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Do Not Press!

Written By: - Date published: 10:39 am, November 20th, 2012 - 51 comments
Categories: labour - Tags: , ,

So, obviously I don’t know what the outcome of the caucus meeting will be. Truth is, I don’t think it matters. Cunliffe has been on TV stating he will endorse Shearer. TV reporters have stated he will be demoted.

Whatever. It’s just not that important in the scheme of things.

On Saturday, members of the Labour Party secured a say in who future Labour Party leaders should be. Now that say, while a welcome step in the direction of greater democracy, doesn’t make the Labour Party as democratic as it should be. But it’s a start.

The crucial change, as far as leadership contests is concerned, is the 60/40 caucus split on confidence.

If you pause to think it through, it means a leader can lose enough confidence in caucus to trigger a party wide vote. But that in itself doesn’t mean the leader is dead in the water. They can still continue in their leadership role if they secure a majority of the wider party vote.

This is obviously different to what happened before when a loss of confidence from within caucus was the end of the road for any leader.

So let’s assume that Shearer fails to secure 60% +1 of caucus come February. That doesn’t automatically consign him to the annals of ex-Labour Party leaders. It’s a two step process. He wouldn’t become an ex-leader until and only if party members and affiliates failed to give him enough votes to continue.

So failing a resignation after the caucus vote of non-confidence, Shearer would be running in order to not lose the leadership position. And he would presumably be running against David Cunliffe who would be running to win the position. Now, if it’s accurate to claim that Cunliffe enjoys the widespread support of the members and affiliates, then Cunliffe becomes the leader of the Labour Party come February.

But, would or could Robertson run in a post February leadership race? Well, probably not successfully because he would simply be splitting the Shearer vote.

And even if Shearer resigned at that point (Why?), Robertson, in spite of any effort he may expend between now and February, is firmly and correctly seen as part and parcel of the whole shambolic Anything But Clever crew (formally known as the Anyone But Cunliffe clique) that has sought to thwart the exercise of greater democracy within the party.

My point is this. No matter which way you want to look at it or spin it, the ABC crew are finished. The membership has won and the bomb they dropped on Saturday is on its way down with an estimated time of arrival some time in February.

So, if you are a member of the Labour Party, do not press that big red button; don’t resign. And if you’re not a member, but reckon the parties that might go to forming a left-ish bloc within parliament ought to be subject to some measure of democratic accountability, then sign up.

51 comments on “Do Not Press!”

  1. fustercluck 1

    +1

  2. Tom Gould 2

    I’m sure the Cunliffe politburo agree with you. Keep up the white-anting. Your master will reward you come the revolution.

    [ Bill: Firstly, I have no master. Secondly, we’re talking about parliamentary politics here, so no revolution. And thirdly, make your comments relevant to the post or risk me hitting the big red ‘delete’ or ‘ban’ button]

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      lolz dude, the “Politburo”, as you refer to it, is the hierarchy of MPs who are going to receive a resounding unanimous 100% confidence vote this afternoon.

  3. vto 3

    Yep, breathe through your noses you silly eggs.

    This stuff is simply not important to the manwoman in the street. And on top of that all they see is confusing squabbles that they don’t understand and have no desire to understand. Which means it is negative in their eyes and reflects on their assessment of the Labour party.

    Which is why I suggested yesterday that this issue needs resolving in a clean, clear and professional manner. A vote should be held, but without games. Which means a vote not instantly like today, and not in February as that is too far away with time for more kiddie squabbles.

    A clean, clear and professional manner of resolution means a dignified process and vote between now and February, like early December. Then it is all done and dusted and forgotten over Christmas with two years to go to election.

    I don’t know. You lot are the pollies. You should know how to wipe your arses cleanly. But it don’t seem like it.

  4. Colonial Viper 4

    So, if you are a member of the Labour Party, do not press that big red button; don’t resign. And if you’re not a member, but reckon the parties that might go to forming a left-ish bloc within parliament out to be subject to some measure of democratic accountability, then sign up.

    THIS +1000. Very eloquently and simply explained. As of Saturday, the Labour Party is much less about Palace Politics, and much more about the members and affiliates. Join the Labour Party, join the affiliated unions.

    • weka 4.1

      Agreed, a very good and timely post. I’ll be encouraging any Labour voters I come across to get involved as a member (assuming they don’t want to join the Greens :-) )

    • weka 4.2

      “join the affiliated unions.”
       
      A post on how the affiliation thing, esp regards union membership works, would be useful too.

  5. Rhinocrates 5

    Very encouraging.

