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An Auckland view on Labour’s changes

Written By: - Date published: 8:46 am, July 20th, 2012 - 75 comments
Categories: david shearer, labour, Left - Tags:

Here’s a guest post from an Auckland Labour Party member with a different take on the constitutional changes. It’s interesting and challenging. Good food for thought.

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Let us consider Labour’s proposed constitutional reforms in its moment. New Zealand’s progressives continue to splinter, just as conservative variation contracts. As the progressives splinter, they are also growing. Their speed and cross-activism is lithe and viral. Digital activism is finally fully contesting the print world – within the MSM only TV news can still lead public opinion.

David Shearer, Labour’s leader, understands very deeply and with serious scale how to form unity within analogue space; quieting military factions, brokering peace. The lack of precision, the refusal to attack, the actual kindness that his eyes betray, they are hallmarks of an intuitive negotiator and peacemaker. A broker less like the feline JK Galbraith or high chess player of Kissinger, more like a world-stretched social worker leading communities through years of hardship. The truth of his commitment shows in every wrinkle.

Labour’s constitutional proposals have responded to progressivist splintering within an analogue world, like a peacemaker. Without question they care, and they show it. Youth, women, and Maori have their places cemented. The instruments to reboot regional groupings of activists will, done with sensitivity, break down inter-regional factions. The moribund Electorate Committee structures are finally challenged.

However those new regional instruments don’t layer onto New Zealand’s actual structures. Auckland, for example, is structured by legislation as a single political organism. Its political power both by number of Members of Parliament and by Auckland’s Council are growing quickly to match its utter commercial dominance of New Zealand. Within Auckland, activism is increasingly digital and exceedingly rich. Auckland, like all the Australian cities, is turning New Zealand into a state dominated by one city. And it is not Wellington.

As New Zealand’s government shrinks, and policy agency to direct society or the economy also fades fast, so Wellington and parliament’s influence is weakening and Auckland’s social and economic domination increasingly define power. Not a good thing; a reality.

This is the first framing of the actual base contest of power within the constitutional reforms. It addresses factions, not structural shifts. Labour is more than Wellington. National shows this understanding quite baldly: Auckland’s money is the key to everything. Labour’s constitutional reforms don’t yet get the growing importance of the regions, or of Auckland particularly.

At base the reforms presume there is a beautiful pyramid of power, with the Leader in Wellington at the top. The constitutional proposals entrench the Leader so that even if they only have the support of 33% of caucus, no challenge to the leadership is possible.

Which is where the curiosity is amplified. The deep Left Melancholy experienced by New Zealand’s progressives after enduring two of the worst defeats they have ever had was entrenched by Labour’s leadership contest of November 2011. Activists were invited to feel like they had power once more. President of the Labour Party Moira Coatesworth let out this genie of democratization. The vast digital networks rang with enthusiasm. It was like the 99% was about to win against the 1%. It felt like Occupy. Digital palimpsests finally came out into the analogue light again to the many meetings.

Instead caucus made a resolute point of taking no notice whatsoever of the overwhelming view of Labour’s members.

That same line is drawn here.  There is a cold break between the effort to re-unify the splintering progressives and make regional structures more productive, and the caucus grip on power. The one-third of Caucus hold the leadership trip mechanism against the two thirds of caucus, and thus against the 40% Membership voice, and further against the 20% Affiliates voice.

Labour Wellington’s power may be shrinking in real life, but, like the contracting world of the 1%, power is here defined and held by fewer and fewer. This is unlikely to be Shearer’s doing – he is from the analogue peacemakers’ world. And the constitutional review at its lower orders is a way of making peace. Neither the growing power of regions, nor digital activist splintering, is addressed.

Instead the core of elected power, that shrinking analogue world of Wellington, is untouched unless over 67% of Labour’s Members of Parliament decide to revolt. 67% has never in Labour’s history been achieved before in a leadership contest. 67% was not required as a threshold of changing leadership even in the darkest days of Rogernomics. Why now? Why such a higher level of protection than any other New Zealand political party?

More pointedly, why does the core 1/3 of Labour’s caucus think they can make themselves insured from the reforms that all other aspects of the public service are going through? Why do they think they have an entitlement to greater job security than every other public servant? What makes this particular leader so important to protect that he deserves protection that neither Clark, nor Fraser, nor Kirk enjoyed?

The reforms seek to make Labour broader at the base, and much, much narrower and higher at the top. A pyramid. The existing structure is not just unchallenged, it is reinforced. But it is done kindly. It keeps peace with the splintered base, but leaves the structure intact and entrenched.

The structural reforms are generous within a wilful blindness to structural redefinitions of power in New Zealand; it is the very model.
of a Labour solution.

