Time’s running out

Bill English was on fire on Wednesday, pointing out the different Davids, David Cunliffe presents to different audiences:

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister): Well, 12 months on and some things have not changed about the Labour Party. I think I have said this before. The leader is still called David. Most of his caucus still do not support him.

Tim Macindoe: Probably more.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Probably more, actually. Grant Robertson is still going around the country undermining a leader called David. But one thing has not changed: this David is a tricky David. With the other one you at least kind of knew what he was. And at least he knew what he was. But, of course, David Cunliffe is not quite so sure. This is a man who is a unionist with the unions, a Māori with the Māori, and a farmer with the farmers. But one thing that he tried not to be was a leafy suburb guy in the leafy suburbs. But what happened? He got caught standing in front of a yacht—a picture he could not get them to delete in Taranaki, unlike the other ones. It turns out that for all of his references to large homes in leafy suburbs, he has one. And, of course, being the working-class hero with the working class does not quite fit with being the leafy suburbs guy in the leafy suburbs. So what I thought I would do is have just a quick look at the latest update on his CV, because, as we know, that is a dynamic document to say the least. Bits appear on it and then disappear. He is the founder of Fonterra—actually, he is not; he is something else now. I came across this thing called DavidCunliffe.com—a digital identity. He is a digital guy when he is with the digital natives. This is a DavidCunliffe.com website, and I thought maybe I had found him. It says: “David has guided and supported individuals with matters of the soul for decades,”.

I thought maybe he is a monk with the monks. But then it goes on to say he has “become a respected figure …”—well, that does not sound quite like the person we are after. It says he is “often described as a … insightful individual,”—and he is, in his CV, described that way often. But the next one killed it: “refreshingly humble”. That was when we knew this was not the real David Cunliffe, because although he may be refreshing, it is not with humility. That is absolutely sure. Then I knew for sure when it said: “Surprisingly, his spiritual path has remained … refreshingly unboastful.” This is a party that cannot boast about its leader, that is for sure, and does not want to.

That was the funny part, but the next bit was more serious:

But usually in the Opposition when the leader is having a bad patch like he is, the front bench does the work. It actually took Shane Jones to show everybody just how weak and lazy the Labour front and middle benches are, because when they should be carrying their leader—because he is going to need a lot of that—by running issues that put pressure on the Government and attract the public’s attention, they are not doing any of that. They are not focused on anything that matters. In fact, it is infecting David Cunliffe. On my little phone I got a tweet from David Cunliffe that was about a big issue of the day. It said something like “I am very sorry to see the end of @massivemagNZ.” What the hell is that? It is the big issue for not just the Leader of the Opposition, because he also says to refer to Grant Robertson.

I think it must be a student magazine. That is the big issue of the day. I know that Grant Robertson never really left student politics, so the end of @massivemagNZ from Massey’s campus probably is the biggest single issue that has preoccupied him all week. But he should be doing more than that to carry his leader who needs guidance, who needs to be carried, who needs a team around him to feed him issues instead of him making them up as he goes.

John Armstrong points out that the Minister knows only too well what happens when a caucus isn’t behind its leader:

Although English’s voice was its usual mixture of dry humour and sarcasm, it had the occasional tinge of sympathy as the Minister of Finance spoke in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, doing what he loves doing – dissecting the Labour Party, diagnosing its various ailments and predicting it will fail to overcome them before voters roll up to the polling booths.

English blamed “lazy and weak” Labour MPs for failing to take the pressure off their leader. He said Shane Jones gaining headlines with regard to his allegations against Countdown had only served to show up the poor performances of his colleagues.

It is something English understands full well. It was from the same uncomfortable but potentially rewarding position that Cunliffe now occupies – Leader of the Opposition – that English led National in 2002 to its worst defeat in the party’s history.

The 2011 election was bad for Labour, but it wasn’t as bad as 2002 was for National.

However, that defeat weeded out a lot of the dead wood and after the election Bill and then-president Judy Kirk led a significant and much-needed reorganisation of the party. That laid the foundation which helped the party nearly win the following election.

Labour changed its rules after the last election but that’s saddled it with a leader without majority support in caucus. It kept most of its dead wood and there’s no sign of the significant pruning which is required.

