What they’ll need to do

July 12, 2014

Vernon Small muses on one of MMP’s downsides – the need for coalition partners:

. . . In Cunliffe’s case, he can be relatively certain Internet-Mana will be there.

His bigger concern is the political Centre’s negative views of Harawira, his Left-wing allies and Internet founder Kim Dotcom – and more generally about the increasingly fractured Centre-Left vote.

Labour’s vote softened measurably after the Internet-Mana deal became known. It believes that was not because the new party took Labour votes but more because it was a bridge too far for floating voters to contemplate a four or five-way alternative government.

And Labour knows – because it has already started – that National will use that against it.

It is a difficult line for Cunliffe to walk. He needs to emphasise the stability of a three-way deal with the Greens and NZ First – both of which have the advantage of being parties that win in their own right and will, if in Parliament, have achieved more than 5 per cent support. He can contrast that with National’s vassal parties, there only at Key’s favour.

Voters could choose a weak Labour Party propped up by the Green and NZ First parties with the added frightener of Internet Mana or a strong National Party with two or three very small coalition partners.

That’s a choice between instability, uncertainty and backwards policies from the left or stability, certainty and forward momentum from the centre right.

But strategising at the party’s weekend Congress pointed up the problem. Labour was stacking up its potential pluses just to get over the line.

It could push up to about 30, with a good ground game and organisation, the Greens bring about 12 per cent, NZ First would add another 5-6 per cent and Internet-Mana would add the final cherry on top. Presto, 51 per cent.

Over at the National conference the previous week, the mirror-image argument was being played out by its strategists.

Achieve close to 50 per cent and we govern alone. Fall to the mid 40s, and Labour with its allies could get the numbers. Subtext? Deals with our minor allies may be crucial, so brace yourself for Key’s announcement of deals with the minnows.

Memo to Cunliffe and Key: if you are counting them into your thinking, so will the voters.

Memo to voters: look less at what they say they will do and more at what they may need to do to win power.

A weak Labour Party would have to do, and concede, a lot more than a strong National party would.

We're for stable government.


Cunliffe says nah yeah to Internet Mana

July 7, 2014

Labour leader David Cunliffe isn’t ruling out going into coalition with the Internet Mana Party:

Deal or no deal? That’s a question Labour Party leader David Cunliffe is facing.

He’s trying to have it both ways with Internet Mana, leaving the door open to working with them in government, but not to the cabinet table. . .

Rousing the party faithful, Labour has one goal in mind – to change the Government. That means hello Internet Mana and its cash-cow, Kim Dotcom.

“After the election we will work with whomever we need to work with to change the Government,” says Mr Cunliffe. “We will have our door and phone line open to whoever wants to change the Government.”

It’s a political dead rat Labour may have to swallow. Some are fighting against, wanting to rule out working with Internet Mana in government.

That includes some of his caucus and at least one candidate.

Phil Goff is on record calling the deal a rort, with Dotcom buying influence. Chris Hipkins says they’re “unprincipled sell-outs” and Dotcom is a “discredited German”.

“I don’t have much time for Kim Dotcom at all to be honest,” says Napier candidate Stuart Nash.

Mr Nash says the same about Hone Harawira. . .

Mr Cunliffe knows he may need the Dotcom, Harawira, Laila Harre combo but doesn’t want them too close.

“Frankly I would be surprised to see anybody other than the Greens and perhaps New Zealand First at our cabinet table,” says Mr Cunliffe. “I think that’s extremely unlikely, extremely unlikely, they’ll be ministers – extremely unlikely.”

So that means no seats in cabinet but a deal still possible.

Internet Mana is a political weakness for Labour and Mr Cunliffe is trying to have it both ways. . .

Like a lot of his other positions it’s a yeah nah – or in this case a nay-yeah one.

He doesn’t want them but he’s not ruling them out and neither Hone Harawiara nor Laila Harre are the sort of people to roll over without being thrown a bone or two which may well include a place in the top kennel.

That won’t go down well with some in Labour on principle and also because they are already facing missing out on cabinet places to accommodate Green and NZ First MPs.

It won’t go down well with either of those other prospective partners and it won’t go down well with most voters.


Winning team won’t necessarily be winner

June 29, 2014

A party enjoying poll ratings which show it could govern alone might be in danger of complacency.

There is absolutely none of that at the National Party conference where the very clear message was

Prime Minister John Key told Patrick Gower:

. . . I know the polls look strong for us. And I know on the 3 Reid Research poll we’ll be able to govern alone and I’m really personally desperately hope that’s what election night looks like. But you and I both know it’ll probably be tighter than that and there’s every chance that we don’t win.. .

Chris Finlayson and Steven Joyce gave a similar message to the conference:

. . . Attorney General Chris Finlayson talked about the “hydra” this morning that grows new heads when the old ones are chopped off.

“Cut off Phil Goff and up shoots David Shearer and Hone Harawira. Saw off David Shearer and up springs David Cunliffe and Laila Harre.

