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Bad behaviour puts Labour activists off

Written By: - Date published: 10:18 pm, August 13th, 2012 - 83 comments
Categories: activism, david cunliffe, david shearer, labour - Tags:

I have spent the better part of 17 years  – eight  of those as a paid organiser for the Labour Party – practicing the ancient art of alchemy; turning supporters into volunteers, volunteers into members and members into activists.  I have recruited hundreds of union and Labour Party members. I have mentored and trained, supported and loved, nagged and inspired, motivated and enthused thousands of people over the years. I know what empowers us and what makes us invent excuses to stay at home despite the desperate emails and group texts designed to ‘activate the networks’.

I make this point because I am deeply concerned about what’s going on with some members of the Labour caucus and the long term effects their behaviour  will have on Party members and supporters leading into the 2014 general election.

The latest revelation that two senior MP had a bitch session with Duncan Garner ( good post here about some  other questions we’d like to ask Duncan) about David Cunliffe is the last straw for me. I’ve not taken sides in this debate (I was happy with either David for leader)  and I’ve tried not to pass judgement on my erstwhile comrades – I have a real appreciation of the life they live in their parliamentary gilded cages – but I’ve had, to use one of Helen Clark’s more visceral phrases, a gutsful of this crap.

I can only hope David Shearer was misquoted on Newstalk ZB when asked if he was happy with the behaviour of his caucus.  Labour Partymembers deserve better.

MPs  just can’t  indulge in this sort of disloyal, backstabbing, bitchy and  frankly unkind behaviour .  It will affect supporters and activists (not to mention the general voting public).

And just in case this is too cryptic,  here are the simple rules of volunteerism:

How to get people to do stuff:

a)  make people feel inspired by working together towards a common cause for the greater good

b)  be inclusive not exclusive

c)  set the bar with your own behaviour and live up to your own rhetoric

d)   love them up, be kind and grateful,  say thank you often

 

How to piss off your activists and ensure that your volunteer base is depleted:

a)   put your own ego and ambition first and bugger the Party

b)  be disrespectful of a fellow MP; especially one whom many Party members wanted as their leader

c)  act like your behaviour won’t ultimately affect the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who look to a Labour led government for inspiration, leadership and practical help and support in a scary world.

Labour, get it together.

You’re letting us all down.

 

83 comments on “Bad behaviour puts Labour activists off ”

  1. Rory McCourt 2

    Thanks for this Jenny.

    This is how many of us are feeling right now.

    One question, what’s with the Clarion Tour photo?

  2. hush minx 3

    You speak as one who has done the hard yards. I hope both David and Grant listen to members. There is a challenge also for the party president. Good luck to all-we watch with baited breath!

  3. AmaKiwi 4

    I blame the caucus leadership and autocracy. (Autocracy is when the leader has supreme power, not subject to any popular controls.)

    Autocracy produces arrogance. Here’s Paula Bennett when the press criticized her new appointments to the welfare board:

    “I’m the one who is implementing policy. I know how I want that policy administered and I am at the top of the chain and will be making decisions as I need (want) to.” (NZ Herald, 16 May 2012)

    Amazing that one of our “public servants”, one of our “representatives” has no qualms about bullying us. More amazingly, the press did not rip her to shreds and demand she be demoted.

    Amazing that our Labour “leader” tells ZB News, in effect, “The disputes are settled and you, the members, have no right to know what I did behind closed doors because this is my party, not yours.”

    Our political and party systems are imbued with dictatorship.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      “The disputes are settled and you, the members, have no right to know what I did behind closed doors because this is my party, not yours.”

      I take it that that’s you paraphrasing and not an actual quote.

  4. gobsmacked 5

    There’s a bfm interview here, which I didn’t hear, and I’m not able to listen to now (computer buggered). The written summary’s not too positive, but listen for yourselves if you want …

    http://www.95bfm.co.nz/default,206877,labour-leader-david-shearer.sm

    • felix 5.1

      Oh dear.

      Asked about the attacks on Cunliffe, he predictably said it’s just something on blogs and he doesn’t take notice of blogs, never mind that the story came from the senior political editor of a national tv channel.

      When asked about William Sio he said look, we’ve got some gays in Labour who want to pass the bill and we’ve got some bigots who want it withdrawn from the ballot and that’s fine, all views are equally valid and that’s what Labour is all about.

