Cunliffe’s Decision: Easy to make, but hard to swallow.

David Cunliffe faces the media at his Labour leadership campaign launch, August 26, 2013. Image by Greg Presland.

DAVID CUNLIFFE’S DECISION to ask his campaign manager, Jennie Michie, to stand down would’ve been both easy and hard. Easy, because the negative consequences of not standing her down were readily predictable and potentially very damaging. Hard, because Michie is Cunliffe’s friend, a highly effective political operative and, hardest of all, because she had done nothing wrong. That today’s political logic requires the punishment of the innocent shows how divorced from ethics the business of politics has become.

Another reason Cunliffe acted with such dispatch may be that the accusation of homophobia within the ranks of Robertson’s opponents was one he’d been expecting. That’s because it also cropped up in the first significant election Robertson ever contested.

In the latter stages of the race for the presidency of the Otago University Students Association in 1992, Robertson’s sexuality also became an issue. In the middle of a campus election forum he’d reached into his bag and pulled out a crude homophobic poster which he said had been found upstairs in the women’s toilets of the student union. More in sorrow than in anger, Robertson voiced his disappointment at the emergence of such derogatory material. Observers of the campaign were bemused. No one else had seen the poster and it seemed odd that Robertson was drawing attention to it so publicly.

Robertson’s decision to make the poster public was, however, an inspired political move. Though he accused no one explicitly, the implicit message was clear: his opponents were willing to stoop very low to conquer. By publicising the poster Robertson won the sympathy of the liberal student electorate. Support for his only serious opponent, an avowed left-winger, dwindled. Robertson won the election at a canter.

Those with long memories couldn’t help hearing echoes of Robertson’s 1992 campaign in Clare Curran’s tweet of Monday, 9 September.

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“The ‘NZ’s not ready for a gay PM’ is prob the biggest dog whistle I’ve ever heard. Extraordinary that it’s also coming from within the Party.”

Once again, there was the implied accusation that Robertson’s foes were stooping low to conquer. By pointing the finger at individuals who had openly declared for Cunliffe (Michie and even the former Labour President, Mike Williams) Curran made it perfectly clear whom she regarded as the stooper.

Curran’s comments were by no means the first attempt to “protect” Robertson’s candidacy from a supposed outbreak of homophobia within the Labour Party. On 24 August, Rebecca Matthews, an employee of the NZEI union (but a member, for purely legal reasons, of the SFWU) and a very staunch Robertson supporter, had gone on Facebook to warn Labour members off the gay issue:

“And another thing, anybody who implies, in even the most coded way, that Grant Robertson shouldn’t be Labour leader because there are homophobic voters/Labour members/whatever needs to drink a big glass of shut the fuck up. Pandering to homophobia to promote your guy is pretty ugly stuff and anybody doing it shouldn’t be anywhere near a position of influence in the Labour party or anywhere else on the left.”

This is an extraordinary statement. In essence, Matthews is calling for an absolute ban on evenconsidering the likely effect of electing an openly gay MP leader of the Labour Party. Indeed, she directly equates weighing the electoral pros and cons of voting for a gay – as opposed to a straight – candidate as “pandering to homophobia”. The logical inconsistency of acknowledging the existence and power of homophobia, while forbidding the slightest consideration of its possible political consequences, is quite obviously lost on Matthews. Her statement stands as a classic example of the sort of ethical inversion that has plagued the Left for nearly 40 years.

But, it also explains how Michie could become the target of a powerful anti-Cunliffe thrust.

On Saturday, 24 August – before any Labour MP had announced his or her candidacy for the position vacated by David Shearer two days earlier – Michie was asked by Rachel Smalley, from TV3’s current affairs show, The Nation:

“Okay, Grant Robertson, Jennie, says that he wants to be judged on his ability, not his sexuality. How do you think the socially conservatives might view Grant Robertson you know in the year 2013?”

