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.

“Nice guys don’t last long in this game.”

In an NZ Herald article on David Shearer’s demise as Labour leader a sad observation is made:

The Mana Party’s Hone Harawira said he always found Mr Shearer to be “very, very friendly and very open”.

“I think that was probably his downfall. Nice guys don’t last long in this game.”

That’s how Harawira sees it, and I know others in politics see it that way. I was this told myself recently on Whale Oil.

It’s rubbish.

This sounds to me like it is an attempt to excuse bad behaviour, to excuse politicians who act awfully.

Some of the longest standing politicians in Parliament are widely regarded as decent, nice people – for example Phil Goff and Peter Dunne, both MPs since the 1980s.

There are also long serving MPs with reputations of being not so nice at times, like Trevor Mallard, Winston Peters and Clayton Cosgrove.

Politicians can be strong and still by nice. That means standing up and challenging the nastiness, and make it clear it doesn’t belong in Parliament. MPs are the people’s representatives, so they should represent decent and honourable behaviour.

Politics needs more nice guys and women. Strong and principled works best with nice.

Cosgrove proves Garner’s coup claim

On RadioLive this afternoon Duncan Garner spoke of his involvement in kicking off the public part of last night’s coup talk.

David Shearer will be gone as Labour leader soon – Duncan Garner – Audio

He also explained how coups work.

This is how coups work. This is how the destabilising campaigns work.

They’re not decisive, they’re slow, they’re unsure, and everyone involved in them is worried about being outed.

And Labour’s denials today are absolutely normal, this is how it works.

I have never had an MP say to me

“Ah, you’re bang on about this one, this is a coup. You’ve got me! We’re replacing him, how did you know?”

They never say that.

And Grant Robertson saying all MPs are behind Shearer is nonsense. They have never all been behind Shearer Grant, you know that.

MPs today in the Labour Party, and my source as well within that caucus, is lying to cover their butts.

That’s how it works.

This is part of the destabilising campaign.

Labour MPs are moving on Shearer, make no mistake, they’re undermining him, and their assurances they are supporting him are in my opinion not worth anything.

There are a number of MPs who have a lot to lose if Shearer goes, I’m talking Annette King, Phil Goff, Trevor Mallard, and Sky City Cosgrove when he comes on this afternoon.

Those people lead the ABC club, that’s the Anyone But Cunliffe club. If the leadership changes those careers are over, that’s why they want David Shearer to stay in the mix.

I’ll talk to Cosgrove after 5 o’clock, he’s got a few secrets himself about loyalty, I’m sure he will not want to discuss too many of those.

But make no mistake, Labour will attack me on this, they will attack my credibility, they will try and discredit me, that’s not new.

That is how a coup works.

Then after 5 – Clayton Cosgrove and Duncan Garner go head-to-head over Shearer and coup – Audio

There was too much talking over and too little of substance actually said to bother transcribing any.

Cosgrove didn’t try to answer any questions – he denied by avoiding answering.

He attacked Garner from the very first opportunity.

He attacked Garner’s credibility.

He tried to discredit Garner.

He proved everything Garner said previously. He seemed to clearly prove – That is how a coup works.

The only think that wasn’t clear was whether Cosgrove deliberately signalled that Garner was right, or whether he couldn’t hide old habits or was oblivious he was proving Garner’s point.

Was it recorded? If Cosgrove had heard Garner’s earlier spiel he wouldn’t have followed Garners coup recipe to the letter. Unless he wanted to prove Garner right without being open and honest.

Manhire mentions Labour’s ‘C’ word

Labour’s “C” word has come up again.

In an NZ Herald column Toby Manhire details some of Labour’s bad “optics”. Rugby tests:

For the decision by a quartet of Labour MPs to accept the invitation from SkyCity to enjoy their generous hospitality and a sweet view of the first France test was staggering in its myopia.

On its own, the SkyCity box thing does not a Labour party crisis make. But it fits a pattern.

Shearer’s bank account:

David Shearer’s admission in March that he had overlooked and failed to declare several thousand dollars in a New York bank account was a nightmare for Labour, skewering two of the attacks levelled at the prime minister: that his wealth distances him from normal people, and those forgetfulness issues.

Shearer in Parliament:

In his contribution to the urgent parliamentary debate on the Peter Dunne resignation the other day – a debate Shearer personally demanded – the Labour leader appeared to be reading from a script that had been torn up and sellotaped together at random.

All examples of a wider problem.

While a handful of Labour front-benchers have creditably countered the ministers they shadow, rarely has it been knitted into a wider, cohesive argument. The Labour argument has looked as unswerving as the windsock at Wellington airport.

Like just about everyone but Labour’s caucus management the Green’s can see the problem:

On TV3’s The Nation last weekend, Russel Norman said that voters “don’t want us to carp on all the time, but they do want us to speak strongly where it’s important”. He might easily have been critiquing the Labour party. The approach is all tactics, and no strategy.

