Last week’s Labour conference was quite a revelation in the degree that spin can overcome reality. The degree that that the political media are willing to swallow up almost anything if it makes for a simpler and more dramatic story was rather frightening. There were important political events happening in the constitutional remits, that had been long and impatiently awaited by most Labour party activists and the even bigger group in the Labour Ulterior. So what did the media report?
Well it appears to have been some fantasy ‘coup’ concocted or grasped inside caucus to get rid of a internal political rival. If you read around the blogs from party members who were actually at the conference and the many I have talked to since, they are rather incredulous at the conference constitutional remits being reported as being part of some fabricated Cunliffe coup. Robert Winter’s sarcastic response is typical.
Exposed but undefeated!
Damn it, the story is out. We’ve tried to hide it, but the Hootens and Trevetts of this world have wormed out the truth by the application of superior journalistic forensic skills. David Cunliffe is a flesh-eating zomboid, a member of the advance guard of zomboid shock troops from the planet Smarm in the Supercilious galaxy. His cover as an intelligent, capable, sophisticated Labour leader was just not credible, and he was, in the end , easily exposed and destroyed. We acolytes are now unled and scattered, denied the feasting on flesh promised by Arch Zomboid Rictus (his real name), forced to subsist on the bland pap that is now Labour’s lot. But we will rise again, for the Zomboid truth cannot be vanquished, even by the last alliance of journalists, Right wing Labour and the Right.
And apparently this site was the centre of the pro-Cunliffe blog posts in the week before the conference. Huh? Damn and I never knew despite running the place.
Well I understand that many Labour MP’s don’t read blogs*. But the journalists pore over these sites all of the time as is pretty damn obvious when you read IP’s the way I do. But do these ‘journalists’ actually read the material they are commenting on. Because it appears to me that they do not.
For instance in the early part of last week, aside from the posts speaking for Shearer here and here, there were posts by Eddie, IrishBill, and myself saying the experiment with an inexperienced parliamentary leader had clearly failed. This wasn’t the result of a conspiracy. This was a result of politically aware individuals making up their own minds. None of us even bothered to speculate in the posts who amongst the possible contenders would do a better job. At issue was a failed experiment by caucus rather than some kind of mythical ‘coup’.
QoT was actually the only author in the early part of last week who even speculated on who a possible replacement leader could be. And I’m not even sure that she is even a NZLP member. They were just observations from the outside. I’m pretty sure from past conversations with Eddie and Irish that both will have as clear an idea about Cunliffe’s weaknesses and strengths as I do.
Besides, as far as I can tell, the smearing and whispering campaigns (so vague as to be impossible to defend) have all been targeted at that other David.
I can’t speak for anyone else. I’m not in the beltway, where politics is lived and breathed. I don’t schmooze with party activists or politicians. So if there was a coup attempt, I missed it. It was an invitation to the Labour conference that prompted my reflection on the party’s strengths and weaknesses. My view – that Shearer’s leadership was a weak link – was hardly remarkable.
No independent observer of Shearer’s media performances could have failed to notice his potentially fatal deficiencies.
And for myself, that was exactly the same trigger and reaction that I had.
It was a well-executed elimination of a internal political opponent. In the days before the internet would have probably been accepted at face value as being a nice simple explanation by the media. These days it causes the kind of irritation that accelerates over-due change. It was also quite stupid and I’m rather furious that such a dumbarse stunt overshadowed the real interesting results of last weekend.
Jordan Carter over at Just Left did a pretty good explanation of what actually happened in conference – something that the pre-primed journalists apparently failed to observe.
The ‘net is changing society. Along with the ’68 revolution and the era of the babyboomers, and the massive liberalisation they brought about, New Zealand has much less time for authoritarian leaders than it used to. Collaboration, working together, the demise of hierarchy and bossy management, all these changes are real. Wider choice and respect for our voice – as consumers and as citizens – is part of New Zealand’s reality today.
Yet the two main political parties have remained stuck in the past. Labour and National are caught in the old ways of doing things. A small elite at the top in charge; the rest of us there as servants to carry out the wishes of the elite – pawns, all too often, in a game of thrones.
I know that because of the overlay of leadership debate, the changes we made don’t grab attention. But I also know those changes were overdue, are irreversible, and that most of the debate had *nothing to do* with the ‘contemporary anxieties’ Andrew Little referred to. Anxieties, I might add, that were substantially lessened by the content and delivery of David’s leaders speech on Sunday.
The changes we made this weekend are big, and they clash head on with the culture of the Parliamentary Labour Party. That part of Labour is very accustomed to being in charge, on its own terms. The shock to the system this weekend will have been severe for some MPs and for some party grandees.