75 comments on “An Auckland view on Labour’s changes”

  1. Adrian 1

    One advantage of the new system, and this may well be deliberate, is that once an elected ( by the wider party ) leader is in place it would appear to be much more difficult for the pocketed media to destabilise him or her with innuendo and speculation.

    • Blue 1.1

      Not so. The media will have a field day with this. They’ll spread the rumours that the leader is deeply unpopular with their caucus but caucus can’t get rid of them because of the 2/3 rule.

      They’ll paint the picture of a broken, limping party that is hamstrung by its own rules and Labour will be be powerless to defend against that image.

      The caucus won’t be able to claim they have confidence in the leader, because no one will believe them. The media will just assume they’re lying and trying to make the best of it while the toxic environment within the hapless caucus poisons and strangles the party.

      The media will know exactly how to play this for all it’s worth.

      • Te Reo Putake 1.1.1

        Not so, Blue. This kills stone dead any ongoing gossip about caucus coups, because it effectively means they cannot happen. Any media beat up along the lines of ‘we would roll him, but …’ will be a two minute wonder. It’s a sensible decision that would have saved Phil Goff a lot of grief had it been in place last term and would have munted the msm campaign which so clearly contributed to Key retaining power.
         
        As to the post itself, its not only weakly written, and pretty much Pseuds Corner material in the digital/analogue waffle, it ignores the fact that this a proposal, not a done deal. The central thrust of the post is that this proposal entrenches caucus power and reinforces the current structure. It could hardly be more wrong. But the important thing is the proposal can be debated and amended democratically. It lifts Labour to the kind of inclusive party life the Greens have enjoyed since leaving the Alliance. That’s no bad thing.
         
        Anyway, it’s always good to hear from Aucklanders on how the rest of us should see things and particularly good to be reminded that Auckland is the centre of the universe. Can’t for the life of me think why the majority of NZers refuse to live there ;)

        • mickysavage 1.1.1.1

          Hehe

          Give me Wellington any day with its proximity to major earthquake faults, its incessant wind and its extreme cold …

          Much better than warm summers, West Coast Beaches and the Waitakere Ranges … 

          :smile: 

        • BillODrees 1.1.1.2

          “The central thrust of the post is that this proposal entrenches caucus power and reinforces the current structure. It could hardly be more wrong”.    WRONG 

          TRP:  we want a more inclusive and democratic party.   Every aspect of these rule changes is about removing power from the membership and concentrating it.  That ultimately leaves more power with the Caucus.  Moira, Mike Smith and good positive people like you have been mis-lead. 

          And this is not just an Auckland issue.  It is a democracy issue because the members are loosing much of their structure and voice. It is a confidence issue because our leaders promised one thing and in a blaze of hype sneaked through something a lot different.  We need a “pro-democracy” movement in the Labour party to support searing amendments to these proposed rules. 

           

        • Colonial Viper 1.1.1.3

          Not so, Blue. This kills stone dead any ongoing gossip about caucus coups, because it effectively means they cannot happen.

          That’s why Blue engineered a potential CT line that the majority of caucus might want a leader gone, but the 2/3 rule prevents any such action.

          To think that the media is going to simply shrug at that point and say its a non-story is a tad hopeful.

          • QoT 1.1.1.3.1

            I can already see the headlines and columns and God knows the W****O** posts about the poor silenced MPs who cannot speak out in the party’s own interests because a cadre of [pick your favourite: unionists, neolibs, queers, feminists] have just enough numbers to keep power.

            • Colonial Viper 1.1.1.3.1.1

              Yep. And in a scenario with 34 Labour MPs like we have now, twelve MPs is the ‘just enough’ you are referring to, which can block the remaining twenty two MPs from acting.

              There’s just no way that this wouldn’t be an ongoing news story. The undemocratic Labour Party etc.

      • Blue you should know that the media always has “a field day with Labour and Leftwing parties. When has the media given support to Labour over the last 10 or more years. The newspapers are owned and run by capitalists and National supporters . The Left just has to accept this fact ,However why do so many people believe the crap and propogander from these Crosby-Textor driven organizations, The new reforms about to happen are exciting and will make the Labour Party not only winnable but the most democratic party in Aotearoa .

    • Jim Nald 1.2

      Deliberate? Possibly.
      Advantage? Possibly not.

      Parliamentarians especially those contesting for higher office should, and need to, be made of sterner stuff. At the party political leadership level, the sport ought to be much more robust.

      A top cook makes it when she or he has been in the hottest kitchen and delivers. A top cook is not created by stopping the kitchen from getting too hot just to keep the cook in it.

