Possible by-elections

There’s a couple of probable and several more possible by-elections in store before next year’s election (NBR’s Rob Hosking has suggested John Key should call an early election for later this year but I don’t see that happening).

It’s expected that Phil Goff will win the Auckland mayoralty so a Mt Roskill by-election seems very likely.

Maurice Williamson has just been appointed Consul-General in Los Angeles. Williamson had already indicated he would retire at the next election but now a by-election in his Pakuranga electorate looks possible, but RNZ says that “his start date is expected to be set late enough to avoid triggering a by-election”.

There has been speculation (but no definite sign) that Nanaia Mahuta may resign from Parliament. If she does that well before next year’s election then there would be a by-election in her Hauraki-Waikato electorate.

If the Auditor General comes down hard on Murray McCully over the Saudi sheep deal then McCully may bring forward his exit from his East Coast Bays electorate (he has announced he will step down at the next election).

It ‘has been rumoured’ (according to Matthew Hooton) that David Shearer might be offered ‘a senior appointment’ and leave his Mt Albert electorate. Shearer is at odds with Labour leader Andrew Little, regarded as too right wing.

Hooton is also speculating that Stuart Nash, another non-left Labour MP, may jump to the NZ First waka (there has been alternate party speculation and rumour with Nash for years). That would put his Napier seat up for grabs (I think that’s unlikely before the next general election).


Shearer on Syria and Turkey etc

David Shearer posted on Facebook:

Overnight, Turkey crossed the border into Syria: that’s a major escalation.

New York Times: Turkey, Sending More Tanks Into Syria, Steps Up Pressure on Kurds

BBC: Turkey warns Syrian Kurds to withdraw east of Euphrates

CNN: Why Turkey sending tanks into Syria is significantTurkish authorities have been pressed into taking action against ISIS by the surge of suicide bombings in Turkey, as well as the terror group’s use of safe houses and “informal” financial services on Turkish soil. But Turkey is anxious that ISIS’ vulnerability could provide an opportunity for their “other” enemy in northern Syria — the Kurdish YPG militia — who have taken several villages near Jarablus recently.

Syria, Iraq, Turkey, ISIS, the Kurds, Russia, USA, France – it’s very complicated.


The conflict in Syria is complicated, it’s horrific – almost daily there are serious breaches of humanitarian law including the bombing of hospitals. It’s something NZ is trying to lead on in the UN Security Council, sadly without much success.

Given the conflict has gone on for such a long time it can sometimes be hard to remember how it began. I’d recommend this backgrounder from the BBC:

Syria: The story of the conflict

More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in four-and-a-half years of armed conflict, which began with anti-government protests before escalating into a full-scale civil war. More than 11 million others have been forced from their homes as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule battle each other – as well as jihadist militants from so-called Islamic State. This is the story of the civil war so far, in eight short chapters.

Q & A – US Politics, Shearer, Nauru, Mahe

This morning on Q & A:

talks with Derek Shearer a former Bill Clinton advisor and US ambassador

And then talks about what NZ’s response should be to the

Leaked files detailing abuse of asylum seekers on Nauru speaks to a fmr aid worker abt what she saw

The Nauru revelations look awful, and it makes Australian handling of asylum seekers look awful.

Guardian: The Nauru files: cache of 2,000 leaked reports reveal scale of abuse of children in Australian offshore detention:

Exclusive: The largest cache of documents to be leaked from within Australia’s asylum seeker detention regime details assaults, sexual assaults and self-harm


I don’t know what New Zealand can do about it but some condemnation wouldn’t go amiss.

Also we’ll have the latest from | We will talk to defending Olympic champion + more

It will be good to see Mahe but I have no idea why Q & A devote some of their time to Olympic coverage when there is so much coverage elsewhere.

Little trying to forbid MPs associating

Andrew Little is trying to control who Labour MPs can associate with, but not very successfully.

Newstalk ZB: Labour MPs forbidden from associating with “right-wing” Wellington mayoral candidate

Wellington Mayoral candidate Nick Leggett appears to be public enemy number one for the Labour Party as its MPs are forbidden from associating with him.

Labour Leader Andrew Little has pulled rank, preventing MP Stuart Nash from speaking at an event where Mr Leggett was also speaking.

Mr Little said the event was for right-wingers who have routinely sought to undermine the Labour Party and it’s not right for a Labour MP to share a platform with people who do that.

