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SSTimes Editorial: Clark’s UN job great for NZ but…

Written By: - Date published: 2:59 pm, March 29th, 2009 - 35 comments
Categories: labour - Tags:

I haven’t spotted an on-line version of this yet (SStimes Editorial, 29 Mar 2009) but wanted to pull a couple of quotes out that made sense to me:

Helen Clark’s new post is an achievement, both for her and New Zealand. She is the outstanding politician of her generation and this appointment recognises and rewards her talents. It is also good news for the country she has served so well. Clark proves once again that New Zealand has a special niche in global politics….Her appointment also raises some spiny issues about how  small country can make the best use of its talents. When she leaves parliament she leave a gaping hole. The departure of Michael Cullen, the brightest person in parliament, creates another. Clark’s appointment is a coup for her country; John Key has promised to use Cullen’s talents as well. So he should. A tiny country of four million can’t afford to waste any of it’s gifts. But there is a flip-side to this truism..a tiny country can’t afford drones or deadwood in high places…Labour must get through some complicated manoeuvring in order to get the best candidates for Cullen and Clark.

I suspect many thinking about the by-election most likely to be ahead is thinking about what the ramifications are for Labour. What sort of campaign to run, who to run and then what are the consequences. Who does Labour want to step up? There’s a significant opportunity for them here  to illustrate where Labour is heading  under new leadership. Interesting times ahead, and a good reason to be watching!

35 comments on “SSTimes Editorial: Clark’s UN job great for NZ but… ”

  1. Byron 1

    Another interesting point is the one Gordon Campbell made

    “The Key government by re-directing our foreign aid into serving our own economic and diplomatic interests in the Pacific is at odds with the UN,…New Zealand plans on using its foreign aid as corporate welfare to subsidise Air New Zealand services in the Pacific, for instance.

    In her new job, Clark will have more pressing priorities than New Zealand but it means that she can hardly cite her home country as a shining beacon for others to emulate,”

  2. Tim Ellis 2

    Yet again, Dancer, a very thoughtful post from you.

    I think Labour has some real problems in Mt Albert. Phil Twyford definitely wants the nomination, and by all rights he should get it. He’s set up office in Helen Clark’s electorate office and knows the seat well. It doesn’t sound like he will readily hold off to challenge in Auckland Central next time.

    But the consequences for Labour of having a sitting MP are very significant. Twyford is new blood, but those remaining on the List aren’t. Labour got pretty much everyone it wanted to have in Parliament in on the list in 2008. Those who didn’t make it were placed where they were on the list for a reason.

    Glenda Fryer is another name that seems to be rolling about.

    It looks like there’s a paper 5,000 majority to the Left in Mt Albert, based on the combined left-right party votes. That’s a big majority for National to claw back, and Ravi Musuku doesn’t have a proverbial show of winning it. But with a strong candidate from National, and the prospect of a Labour win effectively bringing in Judith Tizard, there’s a real chance Labour could get a real fright in that seat.

  3. Schwule 3

    “When she leaves parliament she leave a gaping hole”.

    Excuse the spoof and I don’t mean to poke fun at the original work, however this understatement is a genuine classic. lol

  4. Dancer 4

    Thanks Tim. I do hope that fighting a by-election will get Labour motivated and active on the ground. There are some good people and good brains for them to tap into. But there does seem to be quite a bit of risk in the offing as well!

  5. Tanya 5

    Phil Twyford is the one to go for, one of the best newbies Labour have.

    • lprent 5.1

      It will be up to the Mt Albert LEC. If you aren’t on it, then your opinion is irrelevant

      • Tim Ellis 5.1.1

        I realise you’re a member of the LEC, LP, and as important as your decision is, what is more important is the final judgement of the voters of Mt Albert. The LEC making a judgement without reference to how the voters will interpret it will do so at its peril.

        From what I can see, Twyford is a hard-working and potentially talented MP. I guess the real shame is that if he is the candidate, voters in Mt Albert won’t actually be voting for him: they will in effect be voting for Judith Tizard. I don’t imagine you can comment on that here, but it is the reality of a Twyford selection in Mt Albert.

        I do wonder if Labour has got any realistic talent outside its caucus.

        The National Party has similar issues. Ravi Musuku is not the bright, ambitious future of the National Party. But if they manage to come up with a really strong candidate, and Judith Tizard is the end result of a Labour win in Mt Albert, then Labour will have a real fight on its hands.