The party has had two new leaders since the last election but it hasn’t made the other changes which would help make it look like a government in waiting.

Rather, day by day it’s looking more and more like its en route to an even worse result than it got three years ago.

Political fortunes can change very quickly and there’s no certainty about the election result, but Labour is fast running out of time to show it’s capable of running itself let alone running the country.

21 Responses to Time’s running out

  1. Andrei says:

    What does this matter?

    We are on the verge of being dragged into a major war, for goodness sakes and allied with the forces of darkness, if it happens.

  2. Andrei says:

    Perhaps the comment above is gratuitous, perhaps not but either way this sort of stuff is not going to lead me to the ballot box to tick National’s box.

    I’m not impressed with what Labour has to offer but that doesn’t mean that I’m impressed with National who are giving me exactly zero reasons to vote for them, other than their rhetoric of why Labour and the Greens are abysmal.

    I remember when Bill English got rolled as leader of the opposition, he made a statement over Nuclear ships that got the usual suspects heads spinning. It was described as a gaffe by the media – he wilted and his lack of backbone over what he believed cost him his job along with panic among his caucus colleagues who were also had the spines of jellyfish and the substance of candyfloss – they lost the next election of course as they deserved to

    And that’s what Bill English is a political technocrat and not a leader, nor a man who I would have confidence in in a crisis but a man who in benign times can play the system to keep him in the style to which he is accustomed without adding much of real value.

    I’m sure he’s a nice enough chap on a personal level but making snide remarks about the opposition is not a vote winner in these parts

  3. TraceyS says:

    Perhaps the not-so-subtle point is that a strong Opposition is needed so that dissent doesn’t have to happen on the streets, or beaches, Andrei?

    I don’t think your comments (above) are fair.

  4. homepaddock says:

    Andrei @ 12:20 – I don’t think your criticism of Bill is fair either. He has had anything but benign times to deal with and it’s not just party faithful like me who think he’s done, and is continuing to do well.

    Nor is it fail to call him a political technocrat. He’s a man of principle, a Catholic who lives his faith and he’s also practical.

    He is changing the culture in the public service to ensure it does more with less, he was one of the ministers determined to address long term benefit dependency.

    As he said during question time this week: http://parliamenttoday.co.nz/2014/02/questions-and-answers-february-19-2/

    “In setting a path back to surplus, we rejected the option of aggressively cutting spending. Instead, we took the time to understand the drivers of existing spending and whether the spending was delivering results, and to ensure that results were delivered. At the same time, we put significant resourcing and effort into improving the lives of the most vulnerable New Zealanders, particularly children. We are not doing that by throwing taxpayers’ money around indiscriminately. We are attempting to resolve the complex and persistent problems that mean some of our children have lives that sap their sense of opportunity.”

    This isn’t just rhetoric, he is genuinely working hard to address the causes of problems and not just apply expensive band aids to them.

  5. TraceyS says:

    This will be interesting. Robert Guyton will actually have to name his target when insulting them. Wonder if he will?

  6. TraceyS says:

    That was meant to go under the “nesting” post.

  7. Andrei says:

    He has had anything but benign times to deal with

    The childlike naivety that statement displays is wonderous.

    New Zealand is the most benign place to live and also to govern on the Panet! Don’t get me started…..

    Nor is it fail to call him a political technocrat. He’s a man of principle, a Catholic who lives his faith and he’s also practical.

    And then you proceed to illustrate the verity of this statement with a string of technocratic political boilerplate which almost could have been machine generated and doubtless in a few years will be with app for the Ipad

    So where was Bill English during the “gay marriage” debate. As the most powerful CATHOLIC politician in New Zealand why wasn’t he the leading Catholic voice putting the Catholic point of view into the public arena and into the parliamentary debates? He ducked for cover because it was a done deal and would not get him good press coverage to take a stand.

    Excuse my cynicism…..

  8. Andrei says:

    New Zealand is the most benign place to live and also to govern on the Panet

    I appreciate this fact and I am also extremely grateful for it but I also realize that it could be easily lost.