To which Michie replied:

“I think it’s not as big a deal as it used to be. You know we now have gay marriage, and it actually went through without that much of a fuss, and the sky hasn’t fallen. Having said that, I think we’d be naïve to imagine that there would be no resistance to a gay Prime Minister at this point. I think some people might have a problem with it, but I certainly wouldn’t.”

It is this, the entirely reasonable and rational response of a progressive political activist with years of campaigning experience, that Clare Curran identified as “the biggest dog whistle I’ve ever heard”. (What, bigger than “geldings”?) and which Rebecca Matthews condemns as “pandering to homophobia”.

Sadly, reason and rationality have very little to do with contemporary New Zealand politics. Once the accusation had been made (and shared) on Twitter, and the individual targeted confirmed as Cunliffe’s campaign manager, the news media had all they needed for a sensational story. And, the longer Michie stayed at her post, the longer the legs of the story would grow. In the final days of the election contest the frontrunner would have found himself at the centre of a media feeding frenzy – just as he did when he refused to rule out any future tilt at the party leadership when confronted by TV3’s Paddy Gower at last year’s annual conference.

That’s why the decision he made to stand Michie down was in many ways an easy one. It immediately cut off the story’s oxygen supply. When the mere perception of “dog whistling” or “pandering” would keep an unwelcome media focus on Camp Cunliffe, sacking Michie became the only sensible option.

But capitulating to that sort of realpolitik exacts a hefty emotional toll. Those who find themselves on the receiving end of something like Curran’s attack cannot respond as they would wish because to do so would only have the effect of pouring petrol on flames that had been kindled deliberately – and for that very purpose.

In many respects Cunliffe’s predicament is akin to that of progressive Americans living in the USA during the McCarthyite “Red Scare”. In the early 1950s, simply being accused of being a Communist was enough to bring ruin. Unless the charge was instantly and convincingly refuted, a person’s career – especially if he or she was in politics, journalism, Hollywood, teaching or the civil service – was over. In many instances the only way to do this was by turning the basilisk stare of the red-baiters on to another target.

Not without reason did the progressive author and playwright, Lillian Helman, dub this dark period of American history “Scoundrel Time”.

Sixty years on, and our own time encompasses scoundrels no less numerous.


  1. I totally stand by what I said, and note that Trotter never commented on the personal comment on my Facebook page, just chose to use it to progress whatever this argument is for. If your guy Cunliffe is so great, you don’t need to dog whistle to homophobes. And, I should note I am not a member of SFWU for ‘purely legal reasons’ – its because they are the union at my worksite, and a bloody good one at that. I consider myself an activist for my union, through my involvement in Living Wage and pay equity campaigns, and I am proud of that. I am not against discussing homophobia, that’s just silly – I am saying that people who say its a reason why Grant shouldn’t be leader aren’t progressives.

    • Except that only someone lacking the most basic functions of human reason could call what Michie did “dog whistling to homophobes”.

      What she said happens to be true, relatively uncontroversial, and everyone knows it. There isn’t any way she could have answered the question honestly without saying something like what she said.

      Either you’re being disingenuous or you’re just being daft. Doesn’t look good either way.

    • “…I am saying that people who say its a reason why Grant shouldn’t be leader aren’t progressives.”

      The question Jenny Miche was responding to was specifically about how social conservatives would view Grant. Of course they aren’t socially progressive. Nice try at spin.

      As a lesbian I’ll say this; with “allies” like Curran, who needs real homophobes.

      When you conjure up false accusations of homophobic dog whistles in order to bolster your team, you HARM the GLBTQI community, and you distort and marginilize the harm of real homophobia.

    • Cunliffe doesn’t dog whistle to homophobes. He made that very clear by actions instead of words by standing Jenny down from his campaign.

      Is Grant so desperate for the leadership that he’s willing to support his mates to play the homophobic card? Because that’s exactly what he’s doing. He may not have put Curran up to it – but he’s not publicly denouncing her off-colour accusations on Twitter either, or even doing anything to distance himself from it.