        • r0b

          I do wonder if Labour has got any realistic talent outside its caucus.

          I do wonder if National has got any realistic talent inside its caucus.

          Where is the plan to deal with the economic crisis? Where is the action? So far all National has done is re-announce spending that Labour already had planned, implement tax cuts that Labour already had planned, and hold an expensive and useless talk fest. Where is the vision? Where is the plan?

          National are trying to cruise through this crisis on the cushion left for them by the good work of Michael Cullen and the last Labour government.

          They are doing nothing about the Big Issue, and on all the small stuff they are heading straight back to the 90s, softening everything up for privatisation. “Back to the Future” with National (complete with Paul Holmes on TV, David Bain trial in the media – gawd help us).

        • lprent

          The problem is that when they drop Musuku, the Nat’s also drop what little knowledge that they have of the electorate. I’m pretty sure that the voters in Mt Albert are going to notice that – whereas they are less likely to notice the type of media that Key likes.

          Now I’m sure that they’ll try to bring in outsiders to run the campaign. But they’ll probably be like that moron from Christchurch that was doing bullyboy tactics at Edendale last time. Incidentally we’ll be ready for that kind of offense against the electoral law this time – I must find out where the complaint against that dickhead has gotten to.

          Phil is a great candidate and I’ve worked on campaigns with him for years. Similarly so are most of the other names that are coming up to be a candidate with varying degrees of experience and talent. The LEC will pick the one that we think will help us to win the election and continue the long tradition of Labour service to my home electorate. Having only 2 Labour MP’s since 1949 sort of tells its own story.

          The LEC actually lives in the electorate (apart from me – the damn boundary change dropped me back in Auckland Central last census). Moreover they’re known as Labour supporters. That means you get a lot of feedback from the voters. And of course we never really stop formal canvassing in this electorate. There have been ongoing campaigns since the election.

          I’m afraid that for National, their party vote in 2008 is probably the high tide mark. They haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory in government so far. That level of incompetence is really going to count because voters in Mt Albert really notice the discrepancies between bullshit and performance.

          BTW: as rOb said – it is difficult to see where the Nat’s have any talent inside caucus. Looks to me like the Nat’s need to get rid of some deadwood so we can see if they have any realistic talent behind. It must have been hard to select such a useless set of fiddlers.

  6. justthefacts 6

    I cannot wait to see the return of Judith Tizard, that should see Labour drop below 20% in the polls.

  7. curious george 7

    Are you the same Tanya who said these gems?

    The guy’s tired already

    A little help

    if so I am not convinced you would be genuinely positive about anyone from Labour…unless DPF is employing righties to rark this stuff up

    • Felix 7.1

      Yes, it’s the same old Tanya. And yes, of course there’s a concerted effort. Check out the two comments from Tim just above where he manages to repeat the line about Tizzard no less than 3 times.

      I’m not suggesting that what he’s saying isn’t true, just that the righties have a strong interest in emphasizing that particular aspect of the by-election in order to neutralise a promising potential candidate and you can expect to see it repeated in a very calculated and deliberate manner by the likes of Tim and Farrar until the lower animals pick up the tune and start singing along.

  8. The danger is that Labour, like National, will pick just another party hack. Both major parties are positively stuffed full of them. I define a party hack as a person who will say or do pretty much anything for short term tactical/political advantage for their party. We don’t need more of them. We need people who will let the evidence interfere with their preconceptions and who can absorb reality and provide leadership.

  9. sweeetdisorder 9

    I went looking for info on Phil Twyford on labour’s web site. Apart from name and shadow portfilos, zippo. So, what is so special about him?

  10. monkey boy 10

    They’ll lose it – the kudo attached to having Helen Clark, PM as their rep. was the only reason people kept voting Labour there. I used to work in the local WINZ there, and believe me, Helen Clark was invisible within the constituency apart from the presence of ‘Helen Clark’s house’. I think this seat is in danger of being symbolically toppled as a response to Helen’s rapid abandonment of it on the very night of her election defeat. I’d ditch them back in a similar manner if I were a voter there. Just an opinion which you are freely invited to dismiss as ‘right-wing trolling’ if you fail to share it.

    • lprent 10.1

      Bullshit. It has one of the best labour electorate organizations in the country who know the electorate backwards. Helen spent an enormous amount of effort and time in getting around the community organizations over the whole of her 28 years there (and before). We’d expect any future MP to do the same – it is an electorate used to having a strong local MP. It is also well canvassed so the LEC know exactly where to put our efforts.