And he’s making it clear he considers Nick Leggett, a former Labour Party member, a right-winger.

“His campaign manager is well-known ACT party identity. We know that there’s money from the right-wing that has gone into his campaign. He’s a right-wing candidate.”

This is stupid. Is Little going to stop Labour MPs and candidates from associating with right wingers and people who try to ‘undermine’ Labour during next year’s election as well as this year’s local body elections?

However, Leggett is laughing off suggestions he’s right wing.

Mr Leggett said he’s standing as an independent and doesn’t believe there’s a place for party politics in local government.

“I’ve got people that have worked on my campaign from all parts of the political spectrum, mainly Labour and National obviously. That’s local government, you unite around good ideas for the communities that you live in.”

Labour has endorsed current deputy mayor Justin Lester for the position.

Little doesn’t think it’s a good idea though. If Labour candidate Justin Lester wins the Wellington mayoralty will Little try to tell him who he can’t associate with? Councillors who until recently were members of the Labour Party?

And it gets stupider.

When it was pointed out to Little that David Shearer had attended the same function, Little said: “I’m saying it is not right for Labour MPs to be associated with events like that and with people who seek to undermine the Labour Party.”

Shearer attended – as any MP should be able to – but Nash was prevented from associating with Shearer and others by Little.

Will Little try to stop Labour MPs from associating with right wingers and people who try to undermine Labour in Parliament?

A blame and inflame campaign

David Shearer posted this on Facebook:


There’s currently 340 comments, ranging from this:

Meegan Edwards What a blatant waste of taxpayers money once again. I’m sure they would rather be elsewhere too. Paula Bennet is a self righteous unpleasant user who is where she is not because of hard work but because she got a hand up…and then some. Disgusting human.


Jonathan Taylor Good man. Show these cowards for what they are. If she needs body guards she needs to hire them. Members of the public would struggle to get that kind of protection. I wonder what dairy owners think when they know the respond times for serious crime then see this.


Mark Unsworth I have huge respect for David Shearer but that comment was total nonsense .David’s caucus colleague Phil Goff needed a similar police presence when he was Minister of Education and bravely faced protestors at Vic University.His former leader Helen Clark needed the same at Waitangi. Were they out of touch ? No- just doing their job

Jared Gibbs Also I doubt very much that the minsters themselves organise their own security detail.

I’m disappointed with this from Shearer. He should know that the Police decide what protection MPs require and provide it accordingly.

It is an ugly but essential sign of our democracy that MPs are seen to need Police protection.

Shearer is adding to a blame and inflame campaign against Bennett that has resulted so far in the claimed need for police protection – I don’t know who else was at the meeting and what it was about, nor whether the protection was specifically for Bennett.

Pat Allen I used to think Shearer was smart and had potential. But now I think he’s stupid. Doesn’t he see the correlation between his statement and Donald trumps promotion of violence. He should be condemning the people who threaten his fellow politicians, not blaming the politicians, whoever they are.

Blaming and inflaming can contribute to mad people doing bad things, like what happened in Orlando.

Newshub in March: Paula Bennett condemns Facebook shooting threat

Despite a violent social media post calling for her death, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett says she doesn’t want to have constant police protection while out in public. 

Ms Bennett today revealed someone on her Facebook page said she should be shot dead at her next public outing.

The post in question says: “People own guns out there i dare any1 2 shoot the b**** dead at hr next public appearance [sic].”

The person goes on to say they hope the Prime Minister is standing behind her so it’s “2 birds 1 bullet”.

It’s very sad to see this sort of thing in New Zealand politics, and Shearer should be well aware of the risks.

Newshub yesterday: Why the extra security for Paula Bennett and Nick Smith?

In an unusual move, a police bodyguard provided close protection for Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett and Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith at a public meeting in Auckland on Monday night.

The plainclothes police officers stood beside the ministers as they addressed the crowd at the housing meeting in Blockhouse Bay.

Usually only the Prime Minister requires the protection of the Diplomatic Protection Squad and his ministers travel freely.

Prime Minister John Key says the amount of police and security at the event was “standard”.

“When we have public meetings sometimes if the issue is particularly hot and we’re aware through social media you’re likely to get a significant number of protesters then the police attend those meetings and that’s a logical thing to do.”

But it’s not just the former Labour leader who is taking cheap political shots over police protection.

But Labour leader Andrew Little says security detail was required because the Government has angered the community over its failure to address the housing crisis.

