Labour try to moderate members’ and blog behaviour

The Labour Party are trying to improve the behaviour of MPs and party members for the upcoming leadership contest. A letter has been emailed to members, and at least one blog has been requested to remove a post (which The Standard complied with).

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports that a letter has been sent to Labour Party members in Labour member told to keep behaviour in check:

Labour’s President Moira Coatsworth has sent an email to all Labour Party members telling them to keep their behaviour in check during the upcoming leadership contest.

The party’s rules are require members and leadership candidates to abide by a code of conduct – and Ms Coatsworth was clearly keen to emphasise the importance of that.

“Robust exchanges about the merits of any candidate for leadership need to be based on performance and attributes which are relevant to their ability to be the Labour Leader. Members (including candidates for leadership) should not directly or indirectly refer to a candidate for leadership in a way which is denigrating or disrespectful.

“Members should be cautious to ensure that any statements they make are factually accurate and fair. They should ensure that any public comment on the candidates, the Party and the leadership election system uphold the status of the Party and its chances of election to Government, and do not bring it into disrepute.”

Mr Barnett said earlier today that the aim was to run a fair and democratic process and it was not unusual to try to stop damage by over zealous supporters when the candidates themselves were bound by a Code of Conduct.

Labour’s acting leader David Parker said he had given a similar message to the MPs.

The letter was posted by party member Phil Quinn.

Mr Quin took exception to the instructions, labelling them as “a sinister Orwellian gambit designed to restrict speech.” He wrote back to Ms Coatsworth asking who was charged with ruling on breaches of the rules and what the consequences were.

I agree with the principles of behaviour detailed by Coatsworth but you would think that telling people what they should or shouldn’t do in social media would be red rag to a bull.

Not so at The Standard where a post that was highly critical of Clayton Cosgrove has been removed at the request of Labour’s General Secretary Tim Barnett.

lprent: At the request of Tim Barnett, Labour’s returning officer, the Karen Price/Clayton Cosgrove post has been withdrawn during the primary.

lprent elaborates in a comment:

In a most unusual step, I had Tim Barnett, Labours general secretary, request that I remove the Clayton Cosgrove post.
Rather than make this leadership issue more corrosive than it already is and because I am sometimes moderately cooperative to polite requests. I have removed it from public view. It will be restored back to being visible after the election is completed.

This is unusual from someone who usually claims to be strongly independent of Labour MPs or party management (despite being a long time active party member).

How much will the party try to control what can be said in social media? And what will they do to members who don’t comply with their requests?

The Standard post:

Cosgrove, the whining MP

Written By:   Date published:8:56 am, October 2nd, 2014 – 103 comments
Categories: blogs, Politics – Tags: 

In case anyone had missed it amongst the nasty and vicious level of attacks on David Cunliffe, Karen Price has been on twitter having a go at the people attacking her husband. As Brian Edwards put it in “Shock! Horror! Wife defends husband!!!!”

I suspect that she’d rather not be the wife of a politician. But the wife of a politician she is and he happens to be the newly resigned Leader of the Opposition and his party and much of the country has turned its face against him. And much of what is being said about Karen Price’s husband really isn’t very nice. Tough call!

Well, her method of attacking those who were attacking her husband might not have been well-advised and might have been lacking in Machiavellian subtlety, but you really have to admire it. “Good on you, Karen!” I say. “Well done!” “No apology required.” Those people are assholes anyway.

Amongst the various bits of media debris was this gem from an old fossil Clayton Cosgrove, Labour list MP talking about Karen Price :-

Mr Cosgrove said Mr Cunliffe must have known about his wife’s account.

“Let me put it this way. If my partner set up a Twitter account to attack members of the caucus I would know about it.”

Mr Cunliffe rejected this claim.

But I’d have to say that Clayton Cosgrove is an old fossil quite unsuited for the modern world. All his statement above does is that it makes me wonder what frigging century he is in and why is he so damn certain?

And  I’m not surprised that David Cunliffe wasn’t aware.

If my partner Lyn was twittering or facebooking about me then I am probably the least likely to know. She has her own life, her own career, and her own interests. She wouldn’t appreciate me trying to pry into them too much. I’m not trying to keep her in some weird arse kiwi version of purdah. Mostly I just like it if she keeps me apprised on when she is going to be bugging off to film on remote polynesian islands, on the border between India and China, Shanghai, and other interesting places without good internet connections.