      The most capable, most qualified and most able candidate to win next years election is David Cunliffe. That has NOTHING to do with sexuality.

      I for one will wholeheartedly support Robertson as Cunliffe’s successor, he is a VERY talented politician and speaker and an asset for Labour. Labour is just fortunate to have someone even more qualified for the top job.

      Also, it will help Grant no end to spend the next couple of terms doing good work and distancing himself from the old guard – the ABC crowd.

    • lol, you suggest that an issue shouldn’t be talked about, implied, or coded, when it would be a real and honest consideration at the very least. Are you trying to win an election or an agenda? Maybe you should help rip labour apart more by putting your name up for leadership too.

  2. Any doubts I have with Grant Robertson being made leader have nothing to do with whom he spends the night with, it is whether his time is actually now or after the new leader? What do you think. If David Cunliffe falls over in the path of the proverbial bus who would take his place?

  3. A well written article. I agree entirely. What a shame the lively inspiring leadership process was so badly and so very unfairly sullied by the silly Clare Curran. I do not mind constructive fair criticism of candidates or their supporters. But to resort to untruthful spin and BS is just not on. All it does is hurt every one involved, including the accuser, but most of all it hurts the party itself!

  4. “In many respects Cunliffe’s predicament is akin to that of progressive Americans living in the USA during the McCarthyite Red Scare”

    This is crazy. Get a hold of yourself, Chris.

  5. Really disappointed with this article, not just because of the implication Grant manufactures homophobia (which is rife, sadly) but also because Trotter has made public the personal FB status of someone who was his FB friend. Deeply uncool. This is not the column of an ally – Chris has shown repeatedly that he rejects identity politics. Intersectionality is a thing, and it’s a good thing, not a distraction.

    • Robertson does have a history of making homophobia a political tool, do you deny that? He knows that’s a perceptual risk so why did he not kill the rumour weed by taking the initiative and reeling Curran in? I’m starting to wonder if Robertson’s affable nature and likability is hiding a forked tongue and the propensity to avoid making strong decisions because feelings might be hurt and popularity levels might wane.

  6. I see you have set your Old Zealand Curmudgeon dial to 11, Chris…

    This is such a minor blemish in an otherwise very positive process for the Labour Party, and Cunliffe’s over-reaction to Curran is telling, but not for the reasons you think. It was a complete over reaction, showing an insecure leader unwilling to take any heat at all.

    Far more serious, in my view, is the assertion from Cunliffe people (like you) that if Robertson wins then the election process must be corrupt. Cunliffe should be distancing himself from that.

  7. Homophobia hasn’t put a dent in Al Keyduh’s shiny teflon panelwork, but then Robertson is overtly and proudly gay. Therein lies the difference, perhaps

    • This is exactly the kind of sloppy, shit-slinging argument Chris is referring to when he refers to McCarthyism. Please point me to any sentence written by Chris Trotter which is anti-gay. I don’t mean discussing the anti-gay attitudes of conservative kiwis, or their political implications, I mean a statement which is inciting intolerance of gays, or even dismissive of their equal rights. Just one.

      I have publicly disagreed with Chris on many things, not least his shameful burying of his newspaper column blade in the backs of those falsely arrested in the Operation8 raids, but I do so by calling him out on things he has actually said, not by dishonestly putting words in his mouth.

  8. My question to those who seem to be thinking in the black and white world of ‘if you raise it, you condone it’ is there not a place for honest upfront discussion? Being who you are, not pretending, is important for a leader. But so is being realistic and open to possible consequences. By trying to shut down debate I think people have done Grant a disservice. Most especially Clare, who I believe should apologise for bringing the party into the public eye in such a negative way.

  9. Accusations like “homophobe” are easy to make, but the labels are hard to shake. Why step into the area of personal attack? I watched the show under discussion – I certainly didn’t see a homophobe; I saw a woman trying to give a fair, balanced response to a question about an issue that she didn’t raise, but was asked to comment on.

