Small talk on party activists and blogs.

Written By: - Date published: 3:23 pm, March 29th, 2011 - 51 comments
Categories: labour, making shit up, Media, Politics - Tags: ,

I was just reading Vernon Small on Phil Goff’s reconfirmation today and I saw these sentences on Labour

Its activists on websites and blogs are openly questioning the party’s direction and Mr Goff’s judgment. Its union backers and foot soldiers need to be motivated but are in danger of being demoralised.

This reflects more on Vernon’s lack of understanding of who comments on websites and blogs than anything else. For instance, I really haven’t bothered to say very much about it, and I’m definitely a strong party activist. Why? Because it was pretty damn clear that this was just a bit of puffery and had very little relationship to any reality inside the party, either for activists or for MP’s.

I was at the Northland-Auckland list meeting this weekend. There were about 300 party activists in a school hall for two whole days, sitting in little kiddies seats in a school hall with a blatant disregard for their backs. They showed a high dedication to the party by being there for two days listening to speeches from 38 candidates and doing the exhaustive voting.

Was the leadership in the buzz? Not really, unless you count people speculating on how idiotic the media were on the topic. Darren Hughes was certainly a topic of conversation. But mostly it was ideas for the election and who was going to support whom in the candidate ordering.

This was much the same when I was moderating on The Standard over the last few days. This site probably gets more comments than all other left blogs combined. One would have to figure that it was one of the sites that Vernon was talking about. But he is wrong.

The people I know who are actually currently active in the party aren’t really saying that much on the topic of a possible Labour leadership change. The people who are unashamed straight Labour voters weren’t saying much and nor were the commentators that I consider are in the center. Mostly if the Labourites  have written comments on the topic, it is generally saying who they’d support as a contender if there was a leadership change.

The people who had the most to say are those on the extremist right, our recent intake of astroturfers (who usually state that they’d support Labour but…), and people on the left outside of Labour. The latter are probably who Vernon was reading. Many of them got disgruntled with Labour  in some decade (usually the 1980’s) and who tend to vote Labour reluctantly if at all. Many were New Labour supporters who broke away from Labour in the 1990’s. There are also a significant group of greens who’d like Labour to be a better junior coalition partner to the Greens. Neither group has does much work inside Labour campaigns, and cannot be viewed as being Labour activists.

There are a few actual Labour activists around who are up for a leadership change – like The Sprout. But from my viewpoint they are pretty few and far between.

Of course I have some advantages over Vernon Small in recognizing people on this blog. I’ve read almost every comment on the blog over the last 3 years in the course of moderating the site. I can usually remember most of their stories, including who that they’ve said they’d voted for in the past. I can recognize the astroturfers that have started turning up recently in large numbers. Many of them are using IP ranges that I haven’t seen since the 2008 election. And despite my anti-social nature, I’ve been around the current Labour activists for the last 20 odd years doing various systems level work, so I know many of them.

So basically Vernon is in my opinion talking bullshit, probably inadvertently. What he is seeing is a cloud largely being generated by the non-Labour left activists and the ubiquitous astroturfers that National and Act seem to have been reactivating over the last month. In fact, the best thing that that journos can do to understand the social media these days is to look at the concept of astroturfing in article like this one. Then they’ll have a lot better idea about what is happening around the blogs these days.

Mostly the actual Labour activists that I have talked to recently are just annoyed that the Darren Hughes investigation is getting in the way of the ongoing election campaign. We really don’t have time to piss around either with that or with this leadership nonsense. It is pretty damn irrelevant heading into an election. It may be considered to be important if you are a supporter of the right or one of those strange political animals of the beltway. But it isn’t if you are a actual Labour foot soldier.

51 comments on “Small talk on party activists and blogs.”

  1. Raymond A Francis 1

    What you say is quite likely correct but the votes Labour and the left need to win are those who are not activists, how many members does Labour have?
    I think Labour could win the next election, a slight swing to the left and Act down the gurgler and Goff would be our next PM

    • lprent 1.1

      Not really what was in Small’s article. But the number of those left activists who have been having a go at Goff for the last week are an even smaller (but noisier) bunch than the Labour activists. The even noiser astroturfers are even smaller.