      Contrast that to the Nat’s who have no real local organization or local knowledge, are about to shaft what they have because they don’t want the indian candidate that they’ve run for the last two elections to stand, and generally act like their usual arrogant fashion. Hell they couldn’t even get close to a party vote majority when Aucklanders were punishing labour throughout Auckland. The Nat candidate is not going to be acceptable to most of their local members, it is unlikely that they will carry the seat in a FPP election.

      The people in Mt Albert are still who I grew up with. The population in the electorate has changed over time. However they’re still the hard-headed, hard-nosed pragmatists who aren’t easily susceptible to the line of bullshit that Key spins.

      I suspect that during your time in WINZ, you didn’t get out into the community much.

      • Tim Ellis 10.1.1

        Those are salient points LP, and I value your insight.

        I wouldn’t over-rate the strength of the local organisation or knowledge of the electorate, though. Nikki Kaye beat a much, much stronger Labour Party electorate organisation last year (the Nats had nothing in Auckland Central before Kaye came along) and Sam Lotu-Iiga did the same in Maungakiekie.

        Ravi Musuku clearly doesn’t have a strong campaign around him. Yes it’s useful to have a strong electorate organisation, but there’s no substitute for a candidate who’s going to get out there and do the time needed. As for organisational strength, this is a by-election. If National wants to fight it there are plenty of strong neighbouring electorates who will put people on the ground.

        It appears Felix seems to be seeing some conspiracy in my comment that a vote for Twyford would make the Mt Albert seat a referendum on Judith Tizard. Felix, I’m not the only one saying this. Brian Rudman and the ODT are saying the same thing.

        • lprent

          Ah not exactly – you’re showing your lack of understanding of the internals in Labour.

          Mt Albert has had a far stronger organization than Auckland central since at least the early 1990’s. For that matter, I think that there are only a couple of electorates in the country that get close to (maybe better) Mt Albert”s.

          The best way to describe my feelings about the labour campaign in Auckland central last election was that it was quite dysfunctional. That is pretty much how it has tended to be since Prebble destroyed much of the organization in the early 90’s. Destruction is his abiding talent, and it looks like the Act party has picked that up from him.

          The selection for Mt Albert is going to be a bit of noise for a while for the campaign committee. But it is unlikely to disrupt the campaign. At some stage we’ll get a candidate using the formal process, but by then the campaign will be winding up further. We didn’t exactly stop after the last election. We never do.

          • Tim Ellis

            LP wrote:

            Mt Albert has had a far stronger organization than Auckland central since at least the early 1990’s. For that matter, I think that there are only a couple of electorates in the country that get close to (maybe better) Mt Albert”s.

            But that isn’t really the point now, is it. National had no electorate organisation in Auckland Central before Nikki Kaye. Kaye built an electorate and campaign organisation from scratch. Tizard had considerable parliamentary and campaign resources at her disposal. I was amused to receive three pieces of correspondence with the parliamentary frank on it within three weeks of the election from Tizard telling me what a hard-working MP she was. That was the first correspondence I’ve had from Tizard since living in the electorate. Kaye had none of those resources.

            The best way to describe my feelings about the labour campaign in Auckland central last election was that it was quite dysfunctional. That is pretty much how it has tended to be since Prebble destroyed much of the organization in the early 90’s. Destruction is his abiding talent, and it looks like the Act party has picked that up from him.

            I’m sorry LP but that is simply unadulterated rubbish. Richard Prebble was ejected in 1993. You can’t blame him for the state of the electorate organisation fifteen years later.

            It really is beside the point, anyhow. As you point out, the strength of the electorate organisation isn’t actually relevant during a by-election, since both parties will suck in resources and activists from other electorates in the region.

            The selection for Mt Albert is going to be a bit of noise for a while for the campaign committee. But it is unlikely to disrupt the campaign.

            Not just the campaign committee or the LEC. If the by-election turns into a referendum on bringing Judith Tizard back into parliament, then that will be a theme that will dominate the campaign, in my view.

            • lprent


              Auckland central never really managed to get their organization back together as much as we’d like.

              The Nat’s won’t have most of a year to get a organization in Mt Albert. It is hard fighting an established effective local organization. Have a look at the rise in turnout and specials in Mt Albert to see what I mean. We’re really good at what we do, which is why the drops in this electorate were far smaller than others.