“Ministers have been doing community meetings since time immemorial and last night they turned up with a security detail. Nick Smith did not speak without a security person being there within spitting distance of him.

“That tells you ministers are under siege, people are angry, they are concerned and they hold this Government responsible.”

Little is also guilty of excusing and legitimising the threat and blaming the Ministers.

It’s very sad to see the need for police protection for our Ministers.

And it’s sad to see Little and Shearer indulging in what looks like a blame and inflame campaign.

Little still mixed on TPPA

Andrew Little still seems to have mixed positions on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Patrick Gower:

So Little is loudly saying he is opposed to the TPP one minute, and then the next minute he’s quietly admitting he’d vote for the good bits. It is a Jekyll and Hyde show where Little is Jane Kelsey one minute and Phil Goff the next.

He tried to gloss over the Goff/Shearer/Helen Clark/et al elephant in Labour’s TPPA room in his ‘State of the nation’ speech yesterday:

I’d also like to acknowledge Phil Goff.

It’s funny, Phil seems to be at every gathering in Auckland with more than three people for some reason. Phil, this is going to be a big year for Auckland, and I know you’ll do a fantastic job as Mayor.

Little  may be looking forward to Goff resigning from Parliament if he wins the mayoralty, so he doesn’t figure in next year’s election lead up.

He addressed the TPPA directly later in his speech.

The truth is, this government has given up on the future.

They’ve been selling us short.

There’s no better example of this than the TPP agreement the government will sign next week at Sky City.

You know, over the summer, I managed to work my way through large parts of that agreement.

It wasn’t the breeziest of summer reading, I’ll say that much.

But what the text of the TPP makes very clear is that this Government has traded away our democratic rights.

Under the TPP, our democracy is under threat.

New Zealand’s parliament will be constrained in its ability to pass laws in our — your, mine, our kids’ interests.

In fact, on issues like labour laws, and environmental laws, our government is now obliged to give the governments of eleven other countries — and their big corporate players — a say on the laws we make.

New Zealand MPs will no longer be solely responsible to the people who elect them.

And I cannot accept that.

Labour has been a champion of free trade for decades. But we have never been asked to pay the price of the erosion of our democratic institutions.

Binding future parliaments, making our government accountable to politicians and corporations overseas instead of voters here at home?

That’s not free trade.

That’s special rules for the powerful and privileged at the expense of the voters of New Zealand.

Last week Goff and David Shearer made it clear that they have quite different views on the TPPA, publicly confirming their support. Shearer will have to apologise to the Labour caucus for breaking their collective responsibility. Goff had been given a pass by Little.

However after the speech journalists asked Little about the TPPA and he revealed that he was still not totally against it.

Patrick Gower reports:

In his speech, he talked up Labour’s opposition to the TPP to cheers from the party faithful. Then he came over to journalists and admitted Labour would support certain laws that put some parts of of the TPP into action, confirming Labour would vote for legislation that reduced tariffs for Kiwi exporters, which the official advice shows will be required.

So Little is loudly saying he is opposed to the TPP one minute, and then the next minute he’s quietly admitting he’d vote for the good bits. It is a Jekyll and Hyde show where Little is Jane Kelsey one minute and Phil Goff the next. It is a political con-job aimed at keeping his own supporters on side by opposing it while emotions are running high with the signing next week, but not wanting to get caught out as being against New Zealand exporters when the benefits kick in down the track.

If Little really opposed the TPP, he would refuse point-blank to vote for any legislation that enables it. Until he does that his position lacks credibility, and that means the TPP is quickly becoming a big problem for Little. He’s got MPs Goff and David Shearer going rogue with their public support but — unlike him at least they are up-front and easy to understand.

Little and Labour still have a big problem over their mixed messages and clash of support on the TPPA.



Censuring Shearer, Goff let off

Collective caucus responsibility imposed on David Shearer, breaking ranks is fine for Phil Goff.

Andrew Little says he will ensure David Shearer for expressing his support of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement at the same time that Labour as a party swings to full anti-TPPA, but he is letting Goff off. This inconsistency is odd and could prove problematic for Little, now trying to deal with a split caucus.

NZ Herald reported last night (but dated 5:30 am this morning):

David Shearer to be censured over breaking Labour line on TPP

Labour MP David Shearer is set to be censured for breaking the Labour line on the Trans-Pacific Partnership after speaking out in support of the trade agreement.