  2. This is an interesting piece, thanks for it.

    I’d be interested to hear a few more specifics from the author about the regional organising proposals in the review, and how they will work in Auckland, and if you think it is a positive or negative.

  3. Craig Glen Eden 3

    The 67% vote needed by caucus for a leadership vote is a joke quite frankly. Labour is sadly going to slip further backwards with Shearer and this cynical leadership power grab. Personally I am almost getting to the point of absolute despair with Labour and its caucus that are nothing short of useless.

    It wouldnt matter so much ( Labours demise) but I care about NZs future. All the while our country is being rapped by the greedy Banker and Shearer does nothing much.Night after night I watch the Greens making comments on the issues of the day, Labour hardly ever seen and sadly when they are are often irrelevant.Labours caucus will be much smaller after the next election I predict unless Shearer does the decent thing and resigns.

    • Dr Terry 3.1

      Thanks Craig, somebody had to say it as it really is.

    • Peter 3.2

      I see a local party that is run by the same faces that ran the local party in the 1970s. Most younger people have been squeezed out, and there is no desire nor understanding of the grave generational issues that affect the party.

      In essence, I see a movement that has ran its historical course.

      But I also see huge loyalty, even amongst the disaffected.These people will never vote Green, let alone join. They will still party vote Labour on the day. The real question is, how to engage these people given that the leadership from the top of the pyramid isn’t capable of engaging them.

      In essence, I think the party needs a parallel structure, another organising focus. I’d call such a project Real Labour, to seperate it from what appears to be Treasury Labour – that faction around Shearer and Robertson that appears to be tightening its grip on Caucus and Labour’s ideology.

      That project may just be waiting to begin, with the right people.

      • Craig Glen Eden 3.2.1

        Interesting post Peter may I suggest if we need a separate wing that represents “true labour” then either it’s time the caucus changes it’s coarse and starts being the labour that represents labours values to the electorate or it’s time for a clean out.the easiest way to focus minds could be for real labour people to party vote green.three staunch labour in our house hold and all will be part vote green as things currently stand.

        • Peter 3.2.1.1

          It’s less about wings, and more about organisational pressure. I’ve been around the party a long time (10+ years) and know that the places it needs resourcing are generally the last places that MPs and party bosses like to look. Except at election time when they are scrambling to get someone to run a meeting or put up a hoarding. I don’t think their focus groups are telling them that they might have about 2 members to cover some vast tory blue spaces in the South Island for instance (spaces that Labour once covered well).

          So something well-resourced could just start to fill the looming gap. It may actually be natural. It could facilitate a “clean out” as you put it, although I’m not going that far yet. Our current MPs just need some damned membership pressure applied to them.

          The wider issue which is worth discussing is that the future will be far more Labour than Green. I say Labour in the traditional sense of a party made up of working people. Look at the trends – this is a depleting world, and the most resilient, reliable, and easy to produce resource we have is people. The stuff we currently get done by machine may have to be done by people again, or it’ll certainly be cheaper to do so.

          I don’t think the Greens get this – all my conversations with the many Green members I know are just as mesmerized by technology as most of Labour’s leadership are (except Cunliffe). They fervently believe – in the religious sense of the word – that some clean-teach miracle is just awaiting around the corner to solve our present plight. That view is as silly as it is wrong.
          Then there’s also the issue of decreasing environmental consciousness during what looks to be a permanent recession.

          With the right focus, all this is perfect ground for a proper grassroots Labour movement again.

          • Draco T Bastard 3.2.1.1.1

            The stuff we currently get done by machine may have to be done by people again, or it’ll certainly be cheaper to do so.

            Actually, doing something by machine is always cheaper than doing it with people. The human metabolism is less efficient than that of machines.

            They fervently believe – in the religious sense of the word – that some clean-teach miracle is just awaiting around the corner to solve our present plight.

            Well, I’m not a Green so don’t know what they’re thinking but the “miracle” I’m looking for is a rational power down of the economy reducing it to only produce what we need and to make it a stable state that exists within the environmental limits. In other words, sustainable. Labour still wants growth even though the evidence shows that growth is unsustainable.

            If anyone is being silly it’s Labour and all the other parties of the right.

            • Colonial Viper 3.2.1.1.1.1

              Actually, doing something by machine is always cheaper than doing it with people. The human metabolism is less efficient than that of machines.

              LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

              Sure, if you completely disregard the large amounts of highly refined operating energy and vast amounts of embedded energy that high tech machine systems require in terms of fabrication, operation, reconfiguration, and maintenance.

              When an advanced machine breaks down, you better send for a million dollar part and an installation engineer from Sweden.

              When a worker breaks down, you give them a couple of days off, some TLC and chicken broth.