“The fragmentation on the left hasn’t made the hydra weaker,” said Mr Finlayson “only more unstable if it can force its way into power again.”

Campaign chairman Steven Joyce warned delegates that the campaign was “still a little puppy” and that anything at all could happen in the next 84 days before the election – the wackiest thing imaginable, he said.

“A retired Maori activist who has become an MP working with a hard left unionist and let’s just throw in a wealthy German millionaire right-winger, they could form a political party,” said.

“That’s the sort of wacky thing that could happen between now and September 20.

“If Laila Harre, Hone Harawira, Pam Corkery, Kim Dotcom, Russel Norman, Metiria Turei, David Cunliffe, Matt McCarten, and John Minto are the answer, can we please have another look at the question?” . .

National’s got a winning team but it’s up to voters to decide whether to give the winning team the support it needs to  be the winner, or whether they’re going to trust government to the hydra on the left led by a weak Labour dominated by the Green, NZ First and Internet Mana parties.

With less than three months to go, there's no room for complacency. Join #TeamKey today.  http://mynational.org.nz/support


Labour logo a liability?

June 9, 2014

Remember last election Labour MPS and candidates left their then-leader Phil Goff’s photo off their billboards?

It was a sign they had no faith in him and regarded him as a liability

This time, the party’s candidate for Waitaki appears to regard the Labour logo as a liability.

On her Facebook page she says she’s the Labour candidate but this is what she shows:

lablogo

 

A picture paints a thousand words and none of the words this picture paints is Labour.

National MP Jacqui Dean holds the seat with 61.45% of the votes cast and a majority of 14143.

The boundary has changed and the electorate is a little smaller than it was three years ago but that’s unlikely to have much, if any, impact on the election result.

Alexander hasn’t a hope of winning the electorate and it would appear she’s not even trying for the party vote.


GIMP but not LIMP?

June 3, 2014

Labour leader David Cunliffe has been dancing on the head of a pin when asked his view on the Internet Mana Party.

That suggests he’s testing the wind before he works out what he thinks.

Several other Labour MPs have already made up their minds they don’t like it.

Senior Labour Party MPs have used social media to attack the alliance struck between Mana and the Internet Party.

Former leaders Phil Goff and David Shearer, and Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins, are among those who have objected to the deal. It could see MPs from Kim Dotcom’s fledging political vehicle enter Parliament on the ‘‘coat-tails’’ of a victory for Hone Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau.

The strong opposition from within Labour could make post-election coalition talks tricky.

Goff says he feel strongly about Dotcom’s ‘‘pure political opportunism’’, citing his previous donations to ACT MP John Banks, now the subject of a court case. ‘‘He wants to be able to influence and control politicians.’’

Goff says he was previously ‘‘very critical’’ of National for exploiting MMP and failing to implement recommendations from the Electoral Commission to abolish the provision.

‘‘I’m scarcely likely to endorse another rort …I’m being entirely consistent,’’ he said. . . .

Interesting no-one in Labour called it a rort when National voters in Ohariu kept Peter Dunne in the seat which made him a Minister in the Labour-led government.

Goff says he made his feelings clear to the Labour caucus. ‘‘It will be the decision of the party leadership…but I see problems in creating a coalition where the philosophies and principle of people that you are trying to enter into a coalition with is unclear because they seem to be coming from diametrically opposed positions.’’ . . .

Coalitions are by nature unstable even when they have something positive in common.

A coalition built on nothing more than a hatred of John Key and determination to oust National would be a recipe for instability.

Those  views were also reflected in a passionate Facebook post at the weekend. Shearer also used the social media site to write that although he wished the Internet-Mana ‘‘marriage’’ well, he knew ‘‘it’s going to end badly.’’

And on Twitter last week, Hipkins posted: ‘‘The good old days, when political parties formed from movements. Now all it takes is a couple of million and some unprincipled sellouts.’’

All three MPs were linked to the Anyone But Cunliffe [ABC] faction – who were opposed to David Cunliffe assuming leadership of the party. However, a Labour source played down talk of more division, saying all three were close to Te Tai Tokerau candidate Kelvin Davis.

Davis himself posted on Twitter: ‘‘Bro, I think of the people of Te Tai Tokerau, not Sergeant Shultz.’’  He was referring to Dotcom’s German origins. . . .

More than half the caucus is in the ABC faction which makes the party itself unstable.

On present polling a left-wing government would have to consist of Labour and the GIMPs – Green, and Internet Mana parties.

A concerted effort by Labour backing Kelvin Davis to win Te Tai Tokerau would seriously challenge Harawira’s hold on the seat.

If the ABC faction prevails it won’t be LIMP – Labour and the Internet Party and that would leave the GIMPs facing a huge battle for power and relevance.


Labour’s listing

May 23, 2014

Labour MP Ruth Dyson is standing for the Port Hills electorate but isn’t seeking a place on her party’s list.

