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Do Armstrongs dream of electric sheep?

Written By: - Date published: 12:23 pm, September 14th, 2013 - 83 comments
Categories: david cunliffe, labour - Tags:

John Armstrong gets it right: David Cunliffe’s going to win tomorrow and if he doesn’t it will only be because the caucus has stymied the will of the members, which will kill Labour. But he also gets it really wrong. Armstrong cooks up a conspiracy where Cunliffe’s job is to win the election, then Robertson will roll him.

It’s almost as if, in the middle of Labour’s first democratic leadership selection process, he’s forgotten that Labour now has a democratic leadership selection process.

How would Armstrong’s scenario work? Cunliffe beats Key; for some reason, newly-minted ministers can think of nothing more fun than to then vote no confidence in the guy who just led them to victory; then, for no particular reason, the party votes against the guy they chose, who has just won an election, to select Robertson, the guy who’s just stabbed their favourite in the back.

That’s batshit crazy, John. Just batshit. There’s no way the membership is going to vote out a leader that they selected after he has succeeded in becoming Prime Minister.

The only thing that lets Armstrong come up with such preposterous scenarios is he has the elitist’s snobbishness about democracy. He thinks that the rabble shouldn’t be allowed a say in politics (he opposes referendums as much as he does democratic elections for party leaders) and politics should be the rule of a benign elected dictator. So, he naturally casts democracy as instability, when, in fact, it’s the opposite.

Labour’s leadership selection process will make its leadership more stable – no more midnight backstabbing coups, because any plotters will have to take their case to the membership and win, which will only be possible if you come to the race with clean hands.

83 comments on “Do Armstrongs dream of electric sheep? ”

  1. I’d like to see the caucus portion of future leadership ballots be reduced from its 40% weighting, ideally down to zero. That would cut GR and ABC off at the knees (should they still be there post DC).
    All being equal and all, an mp’s vote should have no more relevance than any other party member.
    If coups are to come and go, at least lets have the full, democratic support of the whole party before we get a Rudd/Gillard/Rudd event.

    And love the topic title. PKD was one of fave sci-fi authors. If you can work Ganymede slime mould in some time, I’d be mightily impressed. 😆

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      ” ideally down to zero. ”

      Haha don’t hold back now!!!

      • The Al1en 1.1.1


        Down to zero, implying their vote is worth one, just like yours and any other party member.

        80% members – 20% unions will do.

        • geoff

          I tried to think of objection to this but I couldn’t ;P

          • lurgee

            I agree the caucus vote is too big, but I think as they are the people that have to actually work with the leader and because it is their jobs which – to a significant extent – depend on the leader, and as they may have a better idea than membership what is actually going to be deliverable, I don’t think it is wrong that their votes carry extra weight. As I pointed out elsewhere, it is easy to make nice sounding promises that play well with the membership, but which can’t actually be delivered. I’ll give you all golden speedboats if you vote for me!

            It’s a bit like a co-operative organisation, with votes shared between members and employees. You won’t object to the workers having a bigger say than the members, as they are the ones directly involved in making the co-operative more successful? it’s checks and balances. The membership might choose to lay off the workers to increase their dividend …

            30 / 50 / 20?

            25 / 50 / 25?

            Anyway, it was nice of David Shearer to set up this system to allow the average joe member to have some say.

            • Daveo

              Um, Shearer had no role in setting up the democratic leadership elections. This was a party process and Shearer was, if anything, a catalyst for why we had to do it

            • Matthew Whitehead

              Caucus will have disproportionate impact on the vote even if they have no extra weight when compared to a regular party member, because if they are chosen well, they will be opinion leaders within the party, and can make good arguments as to which leaders they would prefer and why, while still being tactful of all candidates. And if they aren’t, perhaps they shouldn’t be in parliament in the first place.

        • Hami Shearlie

          I’ve been saying the same thing myself – Caucus will have to prove through this election, that they are worthy of 40 percent of the vote – in other words, that they will listen and abide by the wishes of the members of the party! If this doesn’t happen, then I would imagine many will desert the party, and the ones left will cut the Caucus percent of the vote to NIL! After all, in the real world which most of us inhabit, who gets to choose their boss??

