Rumours are reported to be rumbling in the Labour camp, but Andrew Little denies there will be any major changes when he reshuffles his caucus following the the announcement that Clayton Cosgrove won’t stand again next election.
Cosgrove seemed to be in semi-retirement anyway.
Heather du Plessis-Allan reports on some insider moans in Labour needs a hero and a cause:
For a while now, everyone in the party has bravely kept painting their faces, putting on their party frocks and pretending life was peachy.
That’s the line that’s been spun. But…
I was killing time around Parliament, waiting for a minister. A Labour Party insider was killing time too. We got talking.
Andrew Little said this. Andrew Little said that. Tired of his cock-ups. Tired of being blamed for his mistakes.
It wasn’t a surprise morale in the Labour Party was low, it was a surprise someone was being honest about it.
It would have been surprising if there hadn’t been concerns expressed, privately at least, about Labour’s and Little’s performance. And this was before last week’s poor poll result and before Little’s flailing attacks on John Key this week.
Later that day, I walked through the arrivals gate at Auckland airport next to a well-connected political mover and shaker. We got talking. Trouble’s brewing in the Labour Party.
They’re talking of cutting Grant Robertson. They’re talking of cutting the chief of staff. Watch this space.
While the political buck stops at the top chief of staff Matt McCarten was recruited by David Cunliffe and that didn’t work well. Little retained McCarten in the critical role and that hasn’t worked out well.
If Little isn’t going then McCarten has to go. Something drastic has to change and that’s one of the few options Little has.
But shuffling Robertson out of the Finance role? That’s less likely for a couple of reasons. Dropping Robertson from Finance would be an admission of a failed gamble with Robertson and would threaten his whole Future of Work thing, something Little is probably reluctant to do.
And demoting Robertson from the most demanding of portfolio roles would give Robertson more time and a reason to reconsider his leadership ambitions.
In any case little says he is not including Robertson in his shuffle plans.
Claire Trevett writes in Labour to ‘rejig’ caucus:
Labour leader Andrew Little will do a “slight rejig” of his caucus this week after Clayton Cosgrove’s decision not to stand next year, but has ruled out changing key personnel such as finance spokesman Grant Robertson.
Little said he had no plans to replace Robertson.
“There will be some slight rejigging in the next week or so, but I’m not anticipating any significant changes.” There was speculation former finance spokesman David Parker could get the finance role back, but Little and Parker denied it had come up.
Little said nobody had suggested he change the finance spokesperson, and when he set up his Shadow Cabinet in 2014 he made it clear Robertson would be in the finance role until at least next year’s election. “I’m totally satisfied with Grant’s performance and have no intention of changing him out of the finance role.”
After stating that Little can’t drop Robertson.
So were the rumblings about Robertson discussed by Labour’s leadership?
Or does it reflect dissatisfaction further down the ranks?
Either is a potential problem for Labour.
What Little has committed to is a minor tweak of caucus roles. Cosgrove is ranked 18 and has hardly been seen over the last eighteen months, but relatively low profile responsibilities…
- Spokesperson for Commerce
- Spokesperson for Veterans’ Affairs
- Spokesperson for Tourism
- Associate Finance Spokesperson
…so re-assigning those will probably not give any indication that Labour are doing anything different.
So Little’s best option to vitalise (you can hardly revitalise something that has been on life support for nearly a decade) his leadership is replacing McCarten.
Chief of staff is a vital role in a party leadership team. Little is noticeably struggling. If he can find someone who will do the hard work for him behind the scenes, and who will give him frank and helpful advice, then he might (just might) find a way of looking like a future Prime Minister.
Little said the poll was “disappointing” but had not spooked him or the caucus. “We are struggling to get clear messages through on our priorities. We’ve got to work harder at that.”
But this week Little’s priorities seemed to be muddy messages dirt mongering, pretty much the opposite of what he says Labour should be doing.
It’s not a matter of working harder, it’s more a matter of working smarter. Much smarter.
And it would be a smart move to appoint a smart chief of staff.
But the biggest problem may be finding some one willing to try to sort out Labour’s mess.