And Labour keep repeating the same tactics that have been failing, over and over.

Then Manhire mentioned the ‘C” word. That “C” word.

They need a shake. An adrenaline shot. A risk, even. It’s now seven months since David Cunliffe was sent to the naughty step – expelled from the front bench for failing to squash talk of an insurrection.

Clearly he continues to be seen as a divisive figure, but he’s also shown, even from the backwater of the tax spokesmanship, that he remains a formidable politician.

There’s little doubt that Labour’s most capable politician has been neutered – by his own caucus.

As for the – ahem – optics, the promotion of an MP who had served his time would project strength, evidence of the leader’s vaunted experience in conciliation. To those MPs who continue to feel aggrieved on Cunliffe’s part it would send a message that the infighting must end.

A risk, yes. But a necessary one. Shearer’s elevation to and retention of the leadership has been enabled, so we’re told, by the weight of the Anyone-but-Cunliffe sentiment in the Labour caucus.

Cunliffe’s capabilities should have been used straight after the leadership contest that Shearer won. But Shearer semi banished him.

Then the leadership rumours swirling around last October’s Labour conference led to further banishment of Cunliffe. Shearer’s strategists seemed to think it showed strong leadership, and in the short to some that’s how it looked.

But it further weakened Labour.

And Labour will be furtheer weakened when Liane Dalziel resigns later this year. A caucus struggling for credibility will be less one of it’s most credible MPs.

Less than 18 months out from the election, that Anyone-but-Cunliffe needs rethinking. Anything but carry on like this.

That’s how it probably looks to everyone outside the Labour caucus. But on past evidence Cunliffe will remain neutered. And Labopur will keep repeating the same failed strategies.

Shearer has re-employed Fran Mold – party communications may have been worse since she left a few months ago but they were hardly good when she was last in control. Labour are repeating the same old.

Labour wasted their first post Clark term under Phil Goff.

They have pretty much wasted half of this term under Shearer. And that looks like continuing.

It may take another election loss to jolt them into genuine rebuilding. If they’re lucky.

Labour may blunder into Government after the next election – and as weak as they are now holding together a coalition with Greens and Winston Peters when they can’t work together themselves looks likely to be a disater waiting to happen.

Not just a disaster for the coalition.
Not just a disaster for Parliament.

But also a disaster for Labour. It could be enough to bury the party. Labour’s “C” word may be “carked”.


Labour MPs at Eden Park

It’s hard to believe that a minor story I first heard about last Sunday is still getting attention.

Just about everyone is rolling their eyes at MPs, especially senior MPs, leaving themselves open to almost inevtiable embarrassment.

I don’t think it’s a big deal but it was greedy and dumb.

And the way Labour has managed (or not managed ) the story through the week has been weak.

But I wonder what Sky City were up to. Surely they would have known the likely consequences – especially if they also invited people who were bound to notice and make a meal out of it (it’s turned out being a banquet).

Were Goff, King and Faafoi set up? They certainly took the bait and have been hooked, harpooned and lampooned. Silly buggers.

And who would know what Shearer was up to?

Chauvel swipes at Shearer, and calls for Goff and Mallard to go?

In his valedictory statement in Parliament today Charles Chauvel has been critical of David Shearer’s shadow cabinet, and appears to have called for Phil Goff and Trevor Mallard to step down.

Sir, I’ve been a member of ther Labour Party since 1985. In my view it remains the greatest force for meaningful social change in this country. It continues to offer energy, ideas and talent from it’s ranks that would adorn any cabinet.

I want to express publicly now, two hopes that I’ve confided to David Shearer in private.

First, I sincerely wish that he will be Prime Minister in a Labour led government at the end of next year. I regret that I won’t be his Attorney General, and I appreciate a statement that he share’s that regret.

Secondly, it’s unproductive to keep trying to locate and exclude the supposed enemy within.

Instead in order to avoid history repeating, it’s time for an honest, open and overdue assessment of why the 2011 campoaign produced Labour’s worst ever electoral result.

Those responsible for it should make dignified exits, and all the undoubted talent and diversity of the caucus should be included in the shadow cabinet.

To put it in another way, in Gough Whitlam’s immortal words, the party must have both it’s wings to fly.

It’s obvious Chauvel is talking about the deep division between what are seen as the David Shearer supporters camp (or ABC) and the David Cunliffe camp.

The recent reshuffle did not repair the rift. There have been pointed claims that Shearer rewarded those who backed  him in the leadership vote earlier this month, and punished those who did not vote for him plus David Cunliffe who pledged to vote for Shearer but seems to be still in the naughty corner after the overblown “coup” attempt last lear.

Chauvel does not think Shearer’s new lineup adequately addresses the division.

And Chauvel also called fore “dignified exits” of those resonsible for the poor election result (they are at least partly responsible for some of the division since).