Dyson has dropped down the Labour Party rankings in a series of reshuffles, from No 5 under former leader Phil Goff in 2011, to recently being demoted by David Cunliffe to 28 (out of 34), behind the likes of Kelvin Davis.

Davis is not yet even an MP but will return to the Capital when Shane Jones leaves Parliament.

Barnett said it was “not unusual” for MPs not to chase list placings. . . .

He was never on the list when he was an MP and Lianne Dalziel didn’t seek a list place three years ago. Nor did Damien O’Connor who objected to the process being run by selection process run by “self-serving unionists and a gaggle of gays”.

Labour’s candidate in Napier, Stuart Nash isn’t seeking a list place this time either.

Dyson’s move was announced at a regional list selection meeting in Christchurch on Sunday, which Barnett said was “relaxed”. He believed the move was tactical, with Port Hills always a tightly contested seat.

“It’s not unusual for somebody in a seat which is going to be a pretty tight, hard race to focus entirely on being an electorate candidate,” Barnett said.

“My sense [speaking to Dyson] was the consideration was entirely about the electorate . . . It’s always been a tight seat for the 20 years that she’s been there; it’s the nature of that part of the city.” . . .

National won the party vote in the seat at the last election and boundary changes have made it far more marginal.

But under MMP, it is never entirely about the electorate.

Electorate votes get a candidate into parliament but it’s the list vote which gets a party into government.

Opting off the list can send a message to voters that if they want the candidate, they have to give them their electorate vote.

But this also reinforces the message that all’s not well on the not so good ship Labour, that candidates have no confidence in the list ranking process and emphasises the lack of unity in the party and caucus.

The nautical definition of listingis a tendency for a boat to tilt or lean to one side owing to an unstable load or ballast.

If it lists too far it can start losing cargo and eventually tip over.

Labour’s lurch to the left could be described as listing to port which ought to please Dyson who is one of its more left-wing MPs but she has decided to jump overboard from the list.

It could just be a message for voters to support her with their electorate votes. It could also be showing she doesn’t trust her party to give her the support she’s seeking from voters.


Another poll confirms the trend

March 18, 2014

Support for he Labour Party is below 30% in the latest Herald DigiPoll survey:

Labour’s support has sunk nearly six points and it is polling only 29.5 per cent in the Herald-DigiPoll survey.

The popularity of leader David Cunliffe has fallen by almost the same amount, to 11.1 per cent. That is worse than the 12.4 per cent worst rating of former leader David Shearer.

National could govern alone with 50.8 per cent if the poll were translated to an election result.

The popularity of John Key as Prime Minister has climbed by 4.6 points to 66.5 per cent. That is his best rating since the election but not as high as he reached in his first term when he often rated more than 70 against Phil Goff.

The increases in support for National and the Greens since December put them at their highest ratings since the 2011 election.

The Greens are up 2.3 points to 13.1 per cent and with Labour would muster a combined 42.6 per cent.

New Zealand First is down slightly to 3.6 per cent but leader Winston Peters’ ratings as preferred Prime Minister at 6.5 per cent suggest the party could still top the 5 per cent threshold required to get MPs under MMP without requiring an electorate seat.

Other polls have shown a decline in Labour’s fortunes this year but today’s is the first to have Labour in the 20s since Mr Cunliffe took over the leadership from Mr Shearer in September last year. . .

Polling began on March 6, in the midst of the fallout over his use of trusts for donations.

But it continued through last week when Mr Key condemned minister Judith Collins for her failure to declare a dinner in Beijing with her husband’s business associates. . . .

The last fortnight was dire for Labour and last week wasn’t good for National, but maybe it’s only political tragics who are really interested in these issues.

Mr Key said the poll was a confirmation that a majority of New Zealanders believe the country is heading in the right direction “but clearly there is a lot more work to be done if we are to create the jobs and increase the living standards that New Zealanders want to see”. . . 

Asked if the issue of Mr Cunliffe’s of Ms Collins non-declarations would have affected the poll, he said: “Voters weigh up a great many factors when considering who to support but I continue to believe the strongest motivation is when a political party is focused on the issues that really matter to voters.” . . .

Individual polls bounce around but this one confirms the trend which shows National and its leader are popular, Labour and its leader aren’t.

There’s just six months until the election.

That’s time enough for National to slip a few points and make it difficult to form a coalition.

But it’s not a lot of time for Labour to climb out of the doldrums and convince voters it could offer good governance and stability with the collection of support parties it would need.


Another side of the foreign ownership story

December 16, 2013

Federated Farmers Dairy chair Willy Leferink writes:

. . . In recent weeks, I have found myself in the NZ Herald after the sale of a farm that gave me a taste of the Overseas Investment Office (OIO).  What I found after the event is that the OIO releases approvals at the end of the month, after the month in which approval is granted.  This fact and the calls it generated came as a bolt out of the blue.

