To the right of Marx – just: Ruminations on the second of Labour’s Auckland Leadership Election Meetings



The second Auckland speech has genuine buzz in the air from supporters. I must admit this is the most excited I’ve seen Labour voters for some time, even at the last conference there was this terrible fear in everyone whether Shearer was the right leader for them. Turns out he wasn’t.

What I am loving is how quickly Labour is moving to the left every time a candidate opens their mouth. Under these 3 Labour are to the right of Marx. Just.

Cunliffe up first, he had the majority at the meeting (it’s his turf so he should have). Here were my notes
– multi- lingual opening followed by ‘warm Westie welcome’
-focusing on the role of his Dad in his life on Fathers Day – getting spontaneous cheering and clapping
-will force through living wage for all government contracts – will repeal all anti-worker laws in first 100 days
-attacking key and crony capitalism – lots of cries of ‘shame’ – we are better than trickle down and free market collapse
-Lots of detail on regional development
-any mention about sticking it to Telecom gets cheered

Shane Jones up next, his speech was by far the best. Here were my notes…
-says that he is standing to make the debate invigorating
-starts to quote himself – he’s so self referential he’s almost 3 dimensional
-doing his speech with no notes, real tub thumping stuff
-thinks Labour need to win National votes – he’s like Josie Pagani with more charm
-voters are waiting for Labour to show a face

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Grant up last, he had the best lines of the night. Here were my notes…
-It’s time we start our own boy band (my suggestion is ‘Beige Against the Machine’)
-Quoting Norman Kirk
-We will work in the interests of all NZers not just Key’s friends
-Plenty of reasons to vote out key, we have to provide the reasons to vote in Labour
-This is a bosses Government
-Economic development is not a big night out at Sky City
-I don’t want a generation of grandchildren who only know their grandparents through Skype

My impression overall, Grant was very impressive, Jones was very funny but Cunliffe was the only one who could go toe to toe with Key. I was surprised how much I liked Grant, I’ve known him since University days (he was the President of the Aotearoa Student Press Association a couple of years before I was) but his quick shuffle into the coffin of the Wellington beltway means he has limited wider electorate recognition and he hasn’t really been on my political radar. Now he is, I am excited that even if Cunliffe loses (IF), Robertson could be an incredible leader.

Morgan Godfery does an excellent job in his blog today of examining the difference between Grant’s cautious re-invention of himself as a left wing Labour leader and Cunliffe’s road to Damascus during the Global Financial Crisis. For me, Grant is the cautious prodigy of Helen Clark’s style of softly-softly-manage-rather-than-challenge style of politics where as Cunliffe strikes me as someone who was surprised by the free market collapse and has had to ask himself hard questions of the hegemonic structure which leads him to some pretty radical conclusions. Jones on the other hand is wanting to earn his place on the front bench and wants to stamp some authority on proceedings, his countless hours in the courts of Maoridom has given him oratory skills that really need to be seen to be believed.

I’d love to see a front bench that utilizes all these talents to the best of their abilities.

LOTS of gossip afterwards and the question the smart punters betting on the leadership is who Shane’s second preferences will be, because who they decide to back will be the king maker in this giving Shane a vast amount of influence over proceedings.

It’s a long 3 weeks, but Labour are going to be a better Party for this process.

One bum note however is Labour’s blindness when it comes to social media beyond their MPs tweeting. I’m surprised by Labour’s lack of appreciation of how interested the rest of the country is in these debates and they have showed a bewildering lack of understanding of the impact of social media in shaping the narrative. Labour’s lack of appreciation is mirrored by the Unions in this respect, these debates, like the Unions recent rallies, should have been live streamed and then made available on demand with some of the more poignant speeches quoted and edited into memes. The outstanding success of the GCSB Town Hall meeting was driven by social media using these exact same tactics, with just over a year till the elections, what should be a dry run for the Labour machine social media team looks like a barren desert of ideas.

If I were National, I would be exploiting this social media weakness mercilessly next year.


  1. Robertson is obviously feining left to take votes off Cunliffe, and Jones is a spoiler promoting himself to get enough votes to allow Robertson to come through the middle. This is still the ABC trying to knobble Cunliffe.

    • If Robertson does win it will be one of the best displays of political chicanery in New Zealand’s history. Many suggested that his cunningness was behind Shearer’s leadership to fill the gap until he was ready. He is now ready and he is saying and doing what he has to, to get elected Leader. So I don’t know if Robertson fulfills the HONESTY test for me, if he is made Leader, I will be disappointed.