    I think that you are asleep and while intellectually you may acknowledge that that is a possibly, you don’t understand it in your gut nor comprehend that sooner or later it is an inevitability and that we need to work to make sure that it is later rather than sooner

  9. homepaddock says:

    I thought you meant benign in economic terms.

    He voted against gay marriage, Andrei. He didn’t duck for cover, he expressed his views which were consistent with his faith. Don’t confuse no blazing headlines with no statements and no work. A tiny fraction of what any MP says and does is reported.

  10. Richard says:

    Effective governments rather than good governments need the likes of English.e.g. Birch and Cullen. English made the mistake of allowing himself to be the leader when his real talent is that of 2iC
    He has done a wonderful job- admired throughout the western world

  11. Andrei says:

    He didn’t duck for cover, he expressed his views which were consistent with his faith.

    Whatever – I didn’t hear him in the debates though I heard every single “openly gay” MP spout their nonsense.

    As the title of this post says – “Time’s running out”, the clock is ticking, counting down the time until the next major meltdown engulfs us all and what better way of spending the time we have left than amusing ourselves with reality shows and politicians slagging one another off.

  12. TraceyS says:

    This might be a bit of a generalisation but perhaps it is very much easier to talk openly about sex-related things in public (especially on TV) if you are other than a conservative man?

    In contrast, the following politician obviously has no problem with it:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/8574409/MP-mum-helps-make-dream-a-reality

    I’d never encourage my child to discuss his/her sexual preferences with a newspaper reporter at the tender age of 17 years. Just guessing that Bill English probably wouldn’t either (whatever the preferences be). Once it is printed, it’s out there forever, you can’t take it back and at seventeen does she really comprehend this fully?

    Conservatism obviously puts one at a disadvantage in the public debate on this particular topic. I have no problem with Bill English having a view on this matter and preferring to be private about it. I much prefer that to the approach of Mojo Mathers.

    How about you Andrei @ 3:48pm?

  13. Andrei says:

    This might be a bit of a generalisation but perhaps it is very much easier to talk openly about sex-related things in public (especially on TV) if you are other than a conservative man?

    That statement show how far from the reservation you have strayed Tracey.

    Marriage is not about SEX

    It is about two people jointly taking on the Adult responsibilities of raising their own children together!

    And we spend an inordinate amount of time talking about people who have children but are not taking their adult responsibilities for raising them seriously – and do you know what Tracey?

    The vast majority of those children that the State has to take responsibility for are not married, while those who get married in a responsible manner before conceiving and raising children almost never require the state to intervene and when they do it is more likely due to misfortune, as it was in our PMs case, rather than indolence.

    Which is why allowing the marriage to be rewritten in the manner it has is sheer lunacy.

  14. Andrei says:

    And as you can see Tracey that when we talk about marriage as it really is then mature conservative males can discuss it quite easily in public, without any embarrassment what so ever

  15. TraceyS says:

    Andrei @ 5:02pm: My husband and I have clocked up 25 years together this year. Married for 13. Oldest child 12, born one year after the wedding. You can read into that that we got married to have kids.

    It is ridiculous to suggest that the homosexual marriage debate has nothing to do with sex. It is all about stopping discrimination against people because of sexual bigotry.

    My parents were married. They did not stay together. The cause was not “misfortune”. They were highly incompatible. Forced to marry by embarrassed parents because a baby was already on the way. Like that was going to make everything all OK!

    They tried, but the institution of marriage didn’t save them, or us.

  16. TraceyS says:

    Andrei @ 5:04pm: I have had many conversations with various males about gay marriage. Mostly they say that what goes on in a relationship, especially in the bedroom, between two adults is none of their or the government’s business.

    But views change when they realise that married gay couples will be able to adopt children. Upon asking what their issue was I heard that it is the things that children might see upon accidentally walking into the bedroom too early on a Saturday morning which makes them concerned. Some even thought that IVF, surrogacy etc should not be available to gay couples.

    It’s all very well to say that sex doesn’t have to be part of the discussion. It doesn’t. I fully agree. But if you can’t talk openly about sex, then for some it is going to be hard to express a comprehensive view on whether they agree or disagree with gay marriage.