      This cumknuckle needs to go.

      • just saying 5.1.1

        i heard it differently.
        He said “I’m not going to go there” and went on to imply that it was just a blog thing, but actually refused to answer the question

        edit: And the question was: “Does the labour caucus hate Cunliffe?”

      • Anne 5.1.2

        I had the impression he was referring to Duncan Garner’s original blog rant. He said he doesn’t read blogs. I hope he doesn’t either. He’s got other people who can do that for him while he concentrates on getting out amongst the voters etc. and representing us in parliament. That’s what I want him to do anyway.

        And he didn’t put the second part quite that way. He pointed out… “it was a conscience vote and you’re going to have some people (he mentioned Louisa Wall and Charles Chauvel) who will be all for it and others who will be against it. That’s the way it goes and its the same for National and the Greens…in every political party.”

        That was fair comment.

        • Colonial Viper 5.1.2.1

          Thanks for the even handed interpretation Anne. Sometimes when you leave it just to the guys… 😀

          • Anne 5.1.2.1.1

            Yeah… hate to think of the state of the world if you didn’t have us to keep you guys in line. Well, the world ain’t all that good but one suspects it would be even worse… 😛

        • felix 5.1.2.2

          1.) It’s nothing to do with whether he reads blogs. That’s exactly the same distraction Shearer used to avoid addressing the issue. which is that one of the most senior political journalists in the country reported on two of Shearer’s senior MPs attacking another of his senior MPs.

          He dismisses it as a blog matter so he doesn’t have to talk about it. Well fuck that Anne, he should be talking about it loud and clear.

          2.) The question asked wasn’t about which way MPs would vote on a conscience vote. It was about one of his MPs calling for the bill to be withdrawn, and it was asked twice, just so you and Shearer could be absolutely certain of it.

          We all know the reason for Sio’s call: It’s because he’s scared that bigots will desert Labour.

          And Shearer dodged it by saying that was just another view and there’s all sorts of views in the party.

          Sorry, that’s just not good enough.

          • King Kong 5.1.2.2.2

            It is a legitimate political tactic not doing your dirty laundry in public.

            Just because some 40 old who still lives with his Mum is sitting in their room screaming at their computer demanding that Shearer “should be talking about it loud and clear” doesn’t mean thats a great idea.

            I have always suspected that a lot of leftist activists lack self awareness and some of the strategy that comes out in moments like this tends to confirm that.

            • gobsmacked 5.1.2.2.2.1

              OK, let’s work through the “self-awareness” …

              1) Louisa Wall drafts the bill. Shearer didn’t stop her.

              2) The caucus approves the bill going into the ballot. Shearer, ditto.

              3) The bill is drawn from the ballot. Shearer says he supports it. Key too. Majority of Parliament probable, majority of public in all polls taken.

              At what point, King Kong, should the Labour leader have acted differently? Show us your grasp of “strategy”, please.

              My view (while Mum does my dirty laundry) is that it is good to support this bill for both principled and pragmatic reasons. But even if not, then Shearer should not be acting like he has no control over the situation. He has had, at every step of the way.

              He doesn’t look moderate or conservative or whatever he’s trying to be. He just looks weak and indecisive. And this appeals to blue-collar hetero blokes … how?

            • Dr Terry 5.1.2.2.2.2

              How is this for a bit of projection, King Kong?

            • Galeandra 5.1.2.2.2.3

              ‘lack self awareness’ = King Kong spraying yet more gratuitous insults around.
              It is pretty easy to guess who really lives at home with mum…….

          • Anne 5.1.2.2.3

            …he should be talking about it loud and clear.

            He was never going to say anything ahead of today’s caucus meeting.

            What he should have done is be more emphatic that he wasn’t going to discuss either matter publicly and that would have been the end of it. That is how Helen Clark would have handled the interview and Shearer needs to learn to do the same. Once the issues have been fully discussed in caucus and the protaganists had a chance to put their side of the story etc… then Shearer should front up – loud and clear as you say.

            I’m not convinced he will, but lets wait and see.

            • gobsmacked 5.1.2.2.3.1

              That’s part of the problem, Anne. I guess (and it’s only a guess, because Shearer is so unclear) that he didn’t really want it to sound as bad as Felix describes. But … it pretty much did. It sounded like there was a moral equivalence between voting for and against Louisa’s bill.