  6. Tigger 6

    I’m liking this sentiment a lot. Thanks Bill, I needed someone to shake some sense into me.

  7. Hami Shearlie 7

    I’m thinking about joining!! This whole thing smells very much of the Green-Eyed Monster! Jealousy of David Cunliffe’s intellect and general ability will get them nowhere! And there’s always the charisma factor – David Cunliffe has it without even opening his mouth – Shearer has NIL charisma, David Cunliffe has a great appeal with women too, and there are quite a few of them about!!

  8. geo 8

    I agree with all you are saying.
    The second part is how to list is agreed to.EVERY single list mp SHOULD be voting for the membership (you know the ones that should be in charge as to who is highest on the list) to have a say in Feb’s vote.
    This is NOT about the two Davids .Its about the membership having control of our party.
    Right now the list is CONTROLLED by ABM , (anybody but members)
    Each List MP is at this stage taking orders from whoever supported them into their jobs.
    Why is it that standing MP’s automatically go to the top of the list?
    The old guard have the say.
    The deals are done behind closed doors.
    It would be nice to think that List MP’s would be more responsive to the membership and vote to allow OUR PARTY leader to have the support of the whole party not just the OLD Guard.
    The only way this will happen is if the vote is such , that we the members get to vote.
    It may surprise everyone that the present Leader gets FULL PARTY SUPPORT.
    It seems to me that at this time the old guard is doing all it can to go against what we the membership voted for on the weekend.
    Wake up and allow the labour party to once again be the party of the people, for the many not the few.

  9. Anne 9

    do not press that big red button; don’t resign

    Good point. Thanks. I’ll stick around after all.

    • seeker 9.1

      Maybe I will too. Although this last weekend had the inside of my head turning a whiter shade of green – and it wasn’t from envy. Good post, thanks Bill.

  10. One Tāne Huna 10

    Well said Bill.

    The left should be celebrating the rule change, but instead we get to watch an own goal. Shearer has turned a good conference into a rancorous mess in the space of forty eight hours. He looks weak.

    It’s still worth celebrating the rule change.

    • AmaKiwi 10.1

      Yesterday someone quoted Lyndon Johnson on how to handle strong people in your own party: “It’s better having them inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.”

      If Cunliffe is demoted it will be more damaging for Shearer’s image than Cunliffe’s.

      • prism 10.1.1

        Those Lyndon Johnson quotes. Did he write them himself? I like the scathing one about another politician “He can’t walk and chew gum at the same time”.

        • alwyn 10.1.1.1

          Better yet was “I never trust a man unless I’ve got his pecker in my pocket”.
          I for one am NOT going to practice as a pick-pocket next time I meet Shearer in Wellington Airport. He might just have raised his game to Lyndon’s level.

        • alwyn 10.1.1.2

          Incidentally Prism, the press toned down what he said about Gerald Ford.
          He actually said “Jerry Ford is so dumb he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time”
          The press toned it down to “can’t walk”. A very, very crude man was our Lyndon.

  11. Te Reo Putake 11

    Top post, Bill. This arvo’s meeting is the last thrash of a dying system. In the future, no party leader will be in the job solely based on their support in caucus. As I said a couple of days ago, this is now an MMP style situation where the leader will need to form a coalition of support from caucus, affiliates and members. The leader will need to earn that support from thousands of party members, not just a couple of dozen members who happen to be MP’s and whose income and egos are tied to the result.

    OK, caucus still start from pole position, but if these rules were in place two years ago, it would not have been Phil Goff heading the charge at the last election and we may already have Prime Minister Shearer (or PM Cunliffe/Robertson/whoever).

    One quick comment on Gower. He spent most of Shearers speech tapping on his cell phone. Nothing Shearer said, none of the standing O’s, none of the passion for change made a difference to him. He’d already decided his take on things.

  12. Brad 12

    Do you really think that, if a leader loses a caucus confidence vote, he will do anything other than resign? It’s a little naive to think that there is any avenue other than that one open after such a loss.

    • Pascal's bookie 12.1

      You’re an idiot sometimes Brad.

      Read the new process slowly. You will come to understand it.

      The caucus vote will trigger a leadership contest.

      That’s the part you need to grok.

      Another way of saying it is that:

      the caucus vote is no longer the leadership contest.

      the ‘other path open’ is to win the leadership contest, which would be the party telling the caucus dissidents to shut up and salute.

      It’s really not hard.

    • Bill 12.2

      It’s only 40% of caucus. And in round two, caucus are only 40% of the total vote. In other words, they lack the confidence of less than 20% of those eligible to vote on the matter.