Labour leader Andrew Little would not outline possible sanctions or comment on whether Mr Shearer could be stripped of his foreign affairs portfolio.

“There is a range of options. I don’t want to go into any of them, but it is important he understands, and that every caucus member understands, that caucus collective responsibility is real and it’s got to stand for something.”

“I’ve had one discussion with David so far just to ascertain the facts. I’m yet to have a further discussion with him about what happens now, but I think every caucus member knows caucus collective responsibility is utterly vital and there has to be some sort of consequence if that is breached.”

But Goff has been let off – why does caucus collective responsibility not apply to him?

Although fellow MP Phil Goff also spoke in support of the TPP, Mr Little said he had agreed Mr Goff could break ranks with the party because of his long-standing support for the trade agreement as Trade Minister when the talks kicked off.

Shearer has supported the TPPA for some time as well, As have other Labour MPs.

The treatment of Mr Shearer differs from that of Mr Goff, whose comments rubbished claims the TPP was an unacceptable infringement of New Zealand’s sovereignty — the very reason Labour is opposing it.

However, Mr Little has confirmed Mr Goff had a dispensation which allowed him to break the party line. Asked if he had told Mr Goff to at least stop speaking publicly on the issue, Mr Little said he had discussed it with Mr Goff and “I’m confident we have a shared understanding about that”.

He said most people recognised Mr Goff was the trade minister who initiated the negotiations and had a “deep-seated”view on it. Mr Goff is running for the Auckland mayoralty so no longer has a ranking within Labour’s caucus.

Shearer is currently ranked 13 and is MP for Mt Albert, Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Associate Defence Spokesperson. Little can’t take his electorate off him.

Labour split on TPPA

It’s not surprising to see a split in Labour ranks over the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Phil Goff under Helen Clark’s government had quite a bit to do with initiating the TPPA.

Helen Clark recently said:

“What always haunts one as a New Zealand prime minister is, will there be a series of trade blocs developed that you’re not part of? Because that is unthinkable for New Zealanders, an export-oriented, small trading nation.”

“So of course New Zealand has to be in on the action with a [TPPA] and go for the very best deal it can.”

Labour leader Andrew Little has been sort of saying he opposes the TPPA, or at least parts of it, and that he would breach the agreement if it comes into force and he is Prime Minister.

One News last night (partial transcript from video, source Anthony Robins):

Labour finally confirms it’s opposed to controversial TPPA

[Little] “I don’t support it, we don’t support it”

[Little] “Very difficult as it is for us as a party that for 80 years has supported for, championed and advanced the cause of free trade, we see an agreement that cuts right across the rights of New Zealand citizens…”

[Vance] “Plus Andrew Little points to US university analysis which predicts the deal will lead to between 5,000 and 6,000 jobs lost in New Zealand by 2025. The report also estimates GDP growth of less than 0.8% again by 2025.

Grant Robertson has been sort of saying he opposes the TPPA at meetings this week that strongly oppose the TPPA signing, at least giving the impression Labour opposes the signing.

Today the Herald reports MPs break ranks on TPP.

Two senior Labour MPs have broken ranks with the party line and declared their support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), amid rumours that at least one, Phil Goff, could cross the floor of Parliament to vote with National if Labour opposes enabling legislation.

The issue was hotly debated at the Labour caucus retreat in Wairarapa this week.

Mr Goff, a former leader and former Trade Minister and now an Auckland mayoral candidate, and David Shearer, also a former Labour leader, last night told theHerald they both still supported the TPP.

It is no surprise that Goff and Shearer support the TPPA. The only slight surprise is the timing of them coming out in support.

Mr Goff said the deal should be signed.

Mr Goff did not blatantly criticise Labour’s position. But he effectively dismissed that view and the suggestion that Labour would not be able to prevent foreign investors buying New Zealand residential property.

“Every time you sign any international agreement you give away a degree of your sovereignty.” He cited the China free trade deal negotiated when he was Trade Minister.

“We gave up the sovereign right to impose tariffs against China when we signed up to the China free trade agreement. But it came with quid pro quos. China gave up its right to impose huge tariffs on us.

“That’s what an international agreement is; it’s an agreement to follow a particular course of action and a limitation on your ability to take action against the other country.

“You have the ultimate right of sovereignty that you can back out of an agreement – with all the cost that that incurs.”

That’s the realities of international agreements, something that Little and Robertson seem oblivious too, unless they are playing the different sides of the debate.