Okay, what we sold our farm for seems like a lot of money at face value but just like any home owner, you have something called a mortgage to repay first.  While there is a sum left over my wife and I are not boarding the next plane for the Sunshine Coast, which seems the path for many small to medium sized businesspeople after selling.  Instead, we are pouring a great deal of the surplus into more sustainable farming particularly wintering barns.  I am putting my money where my mouth is because I am convinced these are a solution to nutrient loss; especially Nitrogen.  I am not saying it is ’the’ solution but one of many coming on-stream. It’s a personal opinion, but for the farms I have interests in, I believe these barns are the right thing by our animals and the environment.  I can only hope the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan evolves to reflect this and other innovative ways of farming.  My wintering barns are also a solution any capital gains tax would rob me a slice of for productive reinvestment.  If we strip away the rhetoric, a capital gains tax is a penalty on success and I’m not sure that’s a good message to send to society.

While I don’t have an issue with public disclosure over the sale of my farm, it would have been nice to have been told when.  As it was, I was caught on the hop at the Australian Dairy Farmers conference.  If it caught me on the hop I imagine it caught the Barilla family too.  It means their first taste of New Zealand was not Kia Ora but a media scrum.  Is this how we want to treat one of the largest family owned food companies in the World?  The very people who can open doors for our exports. My excellent sharemilkers remain on the farm but are now partners with a multinational family owned food business that started in 1877.  There’s is a ton of upsides for New Zealand here.

Being an immigrant myself we are not helping ourselves when politicians play the ‘johnny foreigner’ card.  On the same day the OIO revealed the sale of my farm, the Auckland house of former Hanover Finance director Mark Hotchin was sold to a foreign-born businessman for $39 million.  Where are Phil Goff and his rural land Bill on that?

Opposition policies, pandering to emotion rather than facts, would add costs and reduce benefits, if they allowed the deal to go through at all.

OIO rules are already rigorous.

A capital gains tax would divert money which could otherwise be used to improve productivity and/or environmental practices.

Under the existing, tough rules, the Leferinks got good money for their farm and they are putting it into improvements on another property.

The sharemilkers are still on the farm, sharing in the profits they help generate.

New Zealand has more inward investment.

This is a win-win, opposition policies would make it lose-lose.


Welcome progress on TPP

December 15, 2013

Trade Minister Tim Groser has welcomed the significant progress made during the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministerial meetings in Singapore.

“I am pleased to report that we have substantially advanced the negotiation here in Singapore.  My colleagues and I were able to make good progress across the negotiating agenda, keeping true to the objectives Leaders have set for the negotiation.  In many areas we have identified potential landing zones that will guide the final phase of work.”

While more work remains to be done, Mr Groser said that momentum is accelerating in the negotiation and he was confident that conclusion of a comprehensive, high quality, 21st century agreement was in sight. 

“However, we will not short change ourselves.  We will take as long as needed to achieve a deal that eliminates trade barriers for New Zealand exporters and can advance our vision of regional economic integration in the Asia Pacific.  The gains a high quality TPP would generate for the New Zealand economy demand we get this right.”

TPP Ministers and negotiators have agreed to next meet in January.

Business organisations in New Zealand have reacted positively to the announcement of substantive progress.

“If it takes longer for TPP to be concluded so be it,” said Stephen Jacobi, Executive Director of the both the NZ International Business Forum and NZ US Council.

“Trade Minister Tim Groser and his officials deserve congratulations for their perseverance in continuing what we know is a challenging negotiation.”

Mr Jacobi said New Zealand businesses wanted to see a high quality, substantive and comprehensive outcome to TPP.

“It’s positive that Ministers have been able to identify what they call “landing zones” in the majority of areas under negotiation. To land TPP clearly requires additional work. We should continue to do all we can to support the achievement of a TPP that meets New Zealand’s interests and makes a strong contribution to growth and jobs.”

Former Labour leader and former Trade Minister Phil Goff says New Zealand would be a winner with the TPP.

New Zealand would benefit more than most countries from a concluded Trans Pacific Partnership deal, former Labour trade minister Phil Goff told the Herald last night.

“We have the least barriers and therefore we have the least we have to give away,” he said. “Other countries have to give away much more.

“While there are all sorts of problems involved in this negotiation, you have to look at the wider picture and the wider picture is that each country will benefit from a successful conclusion to it but New Zealand will benefit more than most.” . . .

This view isn’t shared by all his colleagues nor by potential coalition partners the Green and Mana Parties.

It’s a pity opponents to the deal can’t see past their ideology to the benefits free trade brings to producers and consumers.

The only losers will be the favoured few businesses which benefit from lack of competition and the bureaucrats and politicians who gain power, and money, from tariffs and subsidies.


No need to tighten foreign ownership of farm land

December 6, 2013

Labour is proposing tightening rules round the sale of farm land to foreigners.

