Is Someone Planning To Fix Labour’s Leadership Election?

By   /   September 9, 2013  /   39 Comments

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Last Saturday morning, Matt McCarten appeared on TV3’s The Nation saying: “The people who matter in the Labour Party see David [Cunliffe] as a risk.”

IS THE FIX IN? Last Friday night, in an Auckland pub, a Labour Party supporter may have inadvertently revealed how individuals within Labour’s Caucus intend to steal the leadership election. He was explaining to a table-full of lefties how the Caucus would have the final say in the election outcome. They’ll only vote, he said, after they’ve seen how the other divisions of the Electoral College have voted.

No, no, his companions objected, that’s wrong. None of the Electoral College’s divisions get to see how the others have voted. The Rank-and-File don’t know how the Affiliates or the Caucus have voted, and the Caucus has no idea who the Rank-and-File or the Affiliates have supported – or by what margin.

But the Labour supporter was adamant. Allowing the Caucus to know which way the contest was going only made sense, he argued, because it would allow the MPs to use their 40 percent share of the overall vote to best effect.

Well, yes, of course it would. With each MPs vote being worth just over 1 percent, a very close race could be decided by as few as five MPs.

The whole story worried me considerably. A quick check confirmed that Labour’s new rules make no allowance for Caucus, or anyone else, to be told how the other divisions of the Electoral College had voted before casting its own. The only people who might possibly know how the vote was progressing would be the party officials charged with overseeing the ballot: the General Secretary (Tim Barnett) and the Chief Whip (Chris Hipkins) and both of them are under a strict obligations to keep such information secret.

The reason for this is pretty obvious: any other method would allow the election to be fixed.

An election can be fixed in one of two ways: by “voting ‘em”, or, by “counting ‘em”.

Voting ‘em involves bringing in enough people to swing an election in the desired direction. These people may or may not be eligible to cast a ballot, but whoever is fixing the election has made sure that their ballots will be counted by the responsible officials.

Counting ‘em means devising some way of learning how many votes are required to put a particular candidate over the top, and then arranging for at least that number to be stuffed into the ballot box or boxes. In practical terms this involves delaying the reporting of results from one or more polling booths until the necessary “padding” of the vote can take place. One should always be very suspicious of any unusual delay in reporting the result of an election in which paper ballots are used.

There are, of course, many variations on these basic methods. Rather than add bogus voters to an election, a fixer may decide to remove his opponent’s supporters from the electoral roll. This is essentially what happened in Florida in 2000. Thousands of black voters – the Democratic Party’s most reliable supporters – turned out to vote for Al Gore, only to discover that their names had mysteriously disappeared from the voter register.

Computerised voting makes “counting ‘em” mere child’s play for any fixer with the resources to organise a successful hacking of the election management system. Once the latter’s security has been compromised, the fixer can monitor people’s voting in real time, altering the tallies as required without election officials being any the wiser.

You should now understand why the idea that Labour MPs might be able to discover how the vote was progressing, not to mention the other divisions’ final tallies, filled me with alarm. Being privy to such information would allow an unscrupulous Labour MP to organise a devastating combination of the two basic methods of election fixing.

If his or her preferred candidate was too far behind in, say, the Affiliates’ vote, it might be possible to enlist the support of several hundred nominal union members well-versed in the political arts – trade union officials, for example – and allow their votes to dilute the votes of genuine, rank-and-file union members.

And, of course, if a preview of the final voting figures from the Rank-and-File and Affiliate Divisions of the Electoral College suggested that the votes of just two or three MPs were all that was required to tip the result in the “right” direction, the opportunity to secure their support, by fair means or foul, would be extremely hard to resist.

Did the Labour supporter in the pub simply get it wrong? Quite possibly. But it’s also possible that he had overheard conversations (he is well placed to do so) describing tactics which he naively assumed to be within the rules of the game – and are anything but.

Last Saturday morning, Matt McCarten appeared on TV3’s The Nation saying: “The people who matter in the Labour Party see David [Cunliffe] as a risk.”

No one can say we weren’t warned.

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39 Comments

  1. fatty says:

    The upside of Cunliffe getting shafted again is that it would probably be the end of Labour. Can’t build anything without a base.
    Sometimes its best if a useless old ship sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

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    • Ovicula says:

      As long as you have a lifeboat big enough for all the survivors, Fatty. We don’t yet.