      I suspect that like the Darren Hughes investigation and stand down, this really isn’t impacting out in the voting public very much. Outside of the politically active, the most I’ve had is comments about Darren being a silly bugger.

      • Jenny 1.1.1

        …..those left activists who have been having a go at Goff for the last week are an even smaller (but noisier) bunch than the Labour activists.

        Who are these people? Could we have a citation here Lynne?

        • lprent 1.1.1.1

          I’d have to dig through the OpenMike when I get back to a computer. I did note that most of the regulars here who were adamant that Goff should go were also people who I know are not Labour activists. Bored comes to mind as a good example. But the people who I know are Labour party activists with a very few exceptions were not. They were either defending like CV or were not particularly commenting on the subject.

          To be frank, to me, Darren Hughes idiocy and the subsequent fallout feels just like a distraction from the election campaign that I can do without.

  2. RedLogix 2

    Despite all the ‘small-minded’ blather from Vernon…. my read is that many folk are going to be fair-minded enough to see that Goff hasn’t done anything substantively wrong here and will give the Labour team credit for not panicking through this sticky patch.

    Getting caught up in clever beltway political games is exactly what Labour cannot afford at the moment.

    • Anthony C 2.1

      I think the problem is that over his leadership Goff hasn’t been seen to do anything substantially good either.

      Arguably one of the biggest problems for the left is the indifference towards the person who is primarily responsible for carrying the message, and from this they become indifferent to the message itself.

      • lprent 2.1.1

        Always an issue. But really people don’t care. They’re more worried about where things are heading. At present they’re not that happy with it – they’re looking at their lives and worrying about their kids future. The issue is if Phil and the rest of the Labour caucus can capitalize on that.

  3. PeteG 3

    the ubiquitous astroturfers that National and Act seem to have been reactivating over the last month.

    What proportion of people who post here do you think are National or Act astroturfers, compared to non-associated posters? And compared to Labour and Green activated astroturfers?

    • lprent 3.1

      Comments or ‘people’? I haven’t bothered to look at it too closely.

      But either way, I’d have to write some SQL. The absolute easiest way to look at them is to look for people who haven’t commented before, but suddenly manage to comment a lot. The others are the low activity drones. Some others I’ll probably get after I backtrack through to the exchanges that their IP’s goes through.

      In the last couple of weeks there have a been quite a lot of activity from people that I haven’t seen before. And some of them when I’ve looked at them for infractions have been exhibiting IP numbers last used during the 2008 election campaign. It tends to raise my suspicions especially after reading on recent political uses of social media in the US and the UK.

      I can’t see any Labour or Green turfers – the nearest to it are probably some of the Labour activists like mickeysavage or colonial viper. But they hardly try to conceal anything, are quite open about it, and have been on here for years.

      What I have seen is quite a lot of ‘concerned lefties’ recently who write like righties in their concerns and have suddenly appeared. They also have some very similar messsage lines that they keep pushing.

      It is bloody boring really. Last election we had ‘concern trolls’. This years it looks like we’ll be getting the concerned astroturfers. If it gets to be too much of an issue in interfering in the dialogue, I’ll put some code and policy in place to eliminate the problem on this site.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    My reading on what happened to DH goes like this:

    1.) Group goes out socialising
    2.) Young guy makes social faux pas
    3.) Other young guy makes mountain out of molehill
    4.) MSM highlights non-existent mountain

    The whole thing was a media beat up and nothing more.

    [lprent: that is getting to be too close to speculating on the complainant – now that RL drew my attention to it. ]

    • Shouldn’t you wait to see if the Police agree Draco?

    • Lanthanide 4.2

      I’m not sure 32 particularly counts as “young guy”.