  10. I can’t help thinking that if Clare Curran found homophobia such an issue, she’d be far more worried about Shane Jones, where she doesn’t need to manufacture it. Despite Trotter’s going over the top a bit with McCarthy, what I see here is just how desperate the seat warming ABC neoliberal light blue brigade actually is.

  11. As I said in reply to another blog, if anyone was to blame for bringing up the issue, it was the media (and you’d be naive to think they wouldn’t do so, too). We live in a world where the media isn’t interested in proper, fair, and balanced reporting about things that really matter. They’re only interested in sensational stories from which they can gain ratings (and thus advertising revenue).

    I have been absolutely horrified at the way this election has been reported on the mainstream media, TV3 in particular. On the whole, all three candidates in this campaign have been very well behaved, by sticking to the issues and sending out a united message to the Labour Party members and affiliate members. From what I have seen and heard, outside of the mainstream media, all three have tended to work fairly well together.

    But that was never going to be good enough for the Mainstream Media, or the right-wing commentators. They wanted blood, and they certainly weren’t afraid to make it up out of nothing, if necessary.

  12. Spot on Chris. It seemed clear from the start that there were enough homophobic NZers that having a gay leader would swing the election from Labour by several percent. Even though this was obvious, so was the taboo against saying so. It is important that Labour does not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by outlawing stating the obvious.
    It would seem to be more important to some people have a gay leader than to win the election. This is irresponsible and counterproductive. The meat heads must be overthrown before they wreck the entire place.
    Of course one’s political mind and skill should be the only issues, but they are not.

    • “It would seem to be more important to some people have a gay leader than to win the election.”

      Your logical fallacy here is, of course, the false dichotomy. There is no sure way of knowing that the sexuality of the leader will make any difference to which *party* people give their *party* vote too. The leader of National may not be gay (although who really knows?) but he is a lying sociopath who likes to sell other people’s stuff against their explicit wishes, yet his party still won the last election.

  13. Chris, the main reason for all this crap is the bloody “mainstream media”, and some personalities in there, who are just out for “guts” and “blood”, to get any story, to cover up their lack of skill, expertise, knowledge and intellect, and who fail to deliver true news, true journalism, and true information.

    Sadly Gower is just one of that breed, of wannabes, in most other countries, I bet those that are NOT dictatorships, he would not even have a job doing what he does. He would probably be condemned to work in an ordinary factory job.

    We have this “media” in New Zealand, which continues to disgust and appall me. I am struggling to find anyone skilled, expert, diligent, responsible and competent to work in journalism. Is it that too many middle class wannabes can so easily access journalism classes, pass and get out there, to work in the jobs they hold?

    I hear and read heaps about weather, about earthquake disasters, about crime, about celebrities, sports and “easy” news, but little at all about political matters, about matters of substance, about what all should really care about. We have former MPs and “personalities” of whatever background allowed to write commentaries on leading newspapers, to front on TV shows and make fools of themselves, but we get NO news, NO information, NO education, NO solid, valuable, competent reporting on much at all.

    I tune in daily into the BBC, watch the international news on FACE TV, from Europe and elsewhere, even on Freeview, having now over 3 or more Chinese channels, I get better TV than NZ made.

    So with all this, we get a crap media, with questionable staff, all “private” and “commercially focused”, self serving and part of the upper middle class, tell us, what is supposed to be of our interest.

    The whole nonsense about all the reporting leads to such media folks having too much power and influence, and it is deeply disturbing, that Cunliffe or any other leading politician, have to back down and make decisions these overly influential, manipulative, over-paid and undeserving “media persons” demand of them. At least indirectly they put the pressure on the politicians, and it was a real shocker to me, that Metiria Turei was even pressured to apologise to make comments on The Vote that dared to “risk” the interests of middle class property owners in their “equity”. Where the hell do we live, in a bloody dictatorship?