The sale of farms to overseas investors will be restricted under proposed new legislation, Labour’s MP for Mount Roskill Phil Goff says.

“My Overseas Investment (Owning our Own Rural Land) Amendment Bill will be debated by Parliament after being drawn from the Member’s Ballot today.

“John Key once said ‘New Zealanders did not want to become tenants in their own land’. He never did anything about that; this Bill does.

“It stops wide purchase of New Zealand land by foreign investors unless significant benefit to New Zealand can be proven.

“Labour believes Kiwis are concerned about farms being sold to foreign buyers when there is no benefit to New Zealand. . .

Over at Keeping Stock Inventory 2 points out the hypocrisy in this when Labour had no qualms about selling the equivalent of 122 rugby fields a day when it was in power.

If those sales had caused problems a change of heart would be understandable but this policy isn’t based on principle, it’s appealing to emotion and is an attempt to out-Winston NZ First for the xenophobic vote.

Existing rules are already very tight and and place strict requirements on the purchasers.

This can provide more benefits for New Zealanders than if the land was sold to locals by, for example, requiring public access.

Foreigners might have more capital for development than locals too.

Property near us has just had Overseas Investment Office approval for sale to foreigners.

Their development plans require at least five new houses for extra staff. They are also planning to build another dairy shed which will require more staff and another couple of houses.

That will provide significant economic and social benefits.

They will be getting water from the North Otago Irrigation Company which requires independently audited farm environment plans each year which will ensure they look after water and soil quality too.

Labour’s trying to reconnect with the provinces but this policy is more likely to appeal to city people who never come closer to farming than a fast journey down the open road on the way to somewhere else.

Those of us who live in the country know it’s not who owns the land but who lives on it and what they do with it which has nothing to do with where they come from.


Focussing on what doesn’t matter

November 2, 2013

The Labour Party’s constitutional changes have given more say, and power to the members.

It has, they say, made the party more democratic. Although quite how allowing organisations more power than individuals can be described as democratic is debatable.

Regardless of that, members are having more say and unfortunately for the party’s PR machine, that is what is getting the publicity from this weekend’s conference.

Yesterday Stuff published some of the more radical proposals including  one that would force the candidate selection committee to consider a range of factors, including sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, disability and age, to ensure they are “fairly” represented in the party.

. . . But there are a raft of other controversial remits to be debated at the conference that will turn the focus on Labour’s social agenda.

They include a radical change to abortion laws that seems to take doctors out of decision-making and give a pregnant woman “the opportunity and freedom to make the best decision for her own circumstances”. . . 

Other proposals are:

* Maori language made compulsory in state schools and teachers required to be competent in te reo

* Privatised state assets renationalised with compensation based on “proven need”

* The Government’s roads of national significance project dumped and the funds put into public transport

* Teaching of civics and democracy mandatory for all schoolchildren

* Laws to discourage excessive alcohol consumption, a review of the purchasing age, alcohol availability and an increase in the price of booze

* Prisoners again getting the right to vote

* A national sex and sexuality education programme dealing with sexual diseases, contraception methods, consent, sexual orientation and gender identity

 * New Zealand becoming a republic

* An apology for the Foreshore and Seabed Act passed in 2004

* A prohibition on school boards of trustees restricting same-sex partners from attending school balls

* A Pasifika television station

* A Maori language newspaper

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson agrees the apology should be issued:

“I am glad that almost a decade after passing this shameful piece of legislation, which denied access to the courts to people based on race, the Labour Party is ready to discuss an apology,” Mr Finlayson said.

The National government repealed the Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2011 with the support of the Māori Party and United Future, and restored the right of Māori to go to court through the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act.

“I would suggest that the Labour leadership also apologise for their the party’s abysmal treatment of Tariana Turia because of her principled stand over the issue,” he said.

“While they are at it, they should apologise for the way Helen Clark called Dr Pita Sharples, a man who has devoted his life to improving Māori educational achievement, a ‘hater and a wrecker’.”

“They should apologise that Ms Clark deliberately snubbed the 35,000 New Zealanders who made a hikoi to Parliament to protest that discriminatory legislation, preferring to pose for a photo opportunity with Shrek the sheep.”

“At the same time, Labour may wish to say sorry for the way Treaty of Waitangi settlements stalled almost completely during their nine years in power – averaging 1.6 settlements per year, and needlessly delaying the resolution of these grievances for the good of the country. Last year, the government signed 15 deeds of settlement with iwi, only one fewer than Labour’s total for nine years in office.”

This has brought out several helpful suggestions in social media about other apologies Labour should make, including one to Shrek, although as he’s dead just now that’s a bit late.

Back to the conference.

What members in any party want isn’t always consistent with the party’s philosophy and principles.

People join parties for a range of reasons among which is the desire to push a particular barrow and the party is just a vehicle for doing that.

The trouble for the party is that some of these barrows are more interesting and newsworthy than what else might be going on at the conference and therefore get attention.