              So – at best – it’s a terrible lack of political skill. He only needed to say:

              “I’m voting for the bill. Along with the great majority of New Zealanders, and the Prime Minister, I support marriage equality. It’s a conscience vote, so individual MPs can vote against if they wish, but I strongly support the bill, and I’m confident it will pass.”

              But Shearer doesn’t seem capable of being clear and firm, and I can’t see that changing.

            • Dr Terry 5.1.2.2.3.2

              Must we wait and see to find the truth about Shearer, for all eternity?

            • felix 5.1.2.2.3.3

              “He was never going to say anything ahead of today’s caucus meeting. “

              Sure. So we’ll be expecting something any minute now I guess.

          • BillODrees 5.1.2.2.4

            Will he say Global Warming is just another view? 

            • Colonial Viper 5.1.2.2.4.1

              Its what Key said about the pollution in NZ waterways after all. Find another scientist, find another opinion.

      • chris73 5.1.3

        http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2012/08/convenient-lie/

        Then I’d suggest you don’t view this

        • felix 5.1.3.1

          Ok, I won’t. Thanks.

        • bbfloyd 5.1.3.2

          Oh dear…. chris chris chris….. You are seriously quoting whaleoil as a credible source of accurate information??? I don’t think even caster oil is going to shift that blockage….

          • chris73 5.1.3.2.1

            Oh dear…. bbfloyd bbfloyd bbfloyd….. If you had gone to the link provided you’d see its audio of Shearer saying he doesn’t read blogs yet he asks questions about them in parliament (specifically whaleoils blog)

      • the sprout 5.1.4

        Shearer: I don’t read blogs

        no, i’m sure that’s true 😉 … there’s always pagani and mallard to tell him just what’s going on and what people think.
        might explain something about why Shearer is so very clueless?

        • Anne 5.1.4.1

          Fair point the sprout. He needs to start listening to the right people.

        • Colonial Viper 5.1.4.2

          People like Jordan Carter, and many of the staff of Labour MPs, are high blog readers/users. He can’t be that insulated from what is being said on them.

          • the sprout 5.1.4.2.1

            indeed… and i think he does browse the blogs on occaision, especially when pertinent discussions are pointed out to him – it would be highly remiss of his staff, supporters and friends not to inform him of the existence of such material.

            Shearer saying ‘i don’t read blogs’ is really just a variant of Key’s ‘i can’t remember what side of the springbok tours i was on’.

        • Blue 5.1.4.3

          Of all the four leader/deputy leader candidates, I recall Shearer was the only one who wouldn’t come on the Standard to do a post.

  5. Hopefully Labour will eventually get its act together (there’s some good people in the party), but meantime you could always join the Greens:
    Stable leadership, clear messages, strong strategy, costed plans, collegial and united caucus….
    😉

    • Peter 6.1

      Yeah not bad, it’s always been a thought, but the L in Labour stands more for loyalty than anything else these days, oh yeah, and having a “losing” strategy currently.

      Only a few activists will join the Greens. Most will wait for the day Labour gets a better leader.

      • Dr Terry 6.1.1

        Peter, act NOW, or are you willing to wait for all eternity? The Greens have “got it”.

        • Peter 6.1.1.1

          I disagree about that. On energy issues in particular, the Greens philosophy isn’t heading in the right places. It’s too technology focused for a start, assuming that technology and energy are one and the same (they aren’t). It’s also too focused on climate change.

          If it’s done right, and I’ve explained this before in other posts on this blog in the past, the future will lend itself a lot more to a traditional Labour approach than it will to a Green approach. It ‘s not to deny the Greens the credit for basically leading the progressive charge for the past wee while, it’s just that the philosophy won’t go far enough to making the changes whilst in government.

          The other thing that worries me, and it’s more of an international thing than a local concern, although I’ve seen elements of it here as well, are the increasing calls that environmental problems require something other than a democracy to solve them – i.e. an environmentally aware elite who are somehow more evolved in their decision-making than the rest of us. David Korten advocates for this in his book “The Great Turning”, and it’s a worry.

          • weka 6.1.1.1.1

            As opposed to the current state of affairs, a democracy that is dependent on parties denying environmental reality to get a shot at their three years?
             
            Or did you have another alternative in mind?