              Pre-1970′s machinery will still come in very useful though. The less electronics the better.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Sure, if you completely disregard the large amounts of highly refined operating energy and vast amounts of embedded energy that high tech machine systems require in terms of fabrication, operation, reconfiguration, and maintenance.

                Checked out how much farming costs recently?

                There’s also the fact that if you can get a machine to do something then a person can do something else that a machine can’t.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Exactly. Industrial farming is in its last 10-15 years.

                  There’s also the fact that if you can get a machine to do something then a person can do something else that a machine can’t.

                  This is an option now; it is not going to be an option in the future. When the Chinese made CNC machine breaks down and no one knows how to fix it, someone is going to have to go on the lathe and make the part by hand.

                  Will we still need machines? Certainly we’ll use them where we can, and where they still remain operable.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    We make hundreds of thousands of tons steel every year. Cut that down to what we actually need (probably less than half) and we actually have enough energy to make the other machines that we need. Once produced those machines will last 20 odd years.

                    Now, that scenario applies right across the economy because we use an economic system that fails at economics. An economic system that massively wastes our resources rather than using them economically. If we stop that massive waste we can maintain a high tech society very easily.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      You’re quite correct, but those machines should not be designed to require (and be reliant on) complex electronics and semiconductors from overseas.

                      We have to be able to completely design, manufacture and maintain them ourselves.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      We have to be able to completely design, manufacture and maintain them ourselves.

                      Which is what I’ve been saying for some time as well. As I pointed out the other day, our researchers are some of the leaders in 3D printing at the atomic level which is the next step along the road of complex electronics. Unfortunately, as it stands we’re more likely to sell that technology rather than use it ourselves.

    • Tom Gould 3.3

      Craig, you are proof that people tend to see what they want to see, and hear what they want to hear.

    • David H 3.4

      Thats why I am voting Green this time. I have had a guts full of the NAT elitism coming out from Labour. And now this. All it is, is the dinosaurs making it harder for us to get rid of them and also it makes it harder to get a REAL leader, and not some fancy poster boy for the Somali people. So the next election unfortunately could either be a GREEN/Labour or it will be Blue. And if it is Blue, then the Blame should be laid squarely where it lays with Shearer, Roberston, Mallard, etc etc should ALL go.

  4. My 2c worth is that the subregional hip idea may work for parts of the country but for Auckland it is a retrograde step.  The area has distinct subregional areas, North Shore is entirely different to the South side, which is kinda similar to West which has little in common with Central and the East.

    But at the same time there are vibrant regional groupings, including Pacifica, the various Ethnic groups, environmental groups, and trade unions.  By far the best way to engage with these groupings is on a regional basis and the current proposal is totally blind to this.

    I also have reservations about the two third vote by caucus to organize a leadership contest.  If a leader does not have majority support then you really have to think about if they should remain leader.

    Having said that I understand the need for stability and the need for a leader to have some protection.  

    The example may be raised is about a strong left leader that has overwhelming support amongst activists and the trade union movement but minority support in a right leaning caucus.  It may be argued that the two third rule is a protective mechanism but my response would be that if caucus is that out of sync with the membership as a whole that they are willing to risk an unpopular leadership change then the members of caucus are the ones who should be replaced.

     

  5. AmaKiwi 5

    25% of the caucus asking for a leadership vote is more than enough because:  1) if the challenge fails those 25% know they are dead meat; 2) if 25% are so dissatisfied they are willing to take that risk there must be widespread dissatisfaction in the party and caucus.

    The proposed number (two-thirds) is either a joke to get us riled up or an insult to the membership.

    • BillODrees 5.1

      AmaKiwi, it is about one thing and one person only. ABC. Shearer, a partlianmentary novice, won by 50% +1 of the Caucus.  Now he wants 33% of the Caucus to be abe to save him from a Cunliffe challenge.  That is the height of his ambition.
      Why are this faction afraid of membership power and of Cunliffe?  Unfortunately we have a small group of MPs who feel their possies are protected by Shearer/Mallard &co.  And they think that the next election can be won by saying bland things that Nat leaning people would like them to say.  
      Uninspired and uninspiring. 

  6. Ad 6

    Could The Standard become an Affiliate?

  7. Rich 7

    I’m not sure what this ‘power’ thing is, but it’s held by a few wealthy people in Hawaii, Remuera, Switzerland and Oriental Bay, not by the people of either Auckland or Wellington.

    In other terms, Wellington has a sustainable city, Xero, Cuba St, Lawrence of Arabia and (I hate to say it) Weta. Auckland has traffic snarl, Rod Petrevic, the viaduct, Annabel Fay and The OC.