Mr Shearer told the Herald that his position on the TPP was unchanged and “certainly after reading the NIA [national interest analysis]” that was to support the deal.

Mr Shearer would not comment on whether he would cross the floor.

Little has responded:

Labour leader Andrew Little told the Herald last night that Labour would support tariff-reducing legislation but would oppose any measures if they undermined sovereignty, expressly the issue of selling houses to foreigners, and anything that allowed foreigners to have a say on New Zealand laws.

“As a caucus we don’t support the TPPA in its current form.”

Mr Little said Mr Goff had made his view known to him and to the caucus and they understood his position because he was close to the TPP.

He said the issue of crossing the floor was a matter for future discussion.

Asked if there would be any consequences for Mr Goff and Mr Shearer for supporting the TPP, he said there was an understanding about Mr Goff.

I guess the ‘understanding’ is Goff hopes to win the mayoralty later this year so Little has little control over what he says.

Goff may like to leave Parliament with a legacy of playing a significant role in enabling the TPPA.

“Anybody else in caucus, that’ll be a matter for myself and/or caucus.”

There’s likely to be others in the Labour caucus who have at least some problems with Little’s and Robertson’s stances on the TPPA.

Little was praised last year for apparently mending a split caucus, or at least keeping any differences out of public sight.

It appears that Labour have joined others in trying to use the TPPA as a wedge between National and the opposition, and also a Maori wedge.

But the wedge may end up causing a self inflicted split amongst themselves. Little has created a very difficult situation for himself and for Labour. I presume he will have seen this coming. It was inevitable.

Saudi Arabia beheadings and trade

There’s been widespread international condemnation of the beheading of 47 dissidents in Sauda Arabia.

The mass executions were concerning enough, but are only a part of a comparatively large number of executions in Saudi Arabia.

The Guardian reports: Saudi Arabia: beheadings reach highest level in two decades

Saudi Arabia carried out at least 157 executions in 2015, with beheadings reaching their highest level in the kingdom in two decades, according to several advocacy groups that monitor the death penalty worldwide.

Amnesty International said in November that at least 63 people had been executed since the start of the year for drug-related offences. That figure made up at least 40% of the total number of executions in 2015, compared to less than 4% for drug-related executions in 2010.

Amnesty said Saudi Arabia had exceeded its highest level of executions since 1995, when 192 executions were recorded.

While some crimes, such as premeditated murder, carry fixed punishments under Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of the Islamic law, or Shariah, drug-related offences are considered “ta’zir”, meaning neither the crime nor the punishment is defined in Islam.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that of the first 100 prisoners executed in 2015, 56 had been based on judicial discretion and not for crimes for which Islamic law mandates a specific death penalty punishment.

Any executions, and especially mass executions, may seem abhorrent to most of us in New Zealand but we used to have capital punishment, with 83 verified executions and the last execution here in 1957. Executions were abolished finally in 1961.

All New Zealand executions were by hanging, initially in public. Is death by hanging any more or less humane than beheading?

The general response to the Saudi beheadings from the New Zealand Government has been in opposition to the executions but to take it no further.

Newstalk ZB: NZ criticises Saudis, but not at expense of trade talks

Duty minister Chris Finlayson said New Zealand is a long-standing opponent of the death penalty, and executions are always wrong in all cases and any circumstances.

Finlayson insists the government regularly raises human rights issues during diplomatic talks.

The Greens had a much stronger response: New Zealand shouldn’t prefer human rights abusers

The New Zealand Government must halt its free trade discussions with Saudi Arabia after the latest in a long line of very public human rights atrocities.

Green Party Co-leader James Shaw said that New Zealand was sending a distressing signal by continuing to negotiate for a free trade agreement giving preferential treatment to Saudi Arabia while they continued to execute people, often with the flimsiest of evidence.

I’m not sure how well Shaw or the Greens check the legal processes and evidence in Saudi cases that result in executions. The main export from Saudi Arabia is oil so Greens probably don’t favour trade with them anyway.

The most interesting response was from Labour…

Labour foreign affairs spokesperson David Shearer did not agree with the Greens on the issue.

“Trading links enables us ot get a foot in the door to talk about human rights issues that we would not otherwise be able to do if we didn’t have those links. I don’t believe it’s necessarily in our interests to take this stance in banning trading talks with either country.”


…and the response to that from The Standard. Greg Presland in Saudi Arabia and the free trade deal:

Davis Shearer’s response has shall we say been disappointing.