          • lurgee

            “After all, in the real world which most of us inhabit, who gets to choose their boss??”

            Not sure that’s the most sensible reason I’ve ever heard. If we are going to be repeating the precedents of the capitalist mode, what is the point in trying?

          • lurgee

            And if we’re going to follow your argument a bit further, there shouldn’t be an election at all. The leader should be appointed by some shadowy Board and we just have to hope they have the best interests of the party at heart and the wisdom to make the right choice.

    • Lanthanide 1.2

      “I’d like to see the caucus portion of future leadership ballots be reduced from its 40% weighting, ideally down to zero”

      That’s a truly terrible idea. The fact of the matter is, caucus has to work with the leader, day in, day out. Caucus members are the people who really, truly know what the leader is like at doing their job – which is why Kevin Rudd got chucked from office, allowing Julia Gillard to narrowly win the next election (which otherwise they would certainly have lost).

      Just imagine if it was the wider party that had voted in Shearer, against the wishes of those in caucus?

      • Colonial Viper 1.2.1

        Just imagine if it was the wider party that had voted in Shearer, against the wishes of those in caucus?

        Dude. You’re trying to justify a position by using the exact opposite of what actually happened. In other words, very recent reality disagrees with you.

        • Lanthanide

          “Dude. You’re trying to justify a position by using the exact opposite of what actually happened. In other words, very recent reality disagrees with you.”

          Shearer supposedly had the support of his caucus, when really it was only just over half.

          Can you imagine a leader being chosen that had the support of 0 people in the caucus?

        • lurgee

          I think the point is valid. What if the membership voted in some total idiot, a Rudd-like sociopath or a nice-but-not-very-good chap like Sheaerer (but give him six more months, the polls are moving in the right direction) because they won a appeal to the membership, through bribery, fearmongering, demagougery or whatever?

      • QoT 1.2.2

        is why Kevin Rudd got chucked from office, allowing Julia Gillard to narrowly win the next election

        … and then pretty much the same caucus decided to chuck out Gillard in order to lose the election after that. I’m not sure you’re making the case you think you are.

        (Noting of course that while Australian Labor didn’t get *quite* as trounced as people seemed to be expecting, I’ve not seen any commentators say that Rudd is the reason.)

        • Lanthanide

          My point relies on the polling showing that they would have lost the 2010 election with Rudd as the leader, which they subsequently won because caucus, knowing what Rudd was like and that he was a nasty piece of work, chucked him out and subsequently squeaked over the line.

          Maybe if they’d kept Rudd in the job in 2010 they would have won anyway, possibly with a bigger margin, but we can’t know that.

          The idea of the party caucus having absolutely no say in who the leader is just doesn’t make any sense at all.

          • QoT

            But your point also relies on the caucus having the wisdom and foresight to know Rudd was a nasty piece of work … then forgetting this fact.

    • Rogue Trooper 1.3

      where do they get these headlines? The Aeon Flux?

  2. Treetop 2

    The Shearer/Robertson/ABC style is what is wrong with the Labour party.

    Show me the Cunliffe style, cause I aint seen it fail yet.

    I have thought about how I will feel if Cunliffe does not get the leadership tomorrow. My leaves will be wilted and my branches will droop.

  3. Sable 3

    Yes the mainstream media prove yet again they are half-wits, not really news is it? Will be glad when the Labour leadership business is out of the way so we can talk about something other than David Cunliffe.

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      Problem is, if Cunliffe wins, I think the MSM preoccupation with attacking him is going to steadily increase, not decrease.

      • Treetop 3.1.1

        Negative reinforcement does have some benefits.

        Cunliffe has had to stand up to the caucas of the Labour party and he has not crumbled. I reckon that Jones will be very loyal to Cunliffe and others like Lees-Galloway also will be.

        Sorting the chaff from the wheat will be the leaders first job.