  14. I think the point of the article is that identity politics can be used to destroy the left. That’s because the ‘left’ usually opts for social reform or social transformation based on working class politics.

    However those in the social ‘minorities’ specifically LGBT are to be found in all social classes. Those who are employers or in the middle class may still suffer oppression due to their sexual orientation, but they do not suffer wage exploitation or at least the degree of wage exploitation of those in the working class including those who perform unpaid domestic labour. Therefore those who escape the working class into the middle class do not necessarily share the ‘lefts’ project of social reform or revolution.

    The problem with the Labour Party is that it is now the party of the labour bureaucracy which consists of the full time professional parliamentarians and union officials. They form part of the middle class. The bureaucracy is not interested in reforms that go beyond preserving their privileges and meeting some target of minority representation to appeal to sufficient voters to keep them in power.

    Cunliffe’s unpopularity in caucus has nothing to do with his personality, but rather this politics. Cunliffe’s candidacy is widely held to signal a shift to the left and a break with neo-liberalism. Cunliffe has come out in support of identity politics as an expression of working class politics and the MPs that support him testify to this. This has given him a clear lead among the members and ranks of the unions and led to a surge in membership. It is his left politics that include identity politics that threatens the privileges of the labour bureaucracy which until recently controlled the party apparatus.

    Robertson is the candidate of the bureaucracy and its politics are centre left, and signify no real break with neo-liberalism. Only in response to Cunliffes appeal has Robertson begun to talk left. But you will note that this left talk is very general. Those outside the ‘beltway’ can see that and so can the ABC clique.

    In desperation Clare Curran raised the charge that the Cunliffe camp was attacking Robertson’s sexuality. Here we have identity politics being used by the centre-left camp against the left camp.
    In fact there was no homosexual smear coming from the Cunliffe camp which is secure in its sexuality, rather there was a ‘red smear’ coming from the Robertson camp.

    It is the red smear that has something in common with McCarthyism, though in that case identity politics was that of nation versus class. A better analogy would be the Nazis attack on working class gays, while the gays in the Nazi leadership or command structure escaped persecution.

    Both of these historical movements are obviously fully blown attacks on the reds threatening revolution in a desperate attempt to divide the working class along identity lines by those appealing to the politics of national identity as white racist and patriarchal. New Zealand has some way to go to reach this level of reactionary politics since there is not even a strong left Social Democracy let alone a revolutionary left threatening the NACTs power bloc.

    The lesson is that using identity politics to smear the ‘reds’ even on a small scale can in a climate of social crisis and working class mobilisation led to the fascist destruction of the left by the counter-mobilising of middle class elements facing poverty, and elements of the working class confused over their class identity, which results in the repression or elimination of minorities who are trapped in the working class.

    Identity politics is always the ‘bitch’ of class politics.

  15. HEY!!!
    Get back to the basics.
    Quit splitting hairs, folks,- These are MINOR discussions. (TRIVIAL)

    New Zealand is a country
    of Human Lives…
    being ruined/ wrecked/destroyed- by Bogus/ False economics..

    New Zealand is now a country of HUMAN SUFFERING.
    Because of an artificial “economic” system that does not work.

    THIS should be

    the ONLY THING being discussed now. As well as how to reverse it.

  16. I appreciated the article and it raises important points. However, I think the main point is missed, and I am bloody angry!

    What are we playing at as Labour? Really – does anyone care that Grant is gay? We throw away insults on our sisters and brothers in the Party with no thought as to the damage. Using homophobia allegations like this is wrong and damaging to individuals and the Party.