            • Peter 6.1.1.1.1.1

              Democracies do a better job of managing decline than any other form of government, regardless of whether they are environmentally aware or not. That in itself is as good a reason to keep them. And this may, in fact, be all that governments can do. We face a series of environmental predicaments, rather than problems, and predicaments have no solutions, only adaptations.

              Therefore maintaining democracy is a high priority.

          • Dave Kennedy 6.1.1.1.2

            Peter, I think if you read the Green’s “Green Jobs” strategy you would find a more comprehensive approach than just technology.
            summary: http://www.greens.org.nz/sites/default/files/fiscal_implications_november_6_2011_0.pdf
            A greater technology focus and R&D do need attention because there has been under investment in both (compared to other OECD countries) for some time.

            You also appear to imply that an environmental elite will soon dictate an environmental agenda on us all that is anti democratic. I haven’t read David Korten but I would say that the oil and mining industries have been dominating the world’s economy for some time and this has largely led to the climate change issues we are facing. A reversal of this monopoly sounds perfectly reasonable.

            The Pure Advantage report is worth reading as it has a business focussed approach to advancing our economy and saving the planet at the same time and its not too far off Green policy.

  6. bad12 7

    Yes poster, you are 100% correct, the bad behavior of Sir(spit)Roger Douglas turned me off activly supporting Labour and nothing Labour has done since, in or out of office, has convinced me that their behavior is any better…

  7. the sprout 8

    well said jenny

  8. tracey 9

    Well said

  9. Dr Livingstone 10

    Jenny Hear Hear, I have been an activist since 1970sI have held office and worked on many campaigns.I am heartily sick of the lack of discipline being practised here. Get in behind. This is a team effort.

  10. ad 11

    +1

    … with an extra +50 for elegance.

    Hopefully we get to hear what actually happened at caucus this morning.

  11. the sprout 12

    this one from Joe W sums up Decisive Dave very well

    http://porcupinefarm.blogspot.co.nz/2012/08/the-new-adventure-of-decisive-dave.html

    😆

    • vicks 12.1

      Bad behaviour of a few activists can also put activists off…

      In order to do a service to the people who need it the most – we need to remember who the real enemy is. Ego’s, petty point scoring and self-righteousness will get in the way of the common goal which is to remove this repugnant government from power.

      We all clearly have loads of energy for wrestling each other. I suggest we put it into pushing our policies and painting a picture for how things could be under a left coalition. It’s time to call a truce amongst those who should be friends.

      • hush minx 12.1.1

        I’m sorry, are you implying that there are activists who are misbehaving here? Seems to me like there are some pretty genuine concerns that need to be taken seriously rather than belittled…

      • the sprout 12.1.2

        another excuse for Shearer’s incompetent leadership: it’s the activists’ fault 😆

      • gobsmacked 12.1.3

        @Vicks

        You’re right, egos “will get in the way of the common goal”. Therefore the egos should resign.

        Is there any other reason for Shearer to stay on as leader, apart from ego?

        “painting a picture for how things could be under a left coalition”

        But the Labour leader doesn’t seem to want this coalition. When has he ever called for it? Give just one example, please, from all his public statements.

        • Bill 12.1.3.1

          Is there any other reason for Shearer to stay on as leader, apart from ego.

          I really don’t think Shearer’s ego is the problem. If anything his bumbling and humming and erring point away from any inflated sense of self. I’d suggest the problem is the ego’s who stand behind Shearer directing him…identifiable mp’s who are hangers on from the Clark years…as well as the Pagani types in the background. Get rid of them and their frontman (Shearer) collapses and they can’t wheel out or throw weight behind their preferred replacement (Robertson)…who would, if Labour won, be heading up a thoroughly unappealing echo – a Clark-esque style of government – for no more than a single term.

  12. prism 13

    Jenny using a oft repeated statement, still true, you are saying what people are thinking (and writing particularly here). The pollies are enclosed in polycarbonate shells I think. Clear walls, almost unbreakable, but well separated from the wider environment. Let’s hope that applying pressure will open up that isolation.

    • Colonial Viper 13.1

      For polycarbonate shells, I suggest a sledgehammer.

      • Kotahi Tāne Huna 13.1.1

        Kerosene is an appropriate solvent…

      • mike e 13.1.2

        Solvent works better or fire what ever Labour has alkways done its linen in public sleep walking to victory is not an option.
        A healthy debate is good to keep them on their toes just as long as it is not after xmas because
        Shonkey will call an early election to ensure his knighthood.
        Cunliffe needs to be economic spokes person get it done now he is far better than boring parker with the squeel ,a reshuffle would make shearer look strong and assertive done the right way parker could go to economic development.