  4. gobsmacked 4

    Having read the article, I think Eddie is highlighting a fairly minor flaw. Armstrong makes a cogent case for Cunliffe, and his criticism of TV3’s behaviour is a gem. Press gallery journos don’t usually come down hard on fellow hacks, so good on him for calling out Gower & co.

    • Blue 4.1

      Exactly. I was grateful for Armstrong’s last paragraph, because up until that point he had given a well-reasoned argument and taken a wonderfully catty swipe at his former colleague, Paddy Gower.

      He had to throw the last batshit crazy bit in there or we’d all think he’d lost his mojo.

  5. QoT 5

    It’s almost as if, in the middle of Labour’s first democratic leadership selection process, he’s forgotten that Labour now has a democratic leadership selection process.

    This line is perfection.

  6. Sosoo 6

    John Armstrong wrote:

    Or at least it will if TV3 stops exhibiting a Victorian-era style prurient obsession with Robertson’s sexuality which verges on the homophobic. The channel has seemed to think it has been given some God-given right to manipulate the result of the contest

    Yes, some of us had noticed this.

    • tc 6.1

      Maybe jono is feeling left behind in the manipulation stakes.

    • newsense 6.2

      ehh…sorry dude didn’t see you’d beaten me to the punch. Should we send him a card to tell him we want to be besties after all ya think? hmmm

  7. ianmac 7

    Imperator Fish has a very important point to make. If my pick wins then democracy is great. If my pick doesn’t win I am going to squeal long and loud and make the winner’s life a misery. I will collapse the Party and destroy, destroy destroy.
    Actually he didn’t say all that but I am sure that is what he is getting at in:

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      What kind of democracy are you talking about here? The kind where the votes of 34 caucus members equals the votes of 5,000-10,000 party members, perhaps?

    • geoff 7.2

      Well if Cunliffe doesn’t win I can say with some confidence that I will squeal long and loud and……vote Green.

      • Lanthanide 7.2.1

        I’ve been wavering between Greens and Labour with Shearer at the helm. Labour really suits my politics more but I don’t think a poor performing party like Labour should be rewarded.

        If Robertson wins, it will be a case of wait-and-see, but I really don’t see him producing a party significantly different than Shearer managed.

      • Boadicea 7.2.2

        The Greens are NOT a left wing party. The greens are a middle class white party with a environmentalist agenda.

        Labour could exploded if the idiots who have screwed up for the past five years manage to hold onto power.
        What real Labour people have to then do is decide whether the party is redeemable by internal action or whether a New Labour Party has to be formed.
        The solution does not lie in the Green Party.

        • karol

          The Greens are NOT a left wing party. The greens are a middle class white party with a environmentalist agenda

          Lately they’ve been looking more left wing than Labour, and they are no more middle class, than Labour. Turei comes from a working class background. They have promoted building state houses more than parliamentary Labour and focusing more on poverty, without splitting into deserving & undeserving poor. And they have been looking to recruit more Maori and Pasifika, like Marama Davidson.

          • Mary

            “They have promoted building state houses more than parliamentary Labour and focusing more on poverty, without splitting into deserving & undeserving poor.”

            Precisely. And this is the big difference between Mana/Green on the one hand, and Labour on the other. This is why the true left need to hammer and hammer the fact that Labour will do the poor no favours. Doing this will not give votes to the right – it will shift support from Labour to Mana/Green therefore will strengthen the chances of the poor getting a better deal from a Labour-led coalition. This simply involves mounting an assault on Labour’s position on social security – nothing else necessarily (despite a few areas certainly being in need of at least a bit of fine-tuning, like housing, for instance). Social security is Labour’s weak link so must be attacked.

            In fact, I’m sure many in Labour would like this because a mean-on-the-poor-Labour takes votes from National so combined with the true left supporting Mana/Green would result in a Labour-led government with a strong left pull via a heavy Mana/Green presence.

            Regardless of anything, Labour must be called on its abandonment of the poor.