    • Aye. The abolition of wage labor, is a far cry from $18.40 an hour for state employees and contractors. But not the rest of the rabble!
      Martyn, your making baby Engels cry.

  2. Just to the right? Marx and his call for Communism are not even on the same public versus private left-right linear spectrum. Communist politics are not ‘left wing’ in this sense at all. They are an entirely different politic because they reject capital.

  3. Well it’s refreshing to see something positive written about Grant Robertson. I’m 100% behind Cunliffe, and as a Green voter want to see him win this leadership vote and go on to win next year’s election.

    At the same time it seems that Grant Robertson gets a bit of a rundown for being a “Wellington beltway” poli.
    Over the years I’ve listened to his weekly interview on Radio Active and I’ve often been reassured by his viewpoint, not always, as sometimes he is cautious, and sometimes he has been protective of the Labour Party’s less popular aspects. On the whole, from what I’ve seen and heard he is engaged with his community and his heart is good. He’s very approachable in my experience too.

    I’d trust him over Jones any day.

    • Yeah, I reckon it’s gotta be Cunliffe, and the more I see of Robertson, the more I am convinced it’s gotta be Cunliffe.
      After his brief and expedient stint as deputy, I just find it too hard to believe that he’s really all that left wing; where have his left tendencies been hiding away? How are we to contextualise his frantic promise not to intervene in more markets after NZ Power was announced? Likewise his supposed ability to unify the caucus; he sure couldn’t seem to manage that in his role as deputy. We should be asking why not.
      Then there’s the policies which supposedly signify his swing to the left of Cunliffe (as the msm and the right would have it); offering better wages to the uni-graduate dominated public service and promising to stand with a 50-50 gendered candidate list is still firmly within 1970s bougeois liberal territory.
      My doubts remain about the loosening of Robertson’s beltway belt. He talks a good game, but I’m not convinced he has one.

  4. Interesting Corin Dann said on Breakfast that all 3 came across better on TV compared to Shearer I thought they all came over well on Q&A
    poor choice of panel Josie Pagani is in the wrong party and Richard Prebble you can’t take him seriously when he said the big winner is Key
    the leadership contest is giving Labour an opportunity to build depth on
    its front bench as far as leaders go.If Key got booted or bailed would,nt rule that out yet he wouldn’t want to lose an election and if he thought he might he’d be gone like the rat that he is the Nats have nothing that would appeal to the electorate only the most entrenched Nat would trust Collins/Joyce

  5. As a voter of the centre, I cant see the widespread support for the extreme left that bomber sees. Consequently, If Jones is elected, he gets Mums and Dads – Cunliffe gets the radical left of which there are so few

  6. You can tell a lot about candidates from what’s bookmarked on their google searches. Cunliffe has “Michael Joseph Savage speeches”, Robertson has “Tony Blair speeches”, and Jones has “free porn downloads.” Anyone thinking Sealord Jones has any positive role to play in Labour has rocks in their head.

  7. I think Bomber that your point about them not using the social media properly, is not just because they don’t know how. I think it reflects an insecurity, and an attempt to hang on to the old bureaucratic way of doing things. For instance having some of the meetings behind closed doors and prevailing on members not to reveal what was said. They should have confidence in their message and in their members. I don’t know what they are worried about, after all only Labour Party members get to vote, so the process can’t be hijacked. But all New Zealanders have taken an interest. The whole country wants to see what these leaders are made of. And to hear the issues being discussed, hoping that they can make an informed choice next year. So open up the meetings let the media and the social media in live stream it all get the message out. I may be extreme, but I just can’t help it, I just love democracy. And I think most other Kiwis do too.

  8. What is it with Labour? they seem to be technology adverse. I mean Jones don’t even have a web site, for gods sake. And he’s trying to lead the party. We need someone who if not tech savvy, who knows what he does not know, and gets people in to help.

    Shit Obama won the American Election due in part to the fact that he used technology to talk to the ‘non voters’ and got them to vote.

    Cmon Labour drag yourself kicking and screaming into the 21st century!

  9. I’m trying not to be , I really am but I’m hugely skeptical about everyone and everything political . Cunliffe has spoken at length about neoliberalism however and that’s good enough for me .

  10. your comment about socail media is well placed there have been some terrific meetings in the last year
    phil goff vs cathrine issacs over charter school issacs being ripped apart
    rob orams meeting in parnell centrel hub
    power nz meetings
    afforble houseing meeting
    chris hipkis on education mt wellington\
    phil goff bury the pylons meetings
    but who sees them???????
    they need to be streamed the old media are no longer the gate keepers
    and labour needs to learn

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