    • big bruv 4.3

      A sexual assault charge is “making a mountain out of a molehill”

      Sometimes you people disgust me, I have not seem one of you comment about how life must be torture for the poor bugger who happened to be the object of Hughes unwanted attention.

      It has all been about “poor Darren” and all about Goff.

      Would you show the same leniency here at the Standard if it was a National MP facing these charges?…….of course not.

      • felix 4.3.1

        Has there been a charge?

        Nah thought not. More bullshit.

      • Pascal's bookie 4.3.2

        bruv, you’ve seen sod all of people talking about the complainant at all (coz the complainant isn’t the story, they are entitled to privacy)…

        … and we all saw how the right talked about the complainant when a nat was accused of sexual harassment. “must’ve been asking for it, leading him on, honey trap, liar, if it was real why didn’t she act exactly how we demand she act”, etc ad nauseum.

        I guess Worth will be filing those law suits and handing over the promised affidavits swearing that he is innocent any day now…. of course not.

      • RedLogix 4.3.3

        you’ve seen sod all of people talking about the complainant at all (coz the complainant isn’t the story, they are entitled to privacy)…

        Which to be honest is why as a moderator I was leery of Draco’s comment at 4.0 above. It’s said and done now, but I’d prefer to see it end here.

  5. toad 5

    Lynn, does the Labour list-ranking process allow those who participate in it (not sure who that is – in the Greens all members have that right, subject to minor adjustments for demographic purposes) total control over the list selection?

    What if Phil Goff ended up at 2 or 3 or 4 through the process, behind one or more of Grant Robertson, Trevor Mallard, Maryan Street, or David Parker?

    That could happen in the Greens, and would be an immediate signal to a Green Co-leader to stand down. Do Labour have a similar internal democratic process to test membership confidence in the leadership?

    • lprent 5.1

      Potentially. In practice the sitting MP’s sort out their own list between themselves (with considerable horse trading from what I understand) and present the local MP’s version to the meeting. We could vote against accepting it and start going through them with the same detail as we did with everyone else. A vote gets called to accept the sitting MP’s list and I’ve never seen an objection. Experience counts pretty highly in the Labour lists.

      From what I understand it is done on a much more hierarchical basis and probably more immediate basis than the Greens use. There were about 200 odd voting in this meeting. The 38 candidates (including the MP’s) all get an opportunity to speak for 7 minutes. The speaking is definitely part of the selection. Several candidates position was directly related to how well they presented themselves. We’d all read the CV’s and many of us had seen them present before, but you get really interested in how well they speak and talk to people. One of the main campaigning skills required by candidates.

      Who votes? The LEC’s send delegates through to the meeting based on local membership down to the branch level. ie so many for the LEC, so many per branch based on branch membership. etc. The voting is exhaustive because each position can have multiple candidates for it and if the winner in a round doesn’t get more than 50% of the vote, we drop the lowest polled one and vote again. When you have 5 or 6 candidates for slot this can be quite a slow process..

      But I can testify that it is a rather exhausting two day process for our region. This is my 3rd one. I often skip them because I’m often heavily in campaigning mode by now and unable to spare a weekend away from writing code.

      BTW: In my opinion, the list selections have been getting easier over the decades from my perspective. The 1996 one was a bit fraught. But they’ve been getting more and more interested in peoples capabilities as a candidate.

      The fun stuff happens when they start to put all of the lists together in a moderation committee between the regions. But that is done by delegates from the regional councils, and other specified people.

      • PeteG 5.1.1

        How much importance is given to public speaking skills, campaigning skills, fundraising skills, compared to an ability to debate in the house, look after a constituency, contribute to a select committee and potentially manage a portfolio?

        Or is it just up to each voter to put their own emphasis on what’s important?

    • big bruv 5.2

      Since when have the Greens taken any notice of a party list Toad?

      You are the last person to be giving any advice.

      • Tiger Mountain 5.2.1

        Not only whimp, but also willful idiot I see BB.

        Toad’s remarks as I take them are not about who slots in from party list rankings, but the process of determining the rankings in the first instance. The greens take this pretty seriously and are most diligent.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 5.3

      From memory , labour like national puts the leader and deputy at the top of the list automatically.