    We have a choice:

    1. Follow democratic processes and elect a new Leader, and then give that Leader 150% support into the next election, or

    2. Get ready for Key to have another term in office.

    I am a Cunliffe man myself. David has supported the setting up off the Auckland Branch of the Kirk Sector on 28 September in his electoral office (At 2pm for information. All welcome. Plug over). Grant I understand has done the same in Wellington, and all the Candidates support Kirk, but there is a difference between supporting and actively helping. Kirk is my area. We have 0% representation for people with disabilities in Labour with 20% or more on New Zealanders being disabled. Am I the only one to find this horrific? However, has David or his supporters used this to claim discrimination towards any other candidates? Of course not! Why not? Because it would be plainly untrue!

    So it is with the issue of being gay. It is not an issue. None of the candidates are bothered that Grant is gay. Only a small number in the Party are bothered and we always get a minority. Attacking people in public to get a candidate in is bad enough. However, to be so filled with hate that you form ABC (Anyone But Cunliffe) is offensive and the work of a very petty mind. It shows a lack of intelligence, compassion and ethics. What message are we giving the media, the public and the World? I am ashamed that this is even an issue.

    Here’s what needs to be done:

    1. Support your favourite candidate without bashing the others.

    2. Support the new Leader.

    3. Run the next General election campaign as a unified and strong Party as opposed to a gaggle of bitching children.

    Simple really, innit?

  17. Oh Jesus . I can’t believe what I’m reading in some of the comments here . Chris Trotter is dead on the money so get over that . Currens comments were petty and with devious undertones . mathews is just desperate for attention .
    But honestly ? This is what you get from career politicians who put their own agendas ahead of their ideals and the Labour Party is still a dirty little rats nest of confederates and tricksters lets face it . Otherwise , New Zealand would be a completely different country .
    At the risk of seeming paranoid ; they’re all playing their own little games because they have nothing to fear except the absence of their salaries and entitlements .

    Coincidentally , I watched this creepy little gem last night . ‘ Syrup ‘

    Cunliffe should never have dismissed Mitchie for her Robertson related comments . She was his friend and she had the energy of someone loyal and honest so what were you thinking Cunliffe ?

    ( And honestly ? robertson should insist cunliffe reinstate her as his wing girl . Wouldn’t that be something ? )

    Where I once saw a man who could take that kind of crafty politicking in his stride , I now see a weak man floundering . He’s like the dog who actually managed to catch the car . He’s thinking ‘ Fuck ! ‘ Now what do I do with it ? ‘
    Cunliffe should have put his arm around robertsons shoulder and said ; ‘ Well , there may be homophobes in parliament . Poor old ignorant them . At least I’m not one of them . Now moving right along kiddies . ‘
    No one cares much about robertsons Gay’ness except himself . Robertson is terrified that he may not be the only Gay in the village after all . Why , even jonky knows the value of the pink vote and as for maurice williamsons X Factor BeeHive performance ? He should have delivered that piece while Twerking to Gangnam Style . Give me a break .

    No wonder the average New Zealand voter is just giving up . This is the most petty storm in the cheap tea cup I’ve seen .
    I know ! Lets ask one of the 270 thousand shoeless , hungry kids in school today if they think Grant Robertsons sexual orientation is a risk to his political career ?
    I don’t know about you but I want better value for my money than this shit .

  18. I think you’re drawing too long a bow, Chris, between the 1992 OUSA Presidency campaign and the 2013 Labour leadership contest. Yes, we know you haunted the common room in the Student Union building at Otago for many years (I started doing so myself a few years after ’92) and we know you have encyclopedic knowledge of the events, and personalities, around that campus at the time. However, both have moved on. Grant R doesn’t need to play the sexuality card in 2013 and, if he did, he’d be mad to get Claire Curran to act as his mouthpiece. As well know, Grant isn’t mad. Instead, he’s a highly able man, who would almost certainly do a better job as PM than John Key (actually, any of the three candidates would, but I think Grant would be best at running a government). Whether he’s the best to defeat Key (and Crosby Textor) is another matter and that’s where I have reservations. I think Grant’s sexuality is an issue, for reasons that do no credit to New Zealanders outside the metropolitan enclaves. It’s ugly but it’s also a fact of life.