  8. tracey 8

    at least its discussed…nationals internal machinations are as murky… dark back stabbing as ever

  9. The cynical Power factions have already started.
    It will not improve by this move.
    Labour could well break into different factions.

  10. AmaKiwi 10

    The NZ Labour Party is one election away from becoming a footnote in the history books.  If the disaffected lefties like me continue to be shut out, the party will fragment.  The Greens will become the largest left of center party.
     
    I was disgusted by the caucus’s refusal to replace Phil Goff when it was obvious to everyone he would lose.  We had a national roadshow to select the next leader.  Again, the caucus ignored the membership.
     
    My message to the caucus:  “We made you.  We can break you.” 

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      My message to the caucus: “We made you. We can break you.”

      Loud and clear.

  11. QoT 11

    Instead caucus made a resolute point of taking no notice whatsoever of the overwhelming view of Labour’s members.

    I think in addition to this – and I speak as a pretty public non-Labour leftie – the appointment of Shearer cemented the idea that Labour was not willing to do the hard yards and make the tough choices and truly, sharply change direction/regain its leftist cred/reject the Pagani-driven “just be more like John Key, and say you think Liz Hurley’s hot, Waitakere Myth loves that” – for those people who had already jumped ship.

    It seemed to say, and maybe I’m just speaking for myself here, “Nah. We’re sure that changing the wallpaper will make all the difference, because we deserve leftwing votes.”

    Shearer’s godawful Excalibur speeches have continued that message to me.

    Why such a higher level of protection than any other New Zealand political party?

    And, let’s be clear, a higher level of protection again, because on top of the 67% threshold you’ve got a smaller caucus. If National implemented the same policy, Key would need to keep 20 MPs on board to be safe. Shearer only needs 12. (As I note CV has already commented while I was typing this up.)

    • Blue 11.1

      +1

      The election of Shearer was a clear signal that Labour doesn’t really want to make the changes that it needs to make, and will consequently face another term in Opposition because of their reluctance.

      This ridiculous 2/3 rule is yet another example. Labour are trying to take shortcuts, and it isn’t going to work. The only surefire way to avoid coups is to have a popular leader who’s making ground in the polls.

      Labour have forgotten what good polling numbers look like, and rather than address that, they’re effectively banning coups.

      Always been a Labour voter, but I’m going Green at the next election. My party needs to sort their shit out.

  12. BillODrees 12

    What makes us differant from the Natz is that we want government power in order to bring about change.
    The Natz want power in order to maintain the status quo. That is why they are called conservatives.
    The current Labour leadership is not promoting any real change. That makes them conservative in my eyes.  
    To give the 500,000 ENVs, and those who voted  elsewhere, hope and motivation to vote we have to genuinely, convincingly and clearly show that Labour will make a change.  I’ve no confidence in the current Labour leadership’s understanding of what is needed to make a real change for Kiwis.  
    Labour membership bit their lip when the caucus narrowly selected and unknown untested Shearer.  He was certainly not the choice of those who saw him in the leadership debates.  Cunliffe was. 
    We have watched second rate performances  from Shearer, Jacinda, Grant and now the latest from the tragic hapless Parker.  If this continues Key will win a third term. 
    Like the majority of members, I want us to NOT repeat the mistake we made with Phil.  We didn’t “retire” Phil soon enough. We need a constitution that gives many platforms to the membership to have serious influence. The party is too important to be left to the caucus. 
     

     
    • QoT 12.1

      The Natz want power in order to maintain the status quo.

      By … selling assets, changing our tax system to benefit their mates, “toughening up” our justice system, demeaning Maori rights, running down our health and education systems, destroying our social welfare system?

      I mean, if we’re talking a wider “capitalist free market”-type status quo, then I’ve got to question the premise that Labour has even the slightest desire to really challenge that.

      • Draco T Bastard 12.1.1

        I mean, if we’re talking a wider “capitalist free market”-type status quo, then I’ve got to question the premise that Labour has even the slightest desire to really challenge that.

        They don’t. They’ll hang on to the status quo as hard as NACT does.

    • Craig GlenEden 12.2

      Could’nt agree more BOD but the problem with so many in this cauacus is they are so arrogant and so dismissive of members they literally dont give a rats what members think. I believe they will happily let the party go down the gurglar.

      Its time for a big clean out frankly I think we let them clutch to their power weights which will see them sink into a political grave. If we dont have a change in leadership in the next say 8 months we are stuffed.

  13. peterk. 13

    I look at John Key, then I look at David Shearer, then I look at both caucus benches, and well, there isn’t alot of difference between the two of them!! Labour once stood proud, would’ve rolled their sleeves up and got stuck in, now they want to know, where’s the dosh. Abit like John Key!!