Promoting free trade so that our ability to discuss human rights violations with trading partners is frankly silly. And there should be a moral dimension to trade relationships. If a foreign nation is involved in widespread human rights violations then all forms of pressure, including the suspension of trade agreement negotiations, should be available to try and effect change.

All forms of pressure are available to New Zealand, no matter how futile or practical. If we suspended trade negotiations with every country the was deemed by us to have violated human rights we might not have a lot of trade.

Comments were more damning of Shearer’s and Labour’s stance.

Frances Cohen:

It’s absurd for Shearer to think that we can influence Saudi Arabia through free trade deals.


I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard David Shearer on the radio this morning. Really and truly – what a wet response! Has NZ Labour lost all its principles?
This is not a matter of whether or not there is a trade deal to be signed (and if it is it will be a very bad one). This is a matter of taking a stand on human rights.
Both NZ First, and the Greens get it. Why oh why can’t Labour?

Robert Glennie:

Labour is too scared to take back its principles in case it loses a part of the political spectrum that they do not realize is not actually theirs.


Crucifixion no barrier to trade in NZ!

Human rights breaches and democracy breaches and funding ISIS from Saudi, no barrier to trade either!
(or any other neoliberal country, if the US says friend then turn a blind eye, if US says foe, invade or sanction). What happened to an independent foreign policy??


So that idiot Shearer thinks we can influence Saudi Arabia’s human rights through trade deals. So how has that been working out so far? If anything Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has been getting worse.

Gordon Campbell has a good post on this.


David Shearer proves once again the labour party is the party of liberalism. So how is raising human rights issues going there David, any luck? Or just more b.s word games from you and your flock of professional politician’s.


This is precisely why Labour is bleeding to death – no principles, no standing for what is right. For once I have to say I agree with a John Key statement: “Get some balls!” Shearer had the opportunity to show that Labour does actually offer something different from National, but I guess he just wants to be part of the big boys’ club.

And it goes on.

Perhaps Shearer knows more about the realities of international relations and trade than vocal left wingers at The Standard.

Should human rights figure more in our trade agreements with other countries? More on this in Greens, capital punishment and trade.

Andrew Little supports SAS againstISIS

Andrew Little, in an official visit to Washington DC as Opposition Leader, has said he would  support sending Special Air Service troops to fight Isis if the right conditions were met.

NZ Herald: Little now backs SAS in Isis war

Those conditions were having a clear and realistic objective, that it would have to be part of a multinational mission mandated by the United Nations and that the level of risk needed to be acceptable.

He also said there had to be a consensus between the US and Russia before any intervention would be effective.

Mr Little denied it was a change in the party’s position, but it is certainly not a view he has expressed before.

This does appear to be a change in Labour’s position on the fight against ISIS.

Back in February in Radio NZ in Iraq deployment condemned:

Leader Andrew Little said the party opposed the deployment to Iraq.

Mr Little told Parliament the Iraqi Army was demoralised and riven with corruption, and had been for 10 years.

He said New Zealand could not fix the Iraqi Army, saying it was disorganised, broken, treacherous and corrupt.

New Zealand could help to build a functioning government, that could be assisted by advice from this country and help with reconstruction.

He said New Zealand had a reputation as an honest broker, as shown by its success in securing a seat on the UN Security Council, and it should show leadership on this issue by helping create a true nation state in Iraq.

Mr Little also said that New Zealand was exposing its soldiers to even greater risk if they were sent to Iraq without adequate legal protections.

The SAS are in Iraq training them to help fight against ISIS.

Stuff in October in Battlelines drawn on Iraq trip.

Labour MP David Shearer’s line that New Zealand’s contribution is “barely significant”, while also criticising the prime minister for putting a two-year time limit on the deployment because the “need doesn’t go away in two years’ time”.

That may have been a signal of a changer in Labour thinking. But…

Shearer’s focus on the personal in relation to Key’s trip is a surprise given Labour’s previous positioning on Iraq.

Key’s visit to Kiwi troops at Camp Taji was a platform for Labour to relaunch its attack on the Government for sending troops to Iraq.

Labour leader Andrew Little’s assault on Key over Iraq was the defining moment of his leadership so far.

Perhaps Shearer has convinced Little of the realities of ISIS and the Middle East mess.

And/or perhaps Little’s visit to Washington has given him a does of reality beyond his local Labour bubble.