The selection criteria proposal has already been watered down but not sufficiently to wash from voters’ minds the conviction that Labour is still focussed on social engineering.

It also leaves questions about what the party thinks is important and how different that is to what matters to voters.

John Armstrong writes on the conference:

. . . You could be excused thinking this might also be an opportunity for the caucus spokesmen and women in key portfolios to give some indication of their thinking even though they may not have been in those roles for very long.

Instead the conference will devote several hours to wrangling over the wording of a “policy platform” document setting out Labour’s values, vision and priorities which has already been months in the drafting.

The platform is supposed to answer that perennial question: what does Labour stand for.

You can safely bet that 99.9 per cent of all voters will never set eyes upon it, let alone read it.

This is the kind of navel-gazing exercise a party undertakes and completes in the year after an election – not a year out from the next one.

It all reinforces the impression of a party focused inwards rather than outwards.

That is underlined by the series of policy remits which deal with such pressing matters as compulsory Maori language classes in schools, apologising to Maori over the foreshore and seabed farrago, state funding of political parties (a hardy annual) and entrenching the Bill of Rights (whatever difference that would make).

Many of the items amount to wish-list policies produced by the party’s sector groups. The words “out of touch” spring to mind.

While all this navel gazing was going on, the government was getting on with what matters, including announcements on a replacement for the Teachers’ Council and the decision to not allow the damming of the Nevis River.

Even on a matter of moment – state asset sales – Labour seems to be living in the past. One proposal up for debate at yesterday’s workshops would have had a Labour government reviewing the state-owned enterprises model so that it was no longer “pro-capitalist” and enabled “workers’ participation, control and management of industry”.

The “policy proposal” would have also required Labour to “re-nationalise” every state asset privatised by the current National Government, with compensation being paid only to shareholders with “proven need”.

That is a blunt retort to Bill English’s jibe that if Labour opposes asset sales so much, why doesn’t the party commit itself to borrowing the money to buy them back.

Exactly where the line would have drawn on compensation is not clear. But there would be some mighty unhappy investors in Mighty River Power if told they were not going to get their money back. That would amount to theft – and would have seriously dented New Zealand’s credibility as a haven for foreign investment, as well as sending all the wrong messages about saving.

The proposal was voted down by delegates. The question is how it managed to make it onto the conference agenda – and why something better was not put up in its place. Sometimes political parties need protecting from themselves.

Labour’s membership may feel liberated by recent changes in the party’s rules. But more influence brings the need to act more responsibly. At some point, however, Cunliffe is going to have to lurch back to the right. It won’t happen today. But it will happen. Watch for some real fireworks within Labour when it does.

Cunliffe won the leadership on votes from members and unions and he’s been feeding them left-wing rhetoric.

Whether or not he believes what he says is difficult to fathom because he varies his message to suit his audience.

However, the impression that remains is that he and his party are lurching to the left.

That might appeal to some of those who didn’t bother to vote last time. But it will repel some who did vote for the more moderate policies promoted by Labour under Phil Goff and won’t give their votes to support a more radical left agenda.

Gains on the left flank could be lost from the centre and go to the right.

While the party is focussing on what doesn’t matter, voters are worried about what does – the economy, education, health and security.

That’s National’s focus too and it’s making a positive difference to the country as the series of good news stories grows.

Meanwhile #gigatownoamaru is focussed on becoming the Southern Hemisphere’s sharpest town,

 


Poor listeners, slow learners

September 15, 2013

The Labour leadership circus has given members a chance to send messages to MPs.

Labour leadership contenders say the main message they have got from rank and file party members is that they want the caucus to stop bickering and work together. . .

Anyone with even a passing interest in politics knows the damage done by disunity and that a party which shows it can’t run itself will not be trusted to run the government.

People inside and outside the Labour Party have been saying this since very shortly after Phil Goff took over as leader after the 2008 election loss.

The message got even stronger as David Shearer’s grasp on the leadership was weakened by slings and arrows from his caucus.

If it’s taken the aspiring leaders this long to get that message about unity they’re very poor listeners, very slow learners or both.

If it’s taken them this long to get the message, will they and the various factions in the party heed it?


Number four

August 24, 2013

Jim Bolger was Prime Minister when Helen Clark became leader of the Labour Party, and the first woman to lead the Opposition.

She almost won the 1996 election but it was run under MMP and Winston Peters allowed Bolger to remain in power.

Jenny Shipley deposed Bolger and became our first female Prime Minister but Clark won the next election.

Shipley lost the leadership to Bill English but he lost the next election.

He usually gets the blame for that but it wasn’t all bad. It did get rid of much of the dead wood – those long serving MPs who ought to have resigned to let fresh blood contest the election but didn’t. He should also get credit for the rule changes which under his leadership, with the help of then president Judy Kirk and general manager Steven Joyce, made National a much stronger party and laid the foundation for its eventual return to power.

Don Brash ousted Bill, boosted membership and funds, and nearly won the 2005 election.