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    • Tim says:

      And I imagine any ‘fixer’ caught would probably be well advised to consider a future somewhere in another country

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    • Davidj says:

      Large political ships split into smaller ones, they rarely sink. That might not be so bad?

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      • Pasupial says:

        Gifting ShonKey’s mob another 3 years of looting would be Very Bad!

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    • peter petterson says:

      The Labour Party is bigger than any individuals. Only helen Clark could measure up to anybody since Norman kirk? Was Norman Kirk murdered??

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  2. Bertie says:

    Of course there could be a shrewd jack up to get Shane Jones and then Robertson to Leader after building on his profile when Jones mucks up. If DC doesn’t get the 50%-whatever threshold, & Jones beats Robertson, then the secondary vote of the majority of GR will get Jones home. If DC doesn’t win outright off first votes I’ll call it now as a ‘shock Jones win.’ Setup by ABC & the public push by Paddy G.

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  3. Yoza Yoza says:

    I understand the fear that there could be a rigged vote, but wouldn’t that be a last straw?

    The elevation of David Shearer to party leader sent contributors over at The Standard into a frenzy. Shearer’s decline and eventual abdication appeared to be driven by members’ who had become infuriated at the contempt in which the party hierarchy held them. I am fairly sure Shearer’s ‘Captain Mumble-Fuck’ moniker had its origins in the Labour party membership.

    I’m not in the Labour Party and wouldn’t vote for them again (I was a telephone lineman working for the NZPO when the Lange Labour government ‘fixed’ things ), but I get the distinct impression that if ‘Anyone But Cunliffe’ gets elected party leader there will be a melt-down.

    Surely even the Labour leadership aren’t that mad.

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  4. Phil Toms says:

    Not if you end up going down with it

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  5. Tom says:

    Only a bunch of suicidal lunatics would attempt something like this in light of the recent opinion polls.

    It would probably provoke an organised boycott of Labour by many of its own supporters at the next election, or at least a bunch of semi-independent spoiler candidates in the electorate seats.

    An obvious fix would lead Cunliffe to resign and the party to be dragged into ignominy for the rest of the parliamentary term.

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  6. NAM says:

    Is this article itself just an attempt to “fix” the vote by using blatant scaremongering? Written by a person with a history of flakiness.

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    • Ennui says:

      Nam, you describe the author as having a history of flakiness. Not sure what you mean by “flaky” but in my understanding of the word the comment betrays in you a large degree of flakiness. If flaky means that Chris holds up a mirror to the Left that shows the ugly warts and all, well maybe, he is a consistent critic who has a history of calling things correctly.

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  7. Stephen Judd says:

    So basically on the basis of one guy you met down the pub speculating on how it could work, you’re saying that one or both of Tim or Chris will break their trust and allow the vote to be rigged.

    I’m kind of impressed that you have an evidence-free conspiracy theory *in advance*.

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    • Ion A. Dowman says:

      Actually, I wouldn’t put this type of vote rigging past any politician. It certainly would not be the first time this has happened with the Labour Party. But Mt Trotter is not saying it has or will happen on this occasion. He merely expresses his concern at its likelihood.

      Now me: I reckon it’s a dead set certainty that if the oligarchs don’t like the way the popular vote (for a given value of ‘popular’, be it noted) is going, they will … erm … massage the poll somehow. As I say: they’ve done it before.

      But the fact that Labour even looks as though it will allow this to happen is enough for me to turn my back on them for the useless bunch of self-serving flakes that they are. You watch Labour haemorrhaging membership if the oligarchs get their way, or if it emerges the thing was fixed. It didn’t bother the Fourth Labour administration that its membership slumped: they got to carry out their programme of thievery of the Public Weal. It wouldn’t bother the neo-liberal fat-cattists this time, neither.

      It will be a long, rocky and uphill road back for them, this time, and I don’t reckon they’ve got the legs.

      I know it’s premature, but: Requescat in Pace, Labour Party.

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    • Pasupial says:

      S Judd

      I think the term; anonymous source, is a better characterisation than; “one guy you met down the pub” (note the “well placed to do so”). Trotter is more cautious in his speculation than many commenting here:

      “Did the Labour supporter in the pub simply get it wrong? Quite possibly. But it’s also possible that he had overheard conversations (he is well placed to do so) describing tactics which he naively assumed to be within the rules of the game – and are anything but.”