              Besides this governments performance is pretty crap, so a lot of the swing vote is likely to swing back. I suspect that will be a much more effective issue than Judith for those voters, and it is an issue that influences right voters more than left.

              As you point out, the strength of the electorate organisation isn’t actually relevant during a by-election, since both parties will suck in resources and activists from other electorates in the region.

              Don’t be silly. If you don’t have an effective local organization to slot their effort into, then most of the effect of extra resources would be dissipated.

        • lprent

          What is also going to be fun this election is showing labour activists from around the country is how the contact level of the Mt Albert campaign operates. Usually we don’t have that many observers because they’re working in their own electorates on national elections.

          This is going to be a good opportunity to spread the ideas that they can adapt to their own campaigns.

          I suspect we’ll be getting a lot more offers of volunteers, and because of the organization we’ll be able to use you all effectively.

  11. r0b 11

    Ahh monkey boy, can’t stay away.

    the kudo attached to having Helen Clark, PM as their rep. was the only reason people kept voting Labour there.

    You do understand the difference between the party vote and the electorate vote don’t you? That electorate has voted for the Labour Party under MMP.

    Helen’s rapid abandonment of it on the very night of her election defeat

    What alternative universe are you living in?

    you are freely invited to dismiss as ‘right-wing trolling’ if you fail to share it.

    On the basis of the evidence so far I have to dismiss it simply as ignorant posturing. Labour may or may not hold the electorate (I think that they will), but either way it will have nothing to do with your odd theories.

    • gingercrush 11.1

      That isn’t very good reasoning. In 2002 only four electorates voted National over other parties. One of them was Southland where Bill English was the MP and also the leader of the National Party. Labour’s party vote in Mt. Albert very much has to do with Helen Clark and less about Labour.

      Though its simply too soon for Mt. Albert to become viable for National. Sure its possible but this by-election I don’t believe will go to National. For Labour they need to be careful. They need someone that can make Mt. Albert solid red. They’ve had Helen Clark who did that role very well. But things have changed. They don’t just need a candidate that can win this by-election, they need someone that long-term can keep retaining the electorate and more importantly help Labour keep its party votes there. A short-term solution of winning the electorate just won’t cut it. As I very much believe in the future that seat will become more naturally blue.

      • Felix 11.1.1

        Reading your first paragraph I’m tempted to ask what you think the word “reasoning” means. Or “good”. You can’t possibly know the meanings of both of those words and be able to write that paragraph with a straight face.

  12. Tim Ellis 12

    LP, I suspect we’re probably talking at cross purposes here. Obviously there are many elements to a by-election campaign. I suspect there are probably a few elements we can agree on with respect to the state of play in Mt Albert:

    1. Size of actual majority: Clearly the party vote is more important than the 2008 electorate vote in determining the outcome in Mt Albert. As others have noted, the Labour-National margin is around 2,500 in the party vote. But in by-elections more than general elections, voters vote strategically. The Left/Right party vote difference from 2008 was closer to 5,000 votes. That is a steep hill for National to claw back.

    2. State of the respective electorate organisations. We agree that Labour has a strong, effective electorate organisation with good campaigning strength and good local knowledge. National, by contrast, has never run an effective electorate vote campaign in Mt Albert with a strong candidate. This is clearly a strength to Labour.

    3. State of respective regional party organisations. National’s regional party organisation is very strong and in high spirits. In a by-election, where there are deficiencies in local electorate organisations, this can be supplemented by the regional strength. I don’t know the respective strength of Labour’s regional organisation, but I think it’s safe to say that they took a huge hit in 2008. Having said that they shouldn’t have problems raising the money and generating the volunteers to run a competitive campaign. I think you can reasonably say the same of National, given the very strong campaign experience and strength regionally.

    4. Strength of the respective candidates. If Twyford is selected, he will be a strong candidate. We don’t know who the National candidate may be, but it sounds like Musuku doesn’t have the skills to be competitive against Labour in a concerted, high-profile, highly-focussed campaign. That’s for National to determine. If National does come up with a strong candidate, then that person may well rival Twyford in terms of local appeal.

    5. Strategic consequences of selecting a particular candidate. I think Labour would be foolish to under-rate the “Tizard Referendum” effect. It’s not just me saying this, as the ODT and Brian Rudman, both hardly captive of the Right, have been saying the same.