  14. Olwyn 14

    Guest Post generously describes David Shearer as a peacemaker. If so, he is not a successful one, since the rumblings of discontent have not ceased since he took the leadership. The small amount of enthusiasm from the membership has been of the desperate, flag waving kind, while the only delighted hallelujahs have come from tory journalists. The thing is, even if Shearer is a good peacemaker, that is not what is needed at the moment. People were galvanised behind Clark’s government, whatever its faults may have been. Something of that remained and carried over to Goff, despite people’s misgivings about him. The last vestiges of it were killed off when they disregarded the membership and chose Shearer as their leader. Now they seem to think that they can court the tories against a background of mistrust and disappointment from their own party and get away with it. The big question is, how do we prevent them from getting away with it? I am held in the party by the slenderest thread of hope that things can change, but I will not be putting pamphlets in letterboxes for a duplicitous pack of neo-rogernomes.

  15. AmaKiwi 15

    To the caucus and Olwyn:  On the virtues of passing the buck.
     
    It is a time honored tradition to avoid being the target of people’s anger by passing the controversial decision to someone else, in this case the membership.  If the majority of the membership prefer Shearer or Cunliffe as leader, we accept the majority’s decision.  What we cannot accept is a tiny group dictating to everyone.
     
    To the caucus I say, “Get smart.”  Instead of incurring our wrath and tearing the party apart let us have an open competition.  If Cunliffe’s supporters lose in a fair fight, I predict they will promptly return to the fold.

    • Olwyn 15.1

      Yup. Even if some of them would not return to the fold, the majority probably would. And at the very least, the decision would be accepted as democratic rather than dictatorial.

      • QoT 15.1.1

        the decision would be accepted as democratic rather than dictatorial.

        This. I remember that one of the best arguments in favour of MMP over FPP was that hey, under FPP someone [some party] could win despite having less than 50% support. People tend to perceive “over 50% in favour” as a fair and balanced (sorry!) way of deciding things, and a two-thirds majority is usually reserved for Serious Business like constitutional changes or overriding US Presidential vetoes.

        • Olwyn 15.1.1.1

          The advantage of the 67% rule is that it gives a leader space to win back lost support, where they have made an unpopular move but think that their opponents will see the sense of it, given enough time. But you would think that a leader with less than 50% support over a reasonable period of time would find their position untenable and resign. And that the demanding business of having to take it to the members would counter instability, without need for the 67% threshold. It is hard to get away from the thought that, have inflicted a broadly unwanted leadership team and direction on the party, the “top team” now sees fit to lock it in. The endorsement vote will go by the old rules, so +50% of caucus will be needed. It is probably assumed that members will value their in-group status over the qualms of the membership, and that Shearer will head to the 2014 election with a silenced opposition.

          I also wonder, with the new rules concerning affiliates, who will have a say as to which affiliates are included. Without constraints it seems like an open opportunity for a moneyed-up right wing organisation to get its foot in the door, especially with a right leaning caucus at the helm.

          • QoT 15.1.1.1.1

            I disagree. We’ve seen how faffing difficult it is to put up a leadership challenge – getting 50%+1 MPs together and committed to rolling a leader doesn’t just happen overnight. And the time it takes to get a proper counter-movement together within caucus should be quite sufficient for any marginally-supported move to prove itself.

            On the other hand, now we’ll be in a situation where David Shearer could hypothetically say “Really, I think Key’s done a great job and we should let him ride the rest of the term out without making a fuss” and just because 12 MPs hate David Cunliffe and love their parliamentary perks enough to put up with it, he stays.

            • Olwyn 15.1.1.1.1.1

              If you read my post again, I think we broadly agree. I was simply putting forward a case for the 67%, without necessarily endorsing it. Shearer does have to face an endorsement vote in February 2013, under the 50%+ rule in caucus, under the old rules. However, your hypothesis might hold under these circumstances, if people love their perks enough, or see a career advantage in maintaining the status quo. I think that when that time comes we need to bombard them with emails, supposing there is a challenger, so that they are made to know that they are alienating a sizable number by endorsing the present status quo.

              • BillODrees

                Olwyn, if he fails the 50%+1 endorsement then it goes to Leadership vote and the 67% applies.  It does not matter what the Affiliates and the Members think and what 22 of the Caucus think, vote, add up or whatever.  Shearer just needs 12 and he locked into power until he loses in 2017 also.  

                Read the whole constitution.  Read the NZ Council’s proposals and you will see that this is Larceny on a Grand Scale. 