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  8. peterlepaysan says:

    Once upon a time many years ago (pre 1987 actually, I quit the LP after 1987) I heard the same guy mouthing off about all sorts of diabolical conspiracies.

    He got shouted down by sceptics or others with alternative conspiracies.

    If, in fact, the LP caucus gets to view the votes of the unions and the members before voting themselves then the LP deserves to die.

    Authoritarian bullshit is authoritarian bullshit.

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  9. Saarbo says:

    “Last Saturday morning, Matt McCarten appeared on TV3’s The Nation saying: “The people who matter in the Labour Party see David [Cunliffe] as a risk.” ”

    What a load of shit this is, Cunliffe has been proven that he can make a difference in power, I dont need to go over it, its well documented.

    McCarten has always been pretty anti Cunliffe, clearly Cunliffe’s leadership will mop up plenty of Mana’s votes…McCarten’s cunning, but not silly.

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    • fatty says:

      “McCarten has always been pretty anti Cunliffe”

      When was that?
      From the 3 candidates, my guess is that Cunliffe would be more willing to work with Mana

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  10. RHT says:

    Chris, this reads like you think Robertson is going to win.

    Who does it help to stoke up the rumour, based on paranoid possibilities founded on the misunderstandings of one member of the Labour Party? It looks like you and the rest of Camp Cunliffe are setting up for a revolution to undermine the first democratically elected leader of the Labour Party.

    If Robertson wins, will you and your fellow Cunlists not accept it as the legitimate decision of the Labour membership, affiliates and caucus, because, despite all the external support and hype, the Labour Party did not pick the “right” man? That is arrogance. There is no right to lead now, other than from the college.

    It is totally irresponsible and beneath you, I would have thought, to fan such paranoid delusions. It is not the first paranoid delusion I have heard manufactured by Camp Cunliffe, but it is by far the worst. Undermining trust in the system because you see your guy isn’t secure is pathetic.

    Whoever is elected leader of the Labour Party should have the full loyalty of each member and be given the benefit of the doubt – and we all need to accept that if our guy can’t convince the college that they are the right man, then they sure as hell ain’t going to convince the country.

    What happened to celebrating this fine move to the left through Party democracy? Or is that only good if the serfs pick your guy?

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    • geoff says:

      If anybody but cunliffe wins then you will see Labour’s vote drop to the lowest level ever seen.

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      • Delia says:

        That is true for me, they will never get my vote again. Grant Robertson is not mature enough to be the PM.

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  11. RHT says:

    It may be worth noting that Barnett is in Camp Cunliffe and Hipkins in Camp Robertson. I know that doesn’t conform to stereotypes or your worldview, but it’s true.

    Cunliffe is not the messiah, he is just a very confident boy.

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  12. cassie blake says:

    ..WHAT ABOUT IF…..It didn’t actually matter who you voted for, but the end result was still the same, to only a varying degree

    WHAT IF …it was all just a “game”, to fool the general public into believing that voting could make much difference?

    Homework Assignment, folks, to make you engage your brain in a hitherto unfamiliar way.. ..
    1) WHO really “owns ” NZ?? (- who really owns your home if you have a big mortgage?)
    2) Who calls the shots/ has control/ dictates social policy (never mind that it’s detrimental to large sectors of the population
    3) How does the banking system actually work? –
    a) Do they part with real money , when issuing a “loan”?
    b) What is the clever trick they use, to generate eternal profits for them.. / long term ie generational committment (enslavement) from debtors,
    —— without actually bringing anything to the table themselves?

    That’s all for now.

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    • cassie blake says:

      PS.. For clues as to how the world works these days…check out Ian Wishart’s latest work..”Totalitaria”.
      Not about the banking system, ..but hopefully a few “pennies” might drop as to the big picture.
      Everything else should fit in .

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      • Yeah right, Wishart’s world is 7,000 years old and humans appeared in a cloud of conjurer’s smoke produced by his imaginary friend in the sky. Seriously.

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  13. Ion A. Dowman says:

    Once again, Thank you for the heads up. And the Labour Party for good and all have thrown away my vote(s) for the sake of petty politics. This at a time we need high quality leadership. We need statesmen and stateswomen, and need them urgently. But these wan- jer- narcissistic bunch of twerps fiddle with themselves whilst socio-polico-economic disaster looms.

    As I am nobody special, Labour can take it to the bank that there will be a lot of other similarly minded voters out there.