            • Boadicea

              And tomorrow the Labour Party will be shaken out its half decade TORPOR.

              • karol

                I hope so. But I still will vote Green/Mana Party (+ Cunliffe electorate) to try to keep Labour on the left track.

                I will need to be assured over a longish period that Labour is returning to its core values.

                • Tim

                  … exactly what I’ll be doing. It’s kind of like an ABC / right wing “trust but verify” thing – they can hardly object to that. And by 2017, hopefully the buggers (ABCers, and neo-libs) will all be gone from the Labour Party

            • Rogue Trooper

              interesting Mary

        • weka

          “The Greens are NOT a left wing party. The greens are a middle class white party with a environmentalist agenda.”

          Being middle class, white and an environmentalist doesn’t inherently exclude one from being left wing. It’s depressing as fuck that I have to point that out.

          (btw I don’t agree with your characterisation of the GP).

    • gobsmacked 7.3

      Meh. Scott can be funny and sharp, or he can he as heavy-handed as the Hulk caressing an ant. This time it’s the latter.

      I’ll be really glad when this contest is over and we can start commenting on how ACTUAL people are behaving in support (or not) of the ACTUAL leader, rather than inventing doomsday scenarios of straw.

      What actually happened was … Shearer was hopeless, and people noticed, including – in the end – the caucus who had installed him. Everyone except the terminally deluded could see that.

      Cunliffe or Robertson will be better at the job. Probably much better. Therefore, they’ll have more support. Simple cause and effect.

      Most Labour supporters’ agenda is to win the election. It’s only the ones who blab to Gower and Garner who have other priorities.

      • felix 7.3.1


        Either candidate will do a better job than mumblefuck and the vast majority of supporters will understand this.

    • Anne 7.4

      Scott Yorke is really a cartoonist in satirical clothing and I love it. He brings tears of laughter to my eyes. Outrageous, naughty, and above all insightful of human behaviour.

    • QoT 7.5

      It might have been a good post if he’d ditched the cute little “lol it’s only Cunliffe supporters who will be sore losers” “twist” there. Look, I managed to make exactly the same point without being a partisan shithead, which is kind of the entire problem.

      • Anne 7.5.1

        Don’t you think he might have been also laughing at himself as a Cunliffe supporter QoT?

        • QoT

          Some people have taken that reading, but as I don’t follow his blog I had no idea who he supported.

          • Anne

            He did fairly strongly insinuate he was voting for Cunliffe at the start of the contest.

            Put it this way, he went to some length to tell readers that he was going to listen to the candidates with an open mind and he would assess them fairly and objectively blah… blah… blah. The only difficulty was: he punctuated every paragraph with a complimentary photo of David Cunliffe against a cloudless blue sky. I took it he had already made up his mind and intended to be as biased as hell and totally lacking in objectivity. I have seen nothing since to cause me to change my mind. 🙂

            • QoT

              The only difficulty was: he punctuated every paragraph with a complimentary photo of David Cunliffe against a cloudless blue sky.

              Well, yes … because he’s a satirical blogger, so it’s safe to assume everything he writes is taking the piss.

    • David H 7.6

      But if Robertson gets in Key himself will have a field day. You won’t need the angry members. Remember he’s postponed a Junket for Tuesdays Question time for Cunliffe. But I reckon they should NOT ask Key a question on Tuesday, just to put him in his place.

      • miravox 7.6.1

        “Remember he’s postponed a Junket for Tuesdays Question time for Cunliffe.”

        Apparently not. That’s just Key spinning a line again. The trip timing was announced 10 days before Shearer resigned, according to Stuff.

  8. North 8

    New rules, new style, news news news. Good for Labour !

    The MSM however, threatened as they are by a process which thwarts their defining of “the game” and their being indispensable to it, are doing their damnedest to paint the process as rubbish.

    What’s the bet that every one of them will claim after the event that they picked it first ?

    How vividly I remember when Winston took the foreign affairs spot under Helen. The MSM was like – “Well, we’re just not putting up with this, we just won’t accept Mr Baubles Peters in foreign affairs !”