  19. Let’s get over division. All 3 are good men. Let’s get Labour and friends cooperating to oust this vile, avaricious, larcenous government.

      • There wouldn’t be blog posts like this without smears like the one it is responding to. Prior to Curran making herself the plutocracy’s useful idiot of the week, the contest was burying the division. Unfortunately the opinion polls resulting from the contest were also burying Curran’s favoured candidate, and so she opened fire red-on-red instead of accepting with it.

  20. Myself, never been to university.My education was a qualified city and guilds trade certificate in my trade.A trade that has stood me well not only here in N.Z. but also in other lands, with a pride and skill that my hands produce.That said,as any trade person will tell you,no matter their skill, they fear the eye of the architect, who!s eye will decide if their craft work is suitable, and that i think was Claire!s outburst was about, that there might may be a leader, like a architect, who demands nothing but the best.And make no mistake Architects can at times be hard task masters.

  21. What do we conclude from all this shambles? Pretty much as I expected: politicians are crap, pretty much, whatever their colour, creed, calling or codex.

    Is Mr Robertson’s sexual preference (or Mr Cunliffe’s, or that other twerp’s, Shane Thingy) an issue or not? From my personal (heterosexual) point of view, it isn’t. Nor (in my view) should it be. If that is the view of the candidates themselves and their advisors, why on earth couldn’t they keep their traps shut about it? There are real issues that do need to be addressed, discussed and dealt with.

    Now, I’m going to weigh in against the soi-disant ‘Tall Poppies’ here. They’ve had the whinge monopoly long e-bloody-nuff.

    It is typical of a certain type of … public figures … to belittle, second guess and try to tell the populace at large what to think. It is well past the time those gentry themselves took a tall slug of STFU. So far as I am concerned, the attitude of officious, smug, self-satisfied, self-righteous, supercilious oafs and oafettes towards the the inaudible, invisible people to whom they owe so much makes me want to hoik out my shears and go hunting poppy. You can tell I’m angry, eh?

    For Labour ever to to have a hope in hell of retrieving my vote(s), Labour will have to grow a pair. And a brain, heart, spine, guts as well. Develop some real vision, a willingness to listen, and a feel for the pulse of this country. Confront the real issues, instead of hiding them away – or hiding yourselves from them.

    And the taste to step aside from the kind of petty name-calling and/or whinge politics that is frankly nauseating.

    Adieu, Labour, and much good may it do you.
    Ion A. Dowman.

    • My point is that public figures should not try and second guess the views of the public at large. That there are homophobic bigots out there, there is no question. But not everyone is, probably not even a majority. We have to suppose that this country has … grown up … a little in the last nearly 30 years.

      If someone really did try to undermine Mr Robertson’s bid for leadership in this way, then that person should feel ashamed of the disgusting immaturity so displayed. But if Mr Robertson’s support people have tried to boost their man’s campaign by ‘planting’ evidence (a dirty trick too often resorted to these days), then they are the more to be reprehended.

      Why more? Because far from settling an issue that ought long since have been laid to rest, they would be making damned sure that pot is kept bubbling.

      The sexuality of this or that person, whether standing for or occupying public office, or ‘merely’ an ordinary, unremarked private citizen, is not a matter of tolerance. Broadly speaking, it ought to be a matter of profound indifference to anyone but themselves. Of course, to get to that ideal journey’s end, perhaps this country still has some miles to walk.

      I’ve made it clear that Labour’s contortions over the last 25 years or so have destroyed pretty much all illusions I have harboured that this party represents anyone but their own petty interests, even at the expense of their rank-and-file membership. From what I’ve been reading, Shane Jones won’t represent any change from the neo-liberal right-wing leaning ‘Labour’ Party I have come to know and loathe. If Cunliffe and/or Robertson represent a possible sea-change, I would welcome that, and would be happy to see leading the Party whoever was likelier to deliver us from the evils of neo-liberalist mal-government. At present, I have no opinion on which of the two that might be.

