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.