of any coalition negotiations where Greens would have most chance of making something happen.

With none of the three largest parties interested in initiating anything on cannabis law reform, and no sign of any small parties being interested, the chances if anything happening look as alive as a cold turkey.


Jones – Labour needs to pull finger

Labour list MP Shane Jones has acknowledged that Labour as a team needs to pull finger “or face a bleak future”.

Jones has just been interviewed on The Nation. He was asked what he thought of David Cunliffe’s performance.

While he understandably sidestepped that question he spoke with far more candour than most MPs would on the current state of Labour support.

He said it wasn’t just a problem with Cunliffe, he laid the responsibility on the whole Labour caucus, and all of them needed to do far better.

He acknowledged that 29% in a poll was not good, and that all the Labour MPs needed to work hard to lift their popularity. He believed that they would rise in the polls as we get closer to the election.

Jones said:

Unless we pull finger we’re looking at a bleak future.

He needs some of his colleagues to acknowledge the reality of their paltry polling. Blaming opponents, blaming bad polling and blaming media unfairness is hiding from the stark truth.

Labour are down and they have to accept and address their faults and problems, they need to take responsibility.

The need to stop pointing finger and as Jones says, pull finger.

Labour’s fraudulent claim

Labour are attacking National on welfare fraud and tax dodging. This image is being promoted on Facebook and Twitter, labeled “National priorities”:

Tax dodging


Leader David Cunliffe has joined in:

Welfare fraud, $23 million = National obsession. Tax dodging, $6 BILLION = National doing nothing.

National has not done nothing on tax dodging. The current (and previous) Government put a lot of resources into trying to reduce tax avoidance and the prevent tax evasion and identify evasion and take action against those who break the law.

From the IRD Annual report 2013:

Improving Compliance

  • The Court of Appeal unanimously held that the Optional Convertible Notes (OCN) arrangement entered into by Alesco and 12 other taxpayers, involved tax avoidance. The total amount at issue in all OCN cases is over $300 million.
  • We released Inland Revenue’s Interpretation Statement on tax avoidance which gives greater certainty to our customers.
  • This year, we collected tax revenue of $53.8 billion and $1.2 billion of other revenue. This is a 10.0% increase from the previous year.
  • Our information sharing has enabled the Ministry of Social Development to cancel more than 3,000 benefits being paid to people who were not entitled to them.
  • This year, total overdue debt increased by 1% compared to an increase of 7% in each of the previous two years.
  • We had a 3.5% decrease in the number of outstanding returns. This is the first time we have seen a year-on-year
  • reduction in ten years.

On avoidance:

Avoidance is where taxpayers seek to reduce or even eliminate their obligation to pay tax. This often involves structures with complex financial arrangements between companies, trusts, or charities, sometimes with international links. Our approach to countering avoidance has been to:

  •  gather intelligence and conduct research on inappropriate use of these structures
  •  assist and educate taxpayers if they are unsure of their obligations
  •  investigate their tax affairs and take legal action where there is deliberate non-compliance.

Recent judgments have generally upheld our position on avoidance and we have a firm legal basis that supports our view.

Tax avoidance interpretation statement

On 1 July 2013, we issued Inland Revenue’s interpretation statement about tax avoidance following a public consultation period which opened in December 2011. The statement now gives both Inland Revenue and the tax community greater certainty on the principles that Inland Revenue will apply in reaching a view on whether an arrangement is tax avoidance or not.

The report details a number of cases and business categories where they are addressing avoidance issues.

A large proportion of the core outstanding debt is not from ‘dodging’ or avoidance, it is from penalties and interest:

IRD core debt

It could legitimately be argued whether National puts too much emphasis on welfare fraud, or too little effort into tax ‘dodging’ .

But claiming the total overdue debt of $6 billion is all due to tax dodging and claiming that National is ‘doing nothing’ could amount to political fraud.

Overstating things and making false claims detracts from the point Labour is trying to make – and it’s dishonest.

Update: Chester Borrows (Minister for Courts, Associate Minister of Justice) has tweeted:

Welfare fraud budget flat after 40% up under Lab, tax fraud budget up 40% under Nats. Actions speak louder than words mate.

Labour’s listening?

Yesterday David Cunliffe promoted a trip to Kawerau on social media. One was of him speaking…

Cunliffe Kawerau 1

…but his support team don’t appear to be listening.


Cunliffe Kawerau 2

…in this one Cunliffe appears to be listening (and he may be) but the ear muffs have been pointed out.

These photos were published on Cunliffe’s Twitter feed and his Facebook page.

Little things can make a big difference with political perceptions. When a leader is struggling they are susceptible to even more than normal scrutiny and criticism.

Shooting and feet have been mentioned a lot. Cunliffe’s media team have to be careful to avoid dishing out ammunition.


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