                • Olwyn

                  I asked that question on this thread, http://thestandard.org.nz/labours-review-a-good-job-well-done/ Bunji replied “This February’s vote remains a simple majority. But it is the last one at that level and it changes after that to 67%. Held within 3 months of each election AFAIK.” If Bunji is right, then it will apply to future leadership elections. From what I understand the changes are not to be ratified until November, so we have time to make submissions about them.

                  Two other things also concern me. One is the leadership endorsement having to take place within 3 months of an election. I think it should be 6 months. Caucus would have been far less comfortable overriding the members by choosing Shearer if the Ports of Auckland strike and the Talley lock out had been in full swing. My other concern is the inclusion of non-union affiliates, which without clear restrictions, potentially opens the door to party hi-jacking in a legitimised manner.

            • Hardie 15.1.1.1.1.2

              Except he would then face a simple majority vote in 2013, and lose that. And then whoever is elected will have the backing of the party, and will be safe from, say, a fractious majority of MPs who don’t wish to accept the verdict of the party.

              While I’d rather he didn’t, and I would be very angry if Shearer mucked around like that, I’m pretty willing to endure the chance of that in exchange for a leadership process that makes caucus listen to the party.

              Let’s try thinking beyond `is this good for my guy in the next six months’ a bit here.

  16. Hardie 16

    This proposal disempowers caucus, because it means that the leader *elected by the party* can only be unseated by 2/3rds of caucus. This is a perfectly decent rule, and in fact has to be so, because otherwise it would be too easy for an intransigent caucus to refuse to accept the will of the party.

    There’s a slightly awkward transition from one system to another, but that is inevitable.

    The machinations of the Cunliffe faction are pretty transparent, and quite unedifying.

    • QoT 16.1

      an intransigent caucus

      So you’d seriously rather have a leader who was potentially despised and constantly undermined by more than half of the caucus – who would be rightly frustrated if a minority of 12 people were standing in the way of deposing said leader – because “it gives caucus less power”?

      Since we can hardly assemble the entire Party every time there’s a question of leadership, the basic power of a majority of caucus to boot out someone who’s failing (as though they’ve shown any inclination to do that on a whim) hardly seems extravagant.

      On the other hand, you’ve then chosen to include a nice little smear tactic at the end, so I guess you’re quite happy as long as it’s the 12 MPs propping up the leader you like …

      • Hardie 16.1.1

        So you’d seriously rather have a leader who was potentially despised and constantly undermined by more than half of the caucus – who would be rightly frustrated if a minority of 12 people were standing in the way of deposing said leader – because “it gives caucus less power”?

        Not because it gives caucus less power. Because it gives the *party as a whole* more power.

        Honestly this really is one of the dullest, most obviously correct parts of the reforms. The party decides, and then at predetermined times, a majority of MPs trigger an election. In between those times, if a supermajority of MPs want, they can force another election.

        There will also be a simple majority vote in February 2013, before the general election.

        If caucus was still able to force a vote on a simple majority at any time, the party’s voice would be pointless, because caucus would be perfectly able to keep trying until they got the leader they wanted. (And various other nefarious tricks would be possible.)

        • QoT 16.1.1.1

          If caucus was still able to force a vote on a simple majority at any time, the party’s voice would be pointless, because caucus would be perfectly able to keep trying until they got the leader they wanted. (And various other nefarious tricks would be possible.)

          But that’s the current situation. And yet despite Goff performing abysmally, we saw no serious leadership challenges, nor “nefarious tricks”.

          The idea that this is all okay because in the run-up to an election, the time when a party must be least likely to want to appear unstable through changing leaders, is just silly.

          And it’s hardly a “dull” reform when, after a hotly-contested leadership change which many people are questioning, suddenly the current leadership are saying OH YES, let’s also just coincidentally make it harder for you to roll our man.

          • Hardie 16.1.1.1.1

            Er yes that’s cause by definition a majority of caucus backed Goff. We haven’t had a case where a majority of caucus backed a leadership contender that didn’t win. (I mean really, particularly obvious.)

            Practically speaking, they haven’t made it harder to roll Shearer. As scheduled, Shearer will face a simple majority vote in February 2013. He will win that vote. Shearer has the majority in caucus. It doesn’t matter if a challenger needs 1/2 or a 2/3rds, because they won’t get either.

            There will then be a GE. If he wins, he will as a formality win the subsequent simple majority leadership vote. If he loses, it’s likely that he will lose the simple majority caucus vote. Then, someone will win the party wide contest. They will then only be rollable by 2/3rds of caucus.

            Shearer (for this term) has a majority in caucus, so it simply doesn’t matter which rules we use, he wins under either. It’s only somebody who doesn’t have a majority in caucus that benefits from this change — that is to say someone like David Cunliffe. For it is after all Cunliffe that is the most likely to win a vote in the party and lose caucus.