    6. Public view of the government’s performance. I agree that by-elections are generally seen as a report card on the government’s performance. I don’t share your optimism that the public view the government’s performance as “pretty crap”. Opinion polls demonstrate quite the opposite. Who knows what storms might lie ahead for the government between now and a by-election, but this will have a big influence on the outcome.

    There’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge just yet, but I think Labour would be very arrogant to think that it can select whoever it wants, ignore the consequences of its selection, and that Labour’s candidate will just sweep home regardless.

    • lprent 12.1

      The candidate is a factor. I’m saying is that it isn’t as major a factor in a local by-election as some people think. The organization on the ground is.The Nat’s will undoubtedly push more resources here, but the timing isn’t going to help their efforts.

      I’m aware of the demographic changes. After all I’ve been actively campaigning with those happening for nearly 20 years in Mt Albert. Because I work with the roll for campaigning (and I grew up there), you could say that I’m acutely aware of them. As Rudman pointed out, they have been affecting our results for a long time. To date we have successfully got good results despite that. In a lot of ways, the lower turnout in this by-election is going to help a lot.

      The national perception (as reflected in polls) of the NACT government is less relevant than the local perception – and it isn’t exactly favorable based on what we’ve been seeing. We’ll probably see some local polls coming through soon. They will be interesting.

      It is going to be fun to work on this campaign simply because we can concentrate resources.

      • Tim Ellis 12.1.1

        The candidate is a factor. I’m saying is that it isn’t as major a factor in a local by-election as some people think. The organization on the ground is.The Nat’s will undoubtedly push more resources here, but the timing isn’t going to help their efforts.

        I actually agree with you LP. The candidate of itself isn’t a major factor. The consequences of one party winning the by-election are a major factor. In the past, major consequences of by-elections have been about “sending the government a message”, which is important when the Government is doing unpopular things. This Government isn’t doing unpopular things.

        One of the major consequences if Phil Twyford is elected will be the Tizard Referendum factor. This will bring in a whole swathe of issues about MMP generally, and specifically the ability for MPs thrown out by their electorates to make their way back in later on the List. The only way for Labour to avoid that is by having a non-List MP stand as Labour’s candidate in Mt Albert. If Labour want Judith Tizard as an MP, then they should do it honestly and just select her as the candidate.

        In a lot of ways, the lower turnout in this by-election is going to help a lot.

        That is an interesting point. But how valid is it? It would seem to me that lower voter turnout would harm the Labour Party. It’s Labour that tends to suffer most with low voter turnout.

        It will be very interesting to see some local polling data in Mt Albert. I suspect both Labour and National are doing those at the moment.

        • lprent

          It would seem to me that lower voter turnout would harm the Labour Party. It’s Labour that tends to suffer most with low voter turnout.

          Right voters do tend to turn out more often than left voters. But in this case we know where to focus attention because we collect and retain information and have done so for decades. That allows a much tighter use of resources.

          I suspect that the Nat’s have virtually no information about this electorate and its voters especially when they dump their local campaigner. It is hard to acquire that type of information in a short by-election campaign. We will not be encouraging likely voters for national to vote, but left voters will be.

          There are distinct advantages for a well-organized electorate organization

          • Tim Ellis

            I agree LP, that is a distinct advantage for a local organisation that is active on the ground. I wouldn’t over-play it though or assume that is what will determine the campaign.

            I think the by-election will be as much a referendum on the Labour Party as it will be a referendum on the Government.

  13. Felix 13

    “It appears Felix seems to be seeing some conspiracy in my comment…”

    Didn’t mean to, perhaps I should have said “deliberate effort” instead of “concerted effort”.

    I just meant to say that it’s in the interest of those on the right to push the Tizzard aspect, and predicted that you and others would do so repeatedly.

    Which you have, and you’d be stupid not to. Hardly an X-file.

    • Tim Ellis 13.1

      Fair enough, Felix. Like I say, the ODT and Brian Rudman are hardly on the right, and they are making the same point I am.

  14. randal 14

    it seems like the consensus is that if she goes then where is the next colossus
    the thing to remember is that no one is indispensable and there will always be someone to fill the void
    that means you dodo
    I dont think we have come to the end of history just yet?

  15. Jum 15

    The Party needs to scrap the existing list and choose again, carefully. This is an important by-election. All those on the list should understand that and accept the new list. Getting Labour back in in 2011 depends on that.

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