  13. deuto 14

    Excellent post, Jenny. As a longterm Labour voter (but now pretty disillusioned) I was willing to give Shearer a chance, but the last week or so has really had me fuming, disappointed and a whole lot of other emotions. Having spent most of my life (many decades)in a situation of having to be ‘neutral’ publicly in respect of my political leanings and thoughts, I am now in a position to be able to express these (although still having trouble throwing off the habits of a lifetime!) and was considering becoming an active supporter probably of Labour. Unless I see a considerable change on the part of the Labour Caucus and the inside circle, that will not happen – and they will have lost my vote.

    The questions asked in the link you provide in your third paragraph are also excellent.

  14. gobsmacked 15

    Shearer responds:

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/113210/shearer-tells-labour-mps-to-stop-leadership-talk

    I don’t think you’ve quite identified the problem, David.

    • Carol 15.1

      And Stuff has a similar report:

      http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7475412/Shearer-to-rev-up-his-MPs

      So it seems now that Shearer is no longer staying up late he has a kinda comment of on the ructions.

      He talked to Cunliffe about the leadership issues?

      And not the MPs who had been bad-mouthing Cunliffe to the press?

      • Sanctuary 15.1.1

        The time stamp on the stuff story is 12:59 14/08/2012.

        Garner published his blog post on Tue, 07 Aug 2012 1:51p.m.

        That is one whole week before Shearer reacted. One whole week. That is inexcusable. That tells me everything I need to know about the senior leadership of the Labour party.

  15. Fortran 16

    Shearer should draft Cunliffe to Finance immediately.
    Remember Bliglish was pissed off at losing Nats leadership, but eventually came on board using the theme of the Dream Team, even if it wasn’t, but the media lapped it up, and some would say it worked.
    The role of Robertson needs to be looked at as he no supporter of Cunliffe (although he was once – remember).

  16. gobsmacked 17

    Richard Boock (a Labour-leaning sports journo and good bloke) gives Sio – and Labour – a serve …

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/blogs/an-auckland-minute/7469281/Labour-Party-a-rudderless-outfit

    I suppose Boock is one of those “mainstream” Kiwis who are supposed to be impressed by this nonsense non-strategy.

    Challenge – Who can find these mythical “mainstream” voters (or whatever you want to call them) who are listening to Shearer/Sio and have now decided to switch their vote to Labour?

    I can’t find anybody, anywhere. Anyone else?

  17. Carol 18

    Ah, now we have it! The reason for Shearer’s (Labour’s?) sluggish responses to Labour ructions and the MMP review etc! he’d stayed up late watching the Olympics, was bleary-eyed and sluggish – by his won admission just now int he House – debate of motion on success of the Olympics.

  18. Michael 19

    I think your post was on the mark, Jenny. However, until the Parliamentary wing of the party decide what they stand for, there is little point in doing anything for Labour, especially if the MPs really want to be National-lite, in the hope of attracting a few middle-class votes, but just haven’t got the guts to say so. That’s how things look to me, anyway, and I know a lot of people who think the same.

  19. gobsmacked 20

    So, where are we at now?

    The caucus has met, Shearer has done the “I’m in charge” thing that struggling leaders do in front of the cameras, and he wants to “move on”.

    Until the next Labour MP blabs and blurts to the media (tomorrow? next week?), things will probably go quiet. It’ll be interesting to see if the roof-painter is quietly dropped from Shearer’s stump speech; that would be the smart thing to do (so, don’t bet on it).

    Meanwhile, the leader will limp on, presumably hoping that events (i.e. National’s next horror) will rally voters and activists to the flag. I suspect he has only bought some time, and that doesn’t really help anyone (except Key, of course).

  20. Jenny Michie 21

    Here’s a thought: I think it’s time for Labour Party members and supporters to rise up. Tell the Parliamentary wing – those MPs – what you think (and I don’t know what that is, btw…I’m living in Napier being, essentially, a housewife at the moment. I’m not involved in either the inner LP circle or the big strategy picture.

  21. Steve Wrathall 23

    I suggest a name change, as “Labour” is an increasingly ironic title for the party of choice for those who prefer not to.

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