IrishBill names names at The Standard:

I’m pleased he called for Phil and Trevor to go (10’50″) it’s about time someone from caucus came out and said that.

That’s just further identification of Goff and Mallard as major causes of disatisfaction and division in the party.


I noted Moana Mackey and Lianne Dalziel appeared not too far from tears. Two equally fine and intelligent MPs who paid a price for supporting David Cunliffe.

I don’t know if it was coincidental or not that Dalziel and Mackey were in shot throughout his speech. Cunliffe was immediately to his left.

Chauvel valedictory

hush minx:

A fine and thoughtful speech. I noted there were some less than happy looks on the faces of the front bench at the end. He has set them a challenge that they have failed so far. Now is the time for them to step up, but it’s come at the cost of a good mp who understood the best of what labor can be.

The chances of Shearer, Goff or Mallard taken much notice of this let alone action is very slim, if past actions are any indication of their refusal to accept responsibility and repair the problems.

Video link: Valedictory – Charles Chauvel – 27th February, 2013

Update: See also The Chauvel valedictory at Kiwiblog and on Charles’ valedictory at The Standard

Labour’s ‘Hit Squad’, and feet

Vernon Small comments at Stuff:

Behind them, keeping them honest, will be former leader Phil Goff and the demoted but not forgotten Trevor Mallard. They will team up as the nucleus of a new “hit-squad”, with extra research and media resources to dig and dish the dirt.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog pointed this out, and responds:

Mind you, they could be quite effective. They successfully destroyed David Cunliffe’s career through background briefings to media, so if they can manage that with one of their own colleagues they might be able to do it with other MPs!

But it’s a lot easier to influence the actions of their own puppet than it is of an opposing party leader.

Key didn’t exactly demote Judith Collins after Mallard’s big attempted hit last year – and arguably by drawing Andrew Little in to his game playing Mallard may have hindered Little’s climb up the ranks.

Little was 15 on Labour’s 2011 list and is now ranked 19.

Mallard was 9 in 2011, he is now unranked in the under 20 group.

It’s easier to succeed in shooting oneself in the foot than taking potshots at opponents.

Labour’s ongoing divide

Another party member lays bare the problems within Labour.

29 December 2012 at 6:55 am

—-What is characterising and feeding the ongoing divide?

In 2009 an approach to counter Key was necessary: a Hi-profile Leadership strategy was chosen.

This became the mantra under both Goff and Shearer: and anything that might distract from a singular public image of Labour being personified through the Leader became verboten.

That is now characterised by the obsession with The Standard by the Caucus insiders and their staff.

The membership 60/40 vote at Conference only confirmed and strengthened an atmosphere of paranoia.

There are other behaviours, events and attitudes that are characteristic of what is driving the divide in the party.

  • The Tamihere thing, so soon after a divisive Conference when calm was needed, involved wanton disregard of the membership’s wishes.
  • The continuation of the four years of marginalising Cunliffe is another example.
  • The dissing of “not one of us” MPs, and now members, is a characteristic.
  • The offering of Labour seats to prominent figures on condition that they buy into the one-voice one-leader mantra is a characteristic of the behaviour splitting the party.
  • The not-left not-right stance by the Leadership on social issues is one characteristic that is driving most activist members nuts.
  • The mis-management of the very poor public performances for so long, followed by a strategy of only allowing the Leader to speak in rehearsed set-pieces is driving the rest of the members nuts.

–How can the destructive spell be broken and the ground prepared for a Labour victory in 2014?

The attitude behind the behaviour above must change.

But there is no sign of any change in attitude in Labour leadership.The silencings will continue until moral improves.

A growing crisis, ignored.

Goff’s advice to Shearer

In an NZ Herald profile – Indefatigable Goff stays true to putting party before person – Phil Goff gives David Shearer some advice:

“Insofar as I’d give advice, it would be ‘stay true to yourself, do the things you believe in and show people who the real David Shearer is. Speak from your heart as well as your head’.”

I agree with that advice, but it’s interesting that Goff says this as a major reason why he didn’t get traction as Labour leader was because he didn’t come across as being true to himself, his body language betrayed his verbal language.

And Shearer suffers from the same problem. His hesitancy and mistakes suggest a lack of confidence and lack of belief in what he’s saying. As he stumbles through interviews it’s easy to imagine him distracted as he comtemplates all the coaching and advice he’s been getting.

Shearer is a poor actor under pressure.

If he is to survive and succeed as a leader Shearer certainly needs to listen to advice – more widely than he does now – but he then  make his own decisions, he needs to be seen to be himself and present himself as authentic and genuine, rather than a fumbling fake as he looks now.

In fact Shearer seems to be getting worse the more he gets corrupted by over coaching and a small coterie of colleagues who have a history of strategic blundering.

Shearer may improve if he follows Goff’s advice, but not his example.


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