    For a long, long time I, who voted Labour faithfully from 1972 up to 1987, have felt disenfranchised by the narrow range of poor options laid before us on election day. In fact on one occasion (many years ago now) I was so angered, my vote consisted of writing, in block capitals across the ballot paper, my disgust: ‘I perform my civil duty in turning up to vote, and this is the best you can offer me??’ No one got my vote. No one deserved it.

    But I insist I did cast a vote that day. It was one of no confidence in any of the list of what might laughingly be described as ‘candidates.’ Since then Labour has occasionally received my vote, at constituency level at any rate. But other parties have and all. And my reasons have invariably been negative: to get rid of incompetents, or keep the Nats from office.

    One of the comments that really, really pisses me off is this: ‘If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.’ You, we, have every bloody right to complain and complain loudly at the crap governance we receive, the arrogant assumption of lordship (and not just by the Tories, neither), the smug self-satisfied ‘I’m all right, ‘cos you’ve got jack’, by fat-cattist politicians and their fat cat mates. Silence does not imply consent: it is an expression of dissent, and has never been anything else.

    You, we, whether we cast a vote or not, have every right to complain at a choice between idiocratic kleptocracy (neo-liberal Nats) and kleptocratic idiotocracy (neo-liberal Labour). Well, I give Labour 10 years more of life, not more, and before then they will have been reduced to the level of a minor party. I hope the Nats end up the same… Servthem right, too.

    Pah-yuke!!
    Ion

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    • Crunchtime says:

      This is exactly why Labour needs Cunliffe (and by widespread reports, the membership wants Cunliffe).

      Robertson may be chiming in with the “end to neoliberalism” as well as Cunliffe, but only Cunliffe is calling for an end to the poor-bashing and bene-bashing. Only Cunliffe is harking back to the days of Michael Joseph Savage, welfare for all and a job for all.

      New Zealand needs Cunliffe.

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  14. Ion A. Dowman says:

    You can tell I loathe the oleagenous putrescences that are our politicians, eh?

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  15. Mike says:

    Of course the online voting deadline is the same for all divisions of the college – midday Sunday with the leader announced shortly afterwards.
    Doesn’t leave much time for your conspiracy theory to be enacted…

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  16. keith ross says:

    there are a lot of people in the caucus that fear losing there jobs and there gravy train ride due to incompetence if the right leader gets in. (DC ) . He is the most competent man for the job, SJ is an idiot and the other guy reaks of born to rule,been at the trough and liked it. The incompetents would love anyone that will help their gravy train keep going. For goodness sake they better do the right thing or the party is sunk.
    concerned New Zealander

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  17. I’m picking if DC does not get picked (he has my vote :) ), around a 20% Green presence in parliament post 2014. I guess they are looking at around 15% under the present circumstances. Kudos to the Greens I say

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  18. Old Irascible says:

    The Irascible Curmudgeon on the Party Leadership.
    http://theirasciblecurmudgeon.blogspot.co.nz/2013/09/the-labour-party-leadership-contest.html

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    • Crunchtime says:

      ” like Gower’s attempt on TV3, Trotter was engaging in an exercise in ego boosting political mischief making in order to “secure” his reputation as the “prime opinionista of the Left.” ”

      Heh. I suspect you’re not far from the truth there.

      Certainly if Chris Trotter is actually Left-wing, he’s an absolutely terrible advocate of such. Practically every bit of coverage he does on Labour and the Left is negative.

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      • fatty says:

        Notice how you differentiated Labour and the Left? Kinda discredits your critique.

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  19. fambo says:

    This from Gordon Campbell is definitely worth reading – http://gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz/2013/09/06/gordon-campbell-on-the-labour-leadership-race/

    According to Gordon’s analysis, one doesn’t need to fix anything for Cunliffe to be kept out, just Jones putting his votes behind Robertson on the second, ballot, once Jones is knocked out.

    Definitely worth a read!

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    • Bertie says:

      If Jones gets knocked out it’s more likely his supporters secondry votes will go Cunliffe’s way. Jones voters will be straight up rather than fudge vote.

      ^ That sounds all messy but it’s how I see it.

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  20. If anyone within the Labour Party indulges in “fixing” the leadership vote they risk causing the total destruction of the Labour Party .
    ” Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done. ”
    If the ballot is in anyway “fishy” Key wins !

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