      So I’d say they are ‘duty bound’ to defend their position.

      Look at it this way. Did they have confidence in themselves, before the caucus vote, that they were legimately holding the position of leader?

      If the answer to that question in ‘yes’, then they must surely be confident of carrying a majority in the wider contest. And so they need to stand and defend their position.

      If the answer is ‘no’, then what the fuck were they doing hanging around waiting for a caucus vote to happen?

  13. indiana 13

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10848648

    On this page the Herald poll shows 44% of the respondents don’t care who the leader is…

  14. George D 14

    And if you’re not a member, but reckon the parties that might go to forming a left-ish bloc within parliament ought to be subject to some measure of democratic accountability, then sign up.

    Or join a fully democratic left-wing party.

    • Bill 14.1

      Well, of course. But in terms of a left wing parliamentary bloc, is it not better to have all the parts of that bloc as democratised as possible?

      Democratised parties are presumably better at representing the concerns/interests of members, yes? But if a main constituent…especially where a main constituent of any bloc is reactionary or undemocratic, then does that not dampen…or put the brakes on… the overall potential of said bloc to properly progress the interests/concerns of the members belonging to the parties witin the bloc?

      • George D 14.1.1

        Yes.

        A slightly longer answer: I’m very glad that people I know who are; intelligent, of conviction, and on the left have joined Labour seeking to change and improve it. I hope they stick around and are joined by others.

  15. Gosman 15

    I am surprised how political naive this post seems to be. I am almost tempted to think the writer is deliberately obstuficating on the topic to deflect attention away from the whole leadership mess Labour is got itself into. However I can’t be sure of the motivations of the writer so will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they might have had an off day.

    The problem with the analysis is that even if Shearer was to go on and win the resulting party wide vote he will not be able to escape the fact that almost half his caucus do not want him as leader. He would then likely be fatally weakened as a leader in the eyes of many.

    You just need to look at what happened to Margaret Thatcher at the time of her resignation to see this. She in fact won the support of the majority of her caucus but failed to gain the necessary margin by a single vote. This was enough for her to realise that she could no longer count on enough support going forward even though she potentially could have been successful in the next round. Hence why she resigned.

    Leadership is often about the perception of power and support. If that perception becomes seriously clouded then often times the leader will fall even if he or she maintains over 50% support.

    • Pascal's bookie 15.1

      Confirming my thesis that anyone who uses “hence why” is an idiot.

    • Jenny 15.2

      Once legitimacy is lost, no amount of the sort of bureaucratic maneuvering we are witnessing today can retrieve it.

      Instead of grimly holding on, Shearer should do the best for the party and have today’s vote under the new rules.

      This would mark him out as a statesman with the interest of the nation and his party at heart.

      • Jenny 15.2.1

        …..And not a vindictive self interested careerist who finds himself out of his depth. Wanting to hang on at all costs.

  16. felix 16

    Yes Bill, agree 100%.

  17. just saying 17

    They almost had me on Saturday, but I’m damned if I’ll reward what’s been going on.
    However, I’ll happily pay your subs if you join Bill. I think you’ll represent my interests nicely. ( I can post them to r0b at the uni to pass on to you).
    Come February, I might be feeling differently.

  18. KhandallahMan 18

    From the NBR. National Business Review
    Shearer/Cunliffe showdown: How Grant Robertson wins
    | Rob Hosking | Tuesday November 20, 2012
    Shearer warned against punishing Cunliffe at today’s emergency caucus

    An open letter to David Shearer

    Demotion would ‘not stop’ an ambitious Cunliffe

    Labour leader David Shearer goes into his caucus showdown today needing to make a clean kill.
    The trouble is, he can’t.
    The tyro Labour leader, who has been in the job less than a year and in Parliament only slightly more than three years, needs to lance the festering boil of discontent around New Lynn MP David Cunliffe and Mr Cunliffe’s apparently dwindling band of supporters.
    The alternative to a clean kill is months of destabilisation in which both men and their respective supporters reduce each other to the political equivalent of roadkill.
    If this happens, watch for deputy leader Grant Robertson to step carefully over the corpses and take over the leadership by autumn 2013.
    Mr Shearer’s problem is he cannot make a clean kill without alienating the wider party. The constitutional changes made at the party conference over the weekend give members and the unions more power over caucus.

    They are an expression of Labour rank-and-file dissatisfaction with their caucus: with the group of MPs who have been in Parliament too long and also – note this for future developments – because they want a more left-wing government than Helen Clark’s 1999-2008 administration.
    Mr Cunliffe has been a vehicle for that dissatisfaction from the Labour Party at large. But commentators who wrote up the constitutional changes as an expression of the wider party’s desire for his leadership got it the wrong way round.