  17. Andrei says:

    You know Tracey in this world

    (1) we are not guaranteed happiness and no Government can legislate that we are entitled to it let alone deliver it

    (2) We cannot be free from the consequences of our choices and no Government can successfully legislate to free us from them

    So in your anecdote about your parents, your conception and how it all played out in their lives and yours this stands out

    They were highly incompatible. Forced to marry by embarrassed parents because a baby was already on the way.

    Which is why I impressed upon my children that they should marry before conceiving children, of course. And that they should determine that they are compatible with the potential Father/Mother of their offspring before embarking upon marriage, the conception and raising of them, all done in that order.

    Of course there is no guarantee, of future happiness, even if you do it by the book, like that poor woman whose husband was a senior bank dude, who embezzled millions to pay for whores, but that not withstanding, doing it by the book vastly increases your chances of having a prosperous and successful future with your husband/wife.

    This is not rocket science, nor is it hard to understand why those who take a considered approach to it are more likely to be successful in the long term and to find “happiness” than those who fall into it in a casual manner.

  18. Andrei says:

    I have had many conversations with various males about gay marriage. Mostly they say that what goes on in a relationship, especially in the bedroom, between two adults is none of their or the government’s business.

    Totally agree – none of this is the Governments business, nor mine or yours. People should be permitted to live in peace as they choose. We will even pick up the pieces as we can when their poor choices turn to custard as humane people living in a humane society

    But views change when they realise that married gay couples will be able to adopt children.

    As they should, the adoption of children now brings vulnerable citizens, too young to make choices for themselves into the equation and this is an area which needs frank and open discussion.

    Some even thought that IVF, surrogacy etc should not be available to gay couples

    Some even?

    This is an abomination.

    I believe IVF and surrogacy are wrong in all circumstances. And while I can feel sympathy for infertile, married couples who resort to these techniques I suspect they are actually more frequently used for less creditable purposes -particularly in the third world where desperate poor women are exploited to pander to the vanities of wealthy westerners. And it is not only gays who do this – eg Women who pay other women to carry their child to avoid the wear and tear on their own bodies, post menopausal women etc

    But if you can’t talk openly about sex, then for some it is going to be hard to express a comprehensive view on whether they agree or disagree with gay marriage.

    Nonsense we need to talk about what marriage is and not get diverted with endless dialogues about what it isn’t or wastn’t

  19. TraceyS says:

    In regard to the nonsense bit, I agree, but it still might be hard to talk about marriage down the lense of a camera, in parliament, or to a newspaper reporter. I would find it hard, but in other forums, quite easy.

    This topic is more personal and closer to the heart than other issues discussed in public settings. People should be able to be reserved, publicly, if that is who they are. Even politicians.

    But no, you are criticising Bill English for not being outspoken enough. And it wouldn’t surprise me if people on the other side of the argument would also be doing the same.

  20. Andrei says:

    But no, you are criticising Bill English for not being outspoken enough.

    Well no – actually,

    I was being critical of his taking swipes at other politicians rather than taking every opportunity to articulate what he stands for and presenting a vision for the future of the Nation and a coherent philosophy of how National will go about transforming that vision into reality.

    As a representative in the “House of representatives” if he identifies himself as a Catholic, as he does, and as Ele identified him on this thread, then there is a reasonable expectation that he would use his position to represent the views of Catholics and the Catholic Church in the house.

    And by a somewhat more than merely casting a “conscience” vote in accord with Catholic teaching and by prevaricating on why he cast his vote that way when asked, with meaningless platitudes so as not to be held accountable for his vote by those who disagree with his stance.

    In fact the impression he gave was he just wanted the whole issue to go away a quickly and as quietly and with as little fuss as possible.

  21. TraceyS says:

    Swipes, yes, Andrei but the message is that the country needs strong opposition and we don’t have it. Pointing out the opposition’s weaknesses could be seen as a way of prompting them to improve themselves and get their act together. The post is titled “time’s running out” and it is for this upcoming election. That’s a shame because voter apathy is likely to be high and that’s not good overall. People need to take a more active interest in politics rather than sitting back thinking “she’ll be right”.

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