I admire Jordan Carter and many of the other (no longer young) Young Labour of the 90’s for that degree of commitment and for that matter the clarity of strategic thinking that appears to elude many in caucus. Hell, I’m in awe of the abilities of the NZ Council and policy council members to put up with the remit processes that allowed last weekend to be such a success – it is definitely not one of my skills. However I’m in a different mode of thought to Jordan after watching the weak-minded in the Labour caucus falling for one of the older games in the political playbook before, during and after the conference.
So I’ve spent a solid worthwhile 30 years of voting Labour through good and bad and about twenty years of helping organise for them donating my time, skills and money. Given the alternatives at the time they were clearly the most competent political caucus overall. It was worth putting up with the clogged party processes left over after the 80’s that barely allow a party members to do more than act as a cheering crowd to the triumphant winners of the party caucus. After all we have to have some suckers willing to the damn job. Giving a few cheers periodically was fine if they’d stayed focused on the job at hand.
However at present they are not. This weeks stupidity is just the latest example of this in a continuing set of actions that remind me of the worst of the Alliance breakup. I really don’t have the patience or the time any longer to either wait or gently encourage the conservatives in the Labour caucus and their minions to catch up with the rest of society. That is going to have to be a job for the younger members of the NZLP.
So in 2014 my party vote will go to the Greens because their caucus deserves the support in the way that the Labour party caucus currently does not.
Why? Well I have always valued competence over idealogical considerations. So I look at what people do rather than what they say and make judgements accordingly. It is the reason that I find National so distasteful as they routinely bring misery to so many whilst saying that the experience will be good for them. A hypocritical cover as they transfer wealth from the children of the poor and the future to their backpockets now.
The Greens have been getting steadily more politically competent over the last decade. They are now at to the point that I’m willing to trust them not to screw up too much with my vote. And they run their operations in a way that would make any management graduate like myself beam with pleasure. Their operational net systems are a bit primitive, but so are Labours
From my viewpoint outside, the Green caucus appears to be be made up of competent people who actually work together for a common objective – something that is notably lacking in the current Labour caucus. While they are obviously short of ministerial experience, they are clearly in a position that they have several people ready for it. And they don’t appear to waste their effort and time with idiotic scrabbling for position when ‘victory’ is meaningless without the treasury benches. They do not spend the money from parliamentary services on a relatively few over-paid staffers in their isolated hierarchical offices
Meanwhile the Labour caucus wastes its stipend for staffers in a pale imitation of the days when their masters were ministers and responsible for large organisations. In the days of constrained resources in opposition, I hear that the political battles amongst staffers are just as prevalent, petulant and meaningless as that amongst their masters.
Structurally the Greens have a flat opposition style horde of researcher, media contacts, and even MP’s in a mostly open plan office environment that would be familiar to anyone who operates a productive creative environment in the private sector. This is the difference between a hierarchical 60’s or 70’s managerial style and that of the 21st century where people cooperatively work on top of a network system. This coherence in strategy shows in the coherence that they display both in and outside the house. From what I hear, it also shows in the meetings with their party members.
Even at conference Labour MP’s and staffers were obviously recoiling into mini-beltways or cohorts of personal supporters away from the weird and wonderful that those who choose to be members of any political party.
The way that the Greens operator is far more likely to find, check and generate competent ideas that are likely to work in government than the antique structures in Labour. This means that they will have ideas resonate with the public and get the non-voters voting. You have to have contact with people who have ideas, even strange ones, and a staff competent to flesh it out to make viable new ideas. At present the Labour caucus appear to value none of these attributes.
Obviously the Labour caucus must realize this. It is hard to see any policy from Labour in recent years that isn’t just warmed over Green policy. But as a voter, why would you vote for the middle man? Sure they’re useful if you want a coalition brake. But they are not so useful when we don’t. And right now NZ needs new ideas because the old ideas that run the National and even Labour caucuses are simply leaching our best people and assets offshore in a negative sum game.
But I’m going to stay a NZLP member because of the party members. Sure there are some who profess a simplistic tribal loyalty that we sometimes see in comments here and which I find intensely irritating for their lack of thought (and consequential inability to argue). But more often I see comments from NZLP members who are actively thinking their way past the stasis of the party left over from the 1980’s through to what we need now and into the future. I’m confident that eventually they’ll change the culture of the NZLP to something that will reach its century and beyond.
So I’ll concentrate my efforts on providing this and/or other raucous forums for argument for the whole of the “left”. I’m sure that will help the others work inside the party to remove the remaining blockages. And the arguments will enhance the left overall.
* yeah right – I bet MP’s staff read this site amongst others based on how many times I’ve had to put parliamentary services IP’s into auto-moderation for astro-turfing the site.