    Who came out on top there ? A bunch of dickhead wee yuppies, or Winston ?

    Ekshilly I’m looking forward to Cunliffe doing his own interpretation of Winston in his dealing’s with the press and TV, not across the board, just here and there as absolutely necessary. Most of them aren’t very bright really which when coupled with their weirdly arrogant posing makes them very vulnerable.

  9. newsense 9

    “Or at least it will if TV3 stops exhibiting a Victorian-era style prurient obsession with Robertson’s sexuality which verges on the homophobic. The channel has seemed to think it has been given some God-given right to manipulate the result of the contest. Its self-appointed role as kingmaker is an insult to the intelligence of the Labour activists who are well capable of making up their minds without TV3’s advice.”

    Look he’s trying to make up and getting in a bit of rival media bashing…!

  10. neoleftie 10

    If the next labour leader pull off the election without too much coalitional bargaining and collateral damage and constraints then that leader will be almost untouchable combined with a loyal deputy and solid support from membership, party, and unions…untouchable I say.

    From wha I hear labour will have a female deputy so mahuta look good. Solid, working mum, well respected in maoridom.
    Anyway bring on Sunday I say.

    • Lanthanide 10.1

      The deputy is chosen by the caucus as a group. Given the ruckus Cunliffe caused by running as a double-ticket with Mahuta last time, and her subsequent complete invisibility, it seems very unlikely she’ll get another chance at that spot.

      I doubt Ardern is going to get it either, and honestly doesn’t deserve it. I’m still picking a Cunliffe win with GR as deputy.

      • weka 10.1.1

        I think DC has said that Mahuta is taking time out to be with her baby.

        • lurgee

          ‘Spending more time with her family’ you mean?

          I think the ‘reunited’ message will involve whoever gets second place will be deputy, and will get a hefty portfolio to show it isn’t just tokenism.

  11. weka 11

    Anyone know when will the new Labour leader be announced?

  12. irascible 12

    Armstrong must’ve been dining with Ralston who, on TV3 tonight, declared that the democratic act of electing the Party leader was not one the membership or affiliates should be involved with.
    Both “commentators” appear to be bewildered with the concept of democracy… comes of being kept in the dark and fed by the PinoKeyo spinners I reckon.

    • GregJ 12.1

      It’s because the media and particularly the Gallery have lost their “insider” status – a status which has made them lazy & uncritical. Where once they could have made a story on information from their caucus “sources” now they are being kept at arms length by members & affiliates who have no interest in their dog-whistling, cynical crafting of narratives & corporate media shilling. There has been almost no decent & thoughtful political analysis by anyone in the mainstream media on the Leadership race (Colin James & Gordon Campbell being the exceptions). The heavy lifting on political coverage is now being done in the blogosphere & alternative media.

    • North 12.2

      That was appalling from Ralston.

      Forget about the “Wellington Beltway”. At least its practitioners are accountable in measure.

      There is virtually no accountability for the “Auckland Media Beltway”.

      The beltway inhabited by numerous half-pissed goodish wine swillers slutting themselves around the leafy suburbs. Snobs toting self-styled omnipresence.

      Risible Fart Estate.

  13. just saying 13


    In the absense of an ‘open mike’ for today, this seems the most appropriate spot.
    A belly-laugh-out-loud -‘Secret Diary of Grant Robertson’. Makes me wonder it Steve Braunias is a commenter or a lurker round these parts….
    Wee teaser:

    O Thorndon! O political beltway of Wellington. How I’ve missed it! It’s so good to be back with people you can trust. Who needs humanity when you have caucus?

    We sat around and analysed latest polling. There was good news and bad news.

    The bad news was that 79 per cent of New Zealanders thought I was inexperienced, shifty, kind of creepy, a bit of a toerag, and probably a really sore loser.

    The good news was that caucus couldn’t care less what 79 per cent of New Zealanders think about anything.


    We revised earlier estimates and concluded that caucus couldn’t care less what 100 per cent of New Zealanders think about anything

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