When Brash resigned, John Key won without a fight, and with a unified caucus helped in no small part by his deputy, English, who was, and is, 100% loyal to the leader and party. Key also had, and has maintained, strong, unified membership and good finances.

When Key won the 2008 election, Clark resigned and handed a poisoned chalice to Phil Goff. He, and the caucus, didn’t learn from what happened with National, kept most of the dead wood and lost the 2011 election.

Goff resigned and David Shearer took over, still saddled with the dead wood, disunity in the caucus, the shadowy influence of Clark and dissent in the wider party.

Labour’s about to elect the fourth leader to face the Prime Minister but changing the leader won’t be enough.

The caucus is still full of dead wood and further damaged by disunity.

Membership is low, it’s not united either and party finances are far from healthy. Clark’s shadow still looms large and there’s also the spectre of the unions which most on the right and many in the centre distrust.

Helen Clark defeated outlasted four National leaders and lost to the fifth who had a strong, unified caucus, a strong, unified party and little competition in Opposition from the wee parties.

Labour is about to elect the fourth leader to face Key but he will be fighting fires on several fronts.

He’ll have to unite his caucus and his party and also stand head and shoulders above Russel Norman and Winston Peters who’ve been doing a much better job of leading the Opposition than then man he’ll succeed.

Number four might be able to do what the three before him haven’t, but winning the leadership will be the first and easy step in a steep and challenging climb.


Ms Manners advises

June 27, 2013

Dear Ms Manners,

I am feeling ever so slightly embarrassed over a momentary lapse in my usual good manners when I muttered the F word at a public forum.

It was under my breath and I think I’m being unfairly criticised.

However, I accept that it wasn’t acceptable and wondered if you could advise me of a more polite way in which I could voice my frustration in future.

Yours inquiringly,

Phil.

Dear Phil,

I’m in agreement with Spencer W. Kimbell who said “Profanity is the effort of a feeble brain to express itself forcibly.”.

Yours politely,

Ms Manners.

Dear Ms Manners

I think I was right (in the correct sense not the political one) when I left (in the departing sense not the political one) a public forum when I couldn’t get my way.

Now I’m being referred to the Speaker. I’d appreciate you advice on what I should do.

Yours furiously,

Trevor.

Dear Trevor,

Have you considered anger management?

Yours calmly,

Ms Manners.

Dear Ms Manners,

My team is facing a popularity problem.

No matter what we do, fewer than a third of the people we want to be friends with want to be friends with us.

Some people outside the team are blaming me.

What do you suggest I do?

Yours in quiet desperation,

David.

Dear David,

It’s possible some of the people inside your team are blaming you too.

If you can’t rely on them, how do can you expect those outside the team to rely on any of you?

Yours frankly,

Ms Manners.

 


There’s already been a referendum

March 13, 2013

The petition seeking a referendum on the government’s policy to sell minority shares in a few energy companies was presented to parliament yesterday.

Parliamentary Services staff will now have to waste their time and our money ensuring the validity of the signatories.

They shouldn’t have to do it because Keeping Stock shows us there’s already been a referendum.

Labour’s then leader, Phil Goff said so.2011 referendum

Mr Goff said Prime Minister John Key had made this year’s election a referendum on whether New Zealanders wanted to see their most important assets being sold.

Perhaps the current leader, David Shearer, could explain why he’s wasting public money on another referendum when the 2011 was decisive.

And apropos of waste – does anyone know who paid for all those boxes in which the petition pages were delivered and the delivery?


And they think they’re ready for government?

December 7, 2012

Labour’s finance spokesman David Parker can’t count.

Backbencher David Clark doesn’t understand the difference between revenue and profit for tax purposes.

And now Phil Goff doesn’t understand the role and responsibilities of a non-beneficial trustee.

. . . “By attacking Mr Kiely without checking the facts Mr Goff has impugned the reputation of a highly professional individual without any justification.

“Central to Mr Goff’s allegation is that Mr Kiely held shares in shipping company Sofrana at the time PFL, of which he was a director, was considering an offer from Sofrana.

“Mr Kiely has never owned shares in Sofrana. The shares referred to by Mr Goff were held by Mr Kiely as a non-beneficial trustee for a Sofrana employee. Practising lawyers like Mr Kiely commonly hold shares for clients as non-beneficial trustee. If Mr Goff had asked he could have been told this.

“There was no obligation for Mr Kiely to disclose such matters to the Ministry when he was appointed a director. Only personal interests must be disclosed. There has never been a requirement for lawyers to disclose clients’ interests.

“Furthermore, when Sofrana expressed interest in PFL, Mr Kiely ensured that the PFL chairman was made aware of the non-beneficial trustee holding, and took the further step of ceasing to act as trustee. This is more than he was obliged to do. I have sighted the relevant documentation today. . .

And they’d like to think they’re ready for government!

The series of errors reflects on the MPs’ competency.