Conversely of course Lyn really isn’t that interested in the minutiae of local politics and my daily grind at The Standard, she usually groans a bit when I start talking about it.

Plus she is more engaged with that side of the social nets than I am and I don’t have time to follow either my own twitter or facebook feed more than sporadically.

This is similar to his comment about blogs.

Mr Cosgrove said Labour MPs had been very loyal to their former leader, yet had repeatedly found themselves attacked on blogs and other places online.

Now I make allowances for our average technophobic MPs who don’t understand the cultures of the net that have grown up over the last 3 decades. But this whining by Cosgrove has several bits of outright bullshit.

Firstly, I’ve been aware of some of his habits of whining and leaking to the press for many years whenever he is unhappy. He really hasn’t changed his pattern. It  is the same old one that I recognize from observing Mike Moore many years ago of “senior Labour MP(s)” and “senior Labour figures” blabbing to the press. Now there are probably other MPs with the same traits, but his statements to someone reading it from the inside are pretty distinctive to lex. He is after all an old fossil stuck in old habits.

Secondly, dissatisfied caucus MPs haven’t been particularly silent in their unhappiness with having the party members imposing David Cunliffe on them. The leaking and whining has been less in the past few months, but it has persisted throughout this year and last. Comments from various people around Wellington suggest to me that he was in the core of the attacks on Cunliffe both before and after his accession to the leadership. It sounds right to me and certainly fits his pattern. That is just my opinion, but I am pretty sure that it is  correct.

Thirdly, the left bloggers don’t have that much interest in being directed by politicians, in fact we tend get irritated when some whining fool suggests it. Sure some of us are loyal to various politicians for reasons of long association, but that particular bias is usually quite evident and well signalled. We’re not interested in doing that daft backdoor creeping of semi-anonymous attribution to gallery journos that Clayton Cosgrove seems to specialise in.

Finally, I suspect that Clayton is feeling a bit stung by some of my comments after the election when he started his destabilisation campaign post election. But I merely said what I thought. Clayton can suck it up and live with it.

Welcome to the modern world of publishing. Having privileged access to the press gallery with its incestuous world of traded favours is less useful than it used to be. The cost of running a major political site is about $300/mo and a lot of skill. The people publishing there are as good as their credibility in their chosen audience.

That I have enough credibility to say such opinions and have them believed is the result of hard work over the past 7 years. It isn’t the result of being a Slater style sockpuppet for people who pay for or request opinions. That isn’t real blogging.

That post went up at 8.56 am and the last comment was made at 3.01 pm. Maybe Clayton did more than just suck it up, and lprent blinked.

The last paragraph in lprent’s post is particularly ironic.

How far are Labour going requesting withdrawal of online posts or comments? How balanced will compliance be?

UPDATE: Labour’s full email:

“The agreed principles of our leadership election process are:

democratic integrity and certainty;
transparency and fairness;
membership participation; and
Party growth.
If the process is to deliver this, it must be conducted in a spirit of respect and with the realisation that many from outside the Party are watching the process. This applies across mainstream and social media, our husting meetings, other Party meetings and the informal networks which we all have. The greater our discipline the stronger our foundation will be to unite behind the leader who is selected.

New Zealand Council last night agreed the following expectations for Party members.

Robust exchanges about the merits of any candidate for leadership need to be based on performance and attributes which are relevant to their ability to be the Labour Leader.

Members (including candidates for leadership) should not directly or indirectly refer to a candidate for leadership in a way which is denigrating or disrespectful.

Members should be cautious to ensure that any statements they make are factually accurate and fair. They should ensure that any public comment on the candidates, the Party and the leadership election system uphold the status of the Party and its chances of election to Government, and do not bring it into disrepute.
I ask all members to comply with these expectations throughout the process.

Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. IGM

     /  3rd October 2014

    Obviously they are a unionised, envious rabble, not worthy of any consideration. The sooner they slither completely into the sewer the better for all NZ, especially if they take Hager, McCarten, Bradbury, Campbell, Vance, Slobcom, et al with them.

    Reply

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