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Labour Conference day 2

Written By: - Date published: 11:53 pm, November 17th, 2012 - 8 comments
Categories: labour - Tags:

So the remit session was a bit of an endurance event as they always are (and we’ve still got policy remits tomorrow…).

The vast majority was fairly easily agreed, including the big changes.  The real contention was over the caucus trigger – not the general trigger (by a “simple majority” of MPs) but the trigger at the 3-yearly leader caucus confirmation (the first of which under the new rules will be in February).  2 schools of thought each thought their option (50%+1 or 60%+1 MPs required to vote for the leader) was the more democratic, and would overrule the will of the people less.  The ‘stability’ side thought that you needed a higher trigger (ie lower % vote for the leader), so whoever the people have chosen isn’t easily thrown out by the caucus.  The ‘take it to the people’ side, thought making it easy for the caucus to force a party-wide leadership vote was the answer.

After 45 minutes debate, it came down to a count of votes and the 60%+1 narrowly won.  So of the current caucus only 13 need to vote against Shearer in February and it will be taken to the people, even if 21 have confidence in him.  In future, once every 3 years 40% of the caucus will have the chance to vote out a leader the people have chosen.  It all depends on the way you look at it – and opinions had been expressed passionately on both sides.

It was all remarkably civil, even though we’d gone over into lunchtime.

Of course the media view was different.  The vote had not been an arcane point of a slightly different trigger once every 3 years for a new democratic selection, but had been the party undermining Shearer and introducing turmoil.  Cunliffe’s defence wasn’t tight enough against Gower’s predetermined angle (“I’m loyal to my leader” is apparently failing to endorse Shearer).  His line was slightly better for Jessica Mutch when she jumped in second, but by then the shoal of reef fish that is the parliamentary press gallery had turned to follow Gower.

I’m sure there were some who voted each way based on the current situation.  I’m sure (or at least I hope), most voted for the version they felt gave better democracy for the future.  But the media like a simple story (as with each election when the electorate apparently speak with one voice; even when we’ve never had a majority vote for one party in the last 60 years, let alone a consensus), and they like scuttlebutt, so this is the best ‘story’.

Annoyingly this means that we’re likely to be talking about Labour’s leadership until February rather than the fact that National have the worst economic record since the Great Depression, that unemployment is at a record high, or Labour’s great new policies.

After lunch there was a point where I thought I might die before we worked out how we were to even vote on a remit and its amendment which had come to mean exactly the same thing whichever way it went (‘Point of Order Madame Chair!’), but eventually the vast constitutional changes opening up the leadership vote and policy control to members were passed.

Grant Robertson then gave us an excellent speech, featuring these guys:

or the option of A Better Country under Shearer and Labour.  As ever an entertaining and highly witty speaker, but with a serious point and serious intention to do something about the inequality we have worsening in this country under National…

Just remember though, as Robertson says: “it’s a recession when your mate loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose your job; but it’ll be a recovery when John Key loses his job.”

8 comments on “Labour Conference day 2”

  1. weka 1

    Has changing the leadership voting rules been on the cards for a while, or is it a result of the disatisfaction about the leadership/caucus this year?

    • AmaKiwi 1.1

      The delegates’ anger was palpable.

      Every Labour MP got a sharp rebuke: “Don’t cross the membership again!”

      Today was healing because that anger was expressed and the remits provided a remedy and were mostly passed by wide margins.

    • Saarbo 1.2

      It was partly about the leadership but I think it was primarily the membership communicating a clear message to an arrogant and dismissive caucus that you are representing/serving the membership and your voters. 

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    Annoyingly this means that we’re likely to be talking about Labour’s leadership until February rather than the fact that National have the worst economic record since the Great Depression, that unemployment is at a record high

    I wouldn’t worry if I were you. The dire economic circumstances this country is in will still be around next year under Key and English.

    • AmaKiwi 2.1

      Correct.

      Furthermore, no leadership challenging will be seen by the public. Cunliffe and any other challengers will repeat the same mantra, “I support the leader (because he is the leader). If he does not get the votes in February, we will cross that bridge if and when we come to it.”

      The lobbying will go in secret. Unless Shearer can turn water into wine, he will not get the 40% at the February caucus vote and there will be an open contest. That is when things will get interesting. Who will stand for leader then? Most MP’s have big egos so it is anybody’s guess who and how many will be in the race.

  3. irascible 3

    Agree with your analysis, Ben. There was no acromony, reported by RNZ and earlier declared by the Norman Gunston of the TV reporters – Gower, among delegates that I could discern. Having been a regular at NZLP Conferences from the mid 1970s to now I can confidently declare that this debate was undertaken without the internicene lobbying and dealing combined with regular calls for hand counts and card votes as the sides fought out of entrenched positions.

  4. Claire 4

    All very interesting comments and nice to know the inside story rather than the media spin.

    However, I find the graphic of the National Party dwarves that you have posted offensive on a number of levels and I think that a lot of other people would too. It is far too easy for politics to degenerate into tawdry personal attacks and yet, it distresses me every time I see members of the left engaging in this sort of thing. I don’t know who made this, but I really think that the public would be more engaged if we could criticize the other side for the things they have done rather than their perceived intelligence levels or their body shape. Cringeworthy.

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