      • Rob 5.3.1

        That is to show support for the leader. If the grassroots were so unhappy with Goff’s leadership they could rank him lower in the expectation the Party would then change the leader to who they marked as 1. There is no chance of that happening this year though.

        • Colonial Viper 5.3.1.1

          Well, by the grassroots being unhappy, you must mean the Moderating Committee. And there are very very few situations where the Moderating Committee would do what you described, since it is tantamount to calling for caucus to perform a leadership coup.

      • lprent 5.3.2

        Not automatically. But by convention that is where they get voted to.

      • labour like national puts the leader and deputy at the top of the list automatically

        Yep

        Constition says so.

  6. ianmac 6

    Well said LPrent. I was getting a bit saddened by the “bad-mouthing”. A sort of cannibalisation except for the Astroturfurfers who are just cheats. I would have hoped that our energy would have been towards helping to spread the word for answers and a better future.
    I wonder how Mr Key would manage especially since he ducks the difficult interviews? Phil fronted and continues to front but does Key?

  7. So, what you’re saying is that the Labour party thinks that Goff is the best leader currently available.

    That’s kind of depressing.

    • KJT 7.1

      Not half as depressing as NACT getting back to totally fuck us this time will be.

      A Rogering from Key, the incompetence of Brownlee and the double English dip.

      Another 3 years of NACT will not be recoverable.

      Goff needs to show some passion and vision.

      Positive changes that benefit the 80% of New Zealanders who have been Rogered and Ruthanased.

    • lprent 7.2

      No, I didn’t say that either. What I said is that we are in an election campaign. It may be exciting for those who don’t do the campaign work to think that changing leadership is a good idea. But people involved in campaigns tend to have a different view on it.

      We do not appreciate having a journo telling us how we think, when he is in fact mostly talking about people who are not currently active in the party. Or at least I certainly don’t

  8. Tiger Mountain 8

    As a regular, but not daily poster here I remember the waters boiling up over the ‘get Winston’ situation, the 08 election, and more recently the Hone ‘mofo’ and new left party pump ups. So any clues from admin that can explain this as something other than genuine heightened interest in a topic, are most useful to us not so tech types. Some of the comments stink suspiciously bad enough anyway to alert those without the “astroturf” background info.

    Because of my left and union background I know and have time for what may be a surprising number (to some) of current Labour and Green MPs and party members. I support certain reforms while not embracing reformism as an ideology. The lesser of two evils, or the evil of two lessers, is usually a weak justification for supporting Labour. BUT, 2011 is a fork in the road election, no going back almost if Shonkey lands round two, and it has to fought that way. To do less is to abandon our country to a final comprehensive rodgering.

    Don’t get hung up on leadership and msm agendas, hammer the issues neighbourhood by neighbourhood. Memes and ‘narratives’ can change in the face of organisation. Even Len Brown could do it fer crissakes, in terms of an electoral win. 60,000 plus newly unemployed in Christchurch and surrounds. Twice as many unemployed courtesy of the repression. CPI, petrol, food and general craziness are all up. Things have changed and potential is there.

    • Jum 8.1

      Tiger Mountain

      I don’t know if you meant to say ‘repression’ but that is exactly what NAct is doing; repressing democracy and keeping the idiot JKeyll away from serious questioning.

      Totally agree with the ‘hammer the issues neighbourhood by neighbourhood’.

      • Tiger Mountain 8.1.1

        Good spotting Jum, word was meant to be recession, but it works both ways!

        Re “hammer the issues”, I do it daily, silence is condoning in my book, so I let everyone know my views, with brief non hectoring comments. dairy operator, people in the street, tradespeople, young people, never let a chance go by.

        • Jenny 8.1.1.1

          The ‘Great Repression’

          Hmmm

          Tiger, I think that works quite well, methinks I may even use it somewhere.