    Rather, the push behind Mr Cunliffe is an expression of many Labour members’ – who are far more left-wing than their MPs – desire for a more radical government. One of the many ironies of this is they are using him even more than he is using
    But too strong a strike at Mr Cunliffe and his supporters – Waikato-based MPs Nanaia Mahuta and Sue Moroney have been specifically named – will be seen as a two-fingered salute by Mr Shearer to the party at large.

    That would put the noose around his own neck come February, when those constitutional changes take effect.

    But too weak a strike and he looks like a wuss. So it will be summer of simmering unrest and plotting around the barbecues. There will be more public explosions from MPs on both sides of the grouping. And by late summer, look for gay Mr Robertson to sigh wearily and to come forward – for the good of the party, of course –and shoulder the burden of cleaning up the mess.
    Mr Robertson is a former Helen Clark staffer and is from the party’s gay/bi friendly Rainbow faction. Were it up to caucus he would probably be complemented by electing someone to the deputy role who at least looks the part of a “red-blooded male”. Waimakariri MP Clayton Cosgrove would fit the bill well –and he is a more effective opposition MP than at least four-fifths of the Labour caucus –but is not widely popular.

    In any case, whether that will happen as the party organisation takes greater control from February next year is a very open question. With a determined push from Labour members at the conference in more left-wing directions – remits to curtail private education and to give local councils greater powers were passed, for example, and there is a strong push for a much more interventionist economic policy – the party at large is likely to see any such move as pandering to rednecks. In short, whatever the outcome of today’s stoush, the political scene has only witnessed the start of Labour’s latest war of the succession.

    [lprent: How much of this is copyright material. You should link. Putting the bulk of it off the site. ]

  19. Bill 19

    From the NBR

    The alternative to a clean kill is months of destabilisation in which both men and their respective supporters reduce each other to the political equivalent of roadkill.

    Well, no. It’s all over. Now it’s merely a case of – sit back, relax and wait for February. And if Shearer is still as he is now and can’t raise the 60% +1 confidence from caucus at that time, then there will be a party wide vote. That’s basically all there is to it.

    • Pascal's bookie 19.1

      Yep.

      And whoever gets the nod from the college has the mandate, and caucus members wh feel bitter about can suck it up and salute, or piss off out of the party.

      It’s really not difficult.

      Robertson wants Shearer to win in feb,
      Cunliffe is clearly the only serious challenger to that. So they are going to kneecap him this arvo. But there is still a vote in feb.

    • karol 19.2

      Agree, Bill.

      I’m getting to a point of being over the whole stoush (for now anyway). I’ll kind of mostly observe and consider where this is all taking the NZ Left.  It certainly is more than being about personalities and leaders.  It is about the members, “taking back the party” – as argued by Chris Trotter

      And it seems to me, the only people who have so far pressed the Panic Button, have been Team Shearer.  Suddenly they saw themselves as losing the control over the Party, that they have been used to.   And, it’s interesting that Trotter says, in the comments below his post, that Shearer had told him:

      I had a beer with him in Kingsland back in February where he freely admitted to me that, in his view, he “won” only one of the membership meetings he attended with David Cunliffe. 
       

      I am inclined to agree with Brian Edwards, that Shearer’s actions today, may be a sign of weakness: fear or panic.

      But, ultimately  for me it’s about the direction of the left in NZ.  It’s about the need for a clean break from the neoliberal consensus.  Whether or not Shearer or Cunliffe are still in the running, come February I’ll support any leader or party that takes that direction.

      • Bill 19.2.1

        Whether or not Shearer or Cunliffe are still in the running, come February I’ll support any leader or party that takes that direction.

        Yup. That would be the crux of the matter for me too.

  20. Bill 20

    Actually, here’s a crazy thought. I don’t suppose there’s any chance of Cunliffe being appointed deputy this afternoon in the stead of Robertson and Shearer essentially switching sides? Seems to me that would be his only chance of surviving, no?

    Would certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons.

    Just throwing ideas around 😉

    • rosy 20.1

      I’ve thought of that too. The Shearer camp doesn’t seem to indicate that it’s that smart though.

  21. Craig Glen Eden 21

    It would have made absolute sense to put Cunliffe at 2. Shearer is getting very bad advice from some long time stupid MPs. The next thing he should have done is get Robertson at three and someone like Dalziel at four Parker at 5 and Chauvel at 6.

    The whips need to be organised and likeable within the party and certainly not bullies so sack the current two.

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