            • QoT 16.1.1.1.1.1

              Er yes that’s cause by definition a majority of caucus backed Goff.

              Not really. Just that no one was certain enough of an anti-Goff majority to make any moves, or, what was your phrasing, “nefarious tricks”?

              But hey, clearly you’ve made up your mind, this is all fine, Shearer is the golden child and anyone who says otherwise is just a disgruntled Cunliffe groupie.

              • Hardie

                IOW practically speaking, majority of caucus backed Goff.

                You still haven’t explained how this rule changes helps Shearer, or even the anti-Cunliffe faction. The scenario laid out above makes it clear it doesn’t, as far as I can tell.

                • QoT

                  You presume too much to think I am solely focused on HATING SHEARER!!!!! and PRO-CUNLIFFE!!! (Sorry to lprent for the shouting)

                  The fact is, it’s fucking obnoxious for any leader to oversee a “reform” programme which coincidentally tightens his grip on power. Putting it into the current context, of course it’s advantageous to Shearer, who can already see very well how reluctant the Labour caucus is to roll a leader unless they absolutely have to, to make it harder for himself to be rolled.

                  • Hardie

                    But Shearer will face a simple majority vote in Feb 2013. If has the numbers then, the chances of anyone else getting the numbers to roll him between then and Nov 2014 are non-existent. And he does have the numbers in caucus remember, that’s the knock on him. With or without these rule changes, Shearer is safe until Nov 2014. They make no practical difference to his leadership.

                    Stop thinking of abstract `harder/easier’, and start thinking specifically.

                    The case these rules affect is one where the leader is more popular with the party than caucus, and they make that leader safer.

                    The paranoid reaction to this is pretty disgraceful.

            • Colonial Viper 16.1.1.1.1.2

              Shearer (for this term) has a majority in caucus, so it simply doesn’t matter which rules we use, he wins under either

              That’s one hell of an impressive crystal ball you have there.

  17. higherstandard 17

    Who gives a toss ?

    … another (and I suspect more representative) Auckland view on Labour’s changes

    • QoT 17.1

      (and I suspect more representative)

      Except when your audience is, you know, the audience of a left-wing blog which often discusses the inner workings and leadership of the Labour Party.

  18. Murray Olsen 18

    A conservative leader needs to play to vested interests and ill considered prejudices. A left wing leader needs to inspire hope and vision, especially among those who desperately need change. In my view, Shearer meets the first criterion, but none of the others. At best he’s a Tony Blair at a time when we need a Norman Kirk. Get rid of him asap.

    • Carol 18.1

      I think even Tony Blair was more inspirational for many than Shearer is. To me the current Labour leadership is lack-luster. Nothing there to attract me back from voting for another party – either the Greens or Mana.

    • Olwyn 18.2

      The thing is, Blair could say, well the market revolution happened under Thatcher and Major, so the job for Labour is to soften its harsh edges as the new system matures. You might not agree with him, but you can see room for such a case to be made. That room, however, has vanished. To be a Blairite now is simply to be a tory.

  19. AmaKiwi 19

    Three strikes and you’re out.

    1. 2008 – The CAUCUS picks Goff as leader.  Mistake!

    2. Nov. 2011 – Election disaster because for 2 years the CAUCUS did not replace Goff, even though it was obvious he had no hope of winning.

    3. 2012 – The party is torn apart because the CAUCUS botched the selection again (the Cunliffe/Shearer roadshow).

    4. July 2012 – We face a destructive party conference because the CAUCUS proposes a convoluted selection process reserving special powers for themselves.

    For whatever reasons of personalities, ideologies, its own rules, or whatever, the caucus system has proven beyond reasonable doubt it is the wrong tool for electing Labour Party leaders.  It cannot do the job.  My proposal: democracy.

    It costs $15 to join the party.  One member; one vote.  No specially weighted votes for MP’s or unions.

    One member; one vote.  End of story.
     

    • Colonial Viper 19.1

      2. Nov. 2011 – Election disaster because for 2 years the CAUCUS did not replace Goff, even though it was obvious he had no hope of winning.

      Nah this is unfair. Who could have been selected as leader in 2010 or 2011 who could have done significantly better than Goff? He shone too late in the piece I agree, but Goff put in a stellar last 3-4 months in the election campaign. And he couldn’t undo the crappy decisions made at a strategic campaign level by himself.

  20. AmaKiwi 20

    Dear Colonial Viper
     
    The caucus SYSTEM failed.  Repeatedly.  Change the SYSTEM.
     
    I don’t care about the personalities.  No more groups jockeying for privileged voting power.  One member, one vote.
     
     

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