          (keep your eyes peeled)

  9. Talking about money I see that the complainant has applied for an injunction against 6 media outlets including Farrar and Danyl McLaughlin preventing publication of his name. I wonder why Slater was not joined.

    The application would be rather expensive. I wonder who is picking up the tab?

    • IrishBill 9.1

      I’d imagine they figured serving Slater would be a red rag to a bull. I don’t like what you’re implying about the alleged victim here MS.That sort of remark does you no favours.

  10. Marian Hobbs 10

    A quick thanks. I had never understood astroturfing before, and the link to Monbiot’s article has been invaluable. I normally get bored by some of the infantile personal attacks and do not always read comment sections, but am worried by the obvious effect on some journalists looking for proof of some hypothesis.

  11. Rob 11

    He probably read DPF’s blog about all the left wing blogs commenting on Labour’s handling of the scandal. Pointed out on there too it is the equivalent of blogs like No Minister or ACT on Campus criticising the Nats. Hardly something they are going to worry about. From what I can see it actually was the ACT on Campus head who first broached the subject of David Parker mounting a leadership coup.

  12. "astroturfer" 12

    So just to puncture your paranoid bubble for a moment, there are other reasons unidentified people turn up.

    1/ Running virus software on personal equipment.
    2/ Purposeful anonymity – while this is the internet, it’s also real life.
    3/ People who do not think the awfully amusing login names are as important as ideas.
    4/ Random people turing up – isn’t this a good thing, or is preaching to converted your only goal?

    Solutions (purely to ease your paranoia)

    1/ Registration verified with proof of identity.
    2/ Restrict some topics to registered activists only
    3/ Think and relax
    4/ Turn comments off completely and talk among yourselves by email

    It’s all getting a bit complicated and silly isn’t it – trying to discover whose opinion is an opinion and whose is more valid and oh god blah blah blah. Ideas man, what happened to ideas standing on their own merit?
    You don’t want anyone but Labour activists to comment on Leadership issues. Then you try to assemble a hierachy of who may comment and when – those who “do the work in the party” and those who don’t. Go outside and see the sun, man. Is this the Left? Closeted paranoid control freaks? The internet is full of trolls, get used to it, do something about it, but quit your whining.

    I imagine you’re thinking up all kinds of gross dimensions for me. oooh, I must be an ACT plant? A counter-anti-double-disinformation agent? How dramatic. I’m a guy who has recently run anti-virus, never use my real email adress on formats like this (for privacy and protection issues) and can’t remember the last one I gave you. I don’t care what my log in name reads, I say what I think. My name address eye colour and how long I may have worked for the Labour Party, or not, doesn’t change the content of my ideas. Dismiss them, consider them, or don’t. You think I care? You really think that I think my ideas will change the face of NZ? Yes I voted Labour in the late nineties to remove a PM who was happy to enforce Chinese domestic policy in NZ. That makes me what? A bad guy? In the past I’ve voted Greens, National, ACT, Labour as the times required. Once MMP began I voted for all kinds of candidates on merit of their ideas. I’m not all that sorry if that offends the way you think the world should be. I recently came here because I had finally had my fill of the mindless, social climbing, condescending – dissolving into hatred of anything not them – supporters of the centre-right. Now it seems the Left are running on resentful paranoia, dissolving into hatred also. No make-believe grassroots movement here, no “astroturfing”. Just me, my observations and opinions. One man. But shit, close the shutters, stop listening to anyone but yourselves and continue to align with a spectrum of politics that says it “wants to connect with all people”. Clearly I am not one of the people. I will no longer comment on your site to ease your anxiety. I may read it from time to time – from the extremists, through to the calmer writers – will that be bearable? I enjoy ideas and variation.

    • felix 12.1

      That’s nice dear, but the first sentence about “unidentified people” turning up indicates that either you:

      a) have not understood what lprent was talking about, or

      b) do understand, but are swiping at a ridiculous strawman.

      Either way I’m not going to bother reading the rest of your dreck, thanks.