Goff was trying to embarrass the government because of Keily’s links to the National Party.

Instead he’s embarrassed himself and reminded voters again that a party that can’t perform in opposition is far from ready for government.


The vultures are gathering

April 28, 2012

The wilderness of opposition isn’t a good place to be at the best of times and these are far from the best of times for Labour.

The vultures are gathering, attracted by the growing stench of disarray, decay and disunity.

Phil Goff was handed a poisoned chalice by Helen Clark and he handed it on to David Shearer.

He doesn’t look comfortable with it, and who can blame him?

The wilderness of opposition isn’t a good place to be and it’s even worse when you know at least some of the vultures are supposed to be on your side.

 


Sideshows still going on

December 15, 2011

One of the problems which dogged Phil Goff’s leadership of the Labour Party was sideshows by members of caucus which took the focus off him.

The change of leader hasn’t changed that.

When a new leader takes charge it’s both good manners and good sense for the rest of the party to give him some clear air to get all the positive media focus he can get.

Yet just one day after David Shearer became Labour’s leader its immediate-past deputy, Annette King was making news:

Her parliamentary ambitions are over, but Annette King may now turn her thoughts to the Wellington mayoralty.  

It’s possible she was just responding to a question from a reporter but even so she could have waited to talk about that and  should have waited for what came next:

. . .  but there is a hint of bitterness.

“It’s interesting that, when I read the history of all the people who are responsible for all of our party, that somehow I never get mentioned.

“I actually chaired it all, pushed most of it through, but never mind, it’s always men that get the greater accolades here.”

 The Labour caucus had been more united in recent years than she could remember and Mr Shearer would ease concerns about divisions through the appointment of portfolios, she said.

United in their divisions perhaps, including the one between the men and women.

As for easing concerns about divisions through the appointment of portfolios, is that a not too veiled threat about the consequences should she not get the appointment she wants?

Update:

Adolf points out in a comment that David CUnliffe isn’t playing nicely either:

Defeated Labour leadership contender David Cunliffe will not say if he will accept an invitation to be on the party’s front bench, as he needs time to “work out what’s in my gut”.

What’s in his gut, could it be bile?


The size of the problem

December 3, 2011

John Armstrong illustrates the size of Labour’s problems:

While National was promising a brighter future, Labour was  offering a better past. But no-one lives there any more. Labour had lost touch with middle New Zealand. . .

Labour’s overall vote shrank by 15% at the 2008 election.  That was not unusual for a party that had been in power for nine years. But Saturday night’s result saw Labour’s vote shrink again, this time by 23% on the 2008 provisional result.   

All up, nearly 300,000 voters deserted Labour between 2005 and 2011 – that amounts to 35% of the party’s 2005 election  night tally.

The reasons for this are many.

John Key’s popularity and increasing support are among them but they are more symptoms than causes.

Labour had some really silly policies – GST off fruit and vegetables and not-working for families.

Even David Cunliffe admits that was stupid:

“People must always be able to earn more in work than welfare . . . “

Labour spent most of the election campaign attacking John Key and misrepresenting National’s mixed-ownership model for state assets policy as asset sales.

Phil Goff’s ratings improved as people saw more of them but the party went backwards.

After National’s disastrous defeat in the 2002 election the leader Bill English and president Judy Kirk with Steven Joyce’s assistance undertook a complete review of the party. A special constitutional conference re-wrote the rule book and provided the foundation for rebuilding the party.

Labour will have to do the same. Armstrong says:

The Labour Party can dither no longer. Some of its most sacred cows are in need of      slaughtering.   

The magnitude of last Saturday’s crushing defeat dictates that whichever David – Cunliffe or Shearer – emerges triumphant from the leadership tussle, his first action should be to initiate a rigorous, thorough and preferably independent top-to-bottom review of the party’s structure and practices.   

Nothing should be exempt from scrutiny. Not even that most delicate of subjects – the role of the party’s trade union affiliates.

Failure to do so won’t just make it difficult if not impossible to win the next election, it will gift the Green Party the opportunity to become the major party on the left.


And then there were five

November 30, 2011

When Helen Clark resigned the leadership of the Labour Party on election night three years ago, there was no competition for her job.

Phil Goff was handed the worst job at the wrong time.

Leading a party thrown out of office after nine years in government in opposition to a new government and very popular Prime Minister is a thankless task. It was made worse by the ill-discipline and disloyalty of caucus.

In spite of dissatisfaction with him and his leadership, none of his colleagues had the courage to challenge him, preferring him to take the fall for the inevitable election loss.

Now that’s over and Goff has resigned, there are at least five lining up to replace him.

Among those to put up their hands for the leadership or deputy role were David Parker, David Cunliffe, David Shearer,  Grant Robertson, and Nanaia Mahuta, although Mr Goff said he could not rule out other candidates. 

With that many contenders it is possible the new leader won’t be the most popular, but the least unpopular.

 


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