    • lprent 12.2

      Virus software really doesn’t get a look in. It is dumb so either akismet kills it or I do to show akismet what to look for. There are over a 100k comments that have been killed since the site started. And there are a pile of areas in the world that are under permanent suspicion in .htaccess including most of those that have the larger spam generator populations of systems. Those regions cannot leave comments.

      We deliberately leave the site so anyone can comment without registration. First comment requires approval and if it is too dumb, then we don’t approve it.

      Who relies on handles? IP’s are far more useful and a lot easier to track. Just using a C level check on the IP address is usually enough see if we have seen someone before. I really only do it if I have a reason to do so – usually when I’m about to ban them for bad behavior.

      If astroturfers become enough of a problem, then I’ll write code.

      But in the meantime, looking at the rest of your rather paranoid diatribe, I suspect that you’re just a little bit nuts. However being nuts isn’t part of the moderating guidelines.

  13. randal 13

    vernon small has a vested interest in some blogs and notice boards because they are operated by his employer.
    and they are the most virulent and grubby of the lot.
    frequented by farrar and hooton and ready to boot anyone off that disagrees.
    rather than being free forums they are just house propaganda sheets and nasty to boot.

  14. Sam 14

    I have just read wikileaks to see what an “Astroturfer” is.
    You probably consider me one, but rather than denigrating me, why not read and learn from my reasoned comments.
    Seems to me that the denigrations you attribute to astroturfers is really a case of selective blindness, where you assume that you and you alone are right, bit like a fundamentalist Muslim or Christian.
    If all you believe in is what a fellow party member or its hierachy tells you, then you will end up in the same one-eyed situation that these fundamentalists find themselves in.
    For the Labour party to rise again, it needs people like me to vote for them.
    How do you do that? 
    That is your decision to make, but remember that you only get one chance to make me vote Labour at an election.
    I have earlier posted that I did vote National last election, but I am a swinging voter, so you and Labour need to get people and policies into place to make me vote Labour. 
    For the record I am retired, on a fixed income (that is rapidly reducing because of spiralling costs and low interest rates) and don’t have a mortgage.
    I challenge you and Labour to show me how you are going to get my vote

    Surely you should look at intelligent posts about matters political and encourage opposing views.
    You may actually learn why a political party is in the doldrums and lagging in opinion polls.

    Quite often we hear that “I have always voted Labour”, “my father voted Labour that is why I vote Labour”. 
    That is irrespective of the fact that the Labour party is now not the working men’s party, but really the party of univeristy trained social engineers , who give lip service to the original ideas of the party, whilst revelling in the “baubles of office” we the taxpayer give them.
    Relying on people who still think like that will not get you back into government, except perhaps as the junior partner to NZFirst and the Greens.

    • Carol 14.1

      Who are you talking to, Sam?  Many of us here are lefties who don’t vote for the Labour Party…. why do you assume we all do?

    • lprent 14.2

      Who are you talking to? Use the Reply button – that is what it is there for (this isn’t kiwiblog – everything is a bit more functional than the sewer)…

      …but really the party of univeristy trained social engineers..

      Bullshit. That appears to be more a article of faith by the idiots of the right than what I see inside the party.

      You probably consider me one, but rather than denigrating me, why not read and learn from my reasoned comments.

      That is the question really. I choose to ‘denigrate’ people based on what they say and I’m not exactly nice about people who are stupidly self-opinionated and who clearly haven’t thought about an issue before stating the ‘truth’.

      So far you haven’t shown much sign of ‘reason’. What you have shown is signs of being politically pig-ignorant, ill-informed, and proud of it – in fact you sound like a troll (and I suspect that I will be treating you as such in my role as a moderator soon). You were given a direct answer on a matter of your idiot view of history by someone who was there and directly involved. So you choose to avoid it.

      Typical troll behavior… Astro-turfers usually have better social behaviors. You just look like a fossil troll from the 2008 election.

      And as Carol says, in the commentators (and probably authors) on this site – the Labour supporters like myself are a bit of a minority.

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