      Persuade me.

  22. Chris,

    I would have thought that Rebecca’s statement was somewhat easy for the Labour Party to agree with. If Grant was applying for a job in normal employment, you couldn’t even raise his sexuality without breaching the Human Rights Act, regardless of whether his sexuality will annoy members of the public.

    How members of the Labour Party think it’s OK to raise it just because the Human Rights Act doesn’t apply I have no idea – doesn’t the party have some principles to follow?

    • Grant isn’t applying for a job in normal employment. He’s running in a democratic race for the leadership of a political party. If he wins, he’ll be running for PM in a democratic election. What would you have the electoral office do? Run psychometric testing on all voters to try and weed out any homophobes, and declare their votes invalid?

      And it’s worth repeating, Jenny Miche did not make a homophobic dog whistle. She responded to a question raised by interviewer Smalley, who asked:

      “Okay, Grant Robertson says that he wants to be judged on his ability, not his sexuality. How do you think the socially conservatives might view Grant Robertson you know in the year 2013?”

      Why not take issue with the media raising the sexuality question? Or Shane Jones singing “somewhere over the rainbow”? And why did Curran wait almost 2 weeks after the Smalley interview before going off on twitter? Frankly, I view Curran as an anti-ally to GLBTQI. Having a straight MP who would conjure up a false homophobic dog whistle for her own political ends is no friend to myself or my GLBTQI whanau.

      • I would have the Labour Party not be prejudiced against people for their sexuality, along with race, gender etc. If it has members that are prejudiced in that way, I’d have the Party challenge those views. It would be nice to see the other two candidates stand up and challenge their supporters to vote for the best candidate on policy ideas, ability to unite a caucus and party, and ability to take on the national party, not just for the least gay candidate. That would be leadership.

        You can’t ever eliminate homophobia, but you can’t let Grant Robertson get pushed to the back of the bus and told “maybe when people aren’t so prejudiced”. Prejudice is not a reason for him to wait, it’s a reason for him to stand now. This issue won’t go away if it isn’t faced.

        And if Labour Party members want an electoral reason for doing so, watch the GLBT community and their supporters pick other parties to vote for in 2014.

        • Sure. I’d like to see prejudice challenged too. But real prejudice. Not made up accusations of homophobic dog whistling that hurt the GLBTQI community I am a part of.

          GR hasn’t been pushed to the back of the bus and told to wait – he’s currently the Deputy Leader and is standing in the leadership race. Point out to me where he’s been marginalised within the party because he’s gay outside of Curran’s jumped up accusations. Because apart from the asinine MSM, I’m not seeing it.

          “…watch the GLBT community and their supporters pick other parties to vote for in 2014…”

          Yeah, because we’re totally a hive mind who only vote Gay or Gay agenda. That’s why as a Lesbian Labour Party member I voted for Cunliffe.

        • “It would be nice to see the other two candidates stand up and challenge their supporters to vote for the best candidate on policy ideas, ability to unite a caucus and party, and ability to take on the national party”

          Are you saying they haven’t? If so, grow a pair and do so instead of making spineless insinuations.

  23. This is very disappointing but sadly not surprising from Chris. This is the goddamn Labour Party we’re talking about: the issue should never have even been raised – Jenny Michie should have immediately pointed out that it was absurd and offensive and cut it off at the knees pronto. Mike Williams then waded in as well and one was left in no doubt that it was to paint Grant in a bad light with a certain sector of voters or, more correctly, bigots. I’m sorry but if appealing to those misanthropes is what it takes to get rid of the Tories then I seriously wonder whether it’s worth it. Some principles are just a tad too precious to play fast and loose with. Personally I learnt the hard way through my Alliance days that pandering to bigots is considered necessary by some. Oh, and I’m not a party member or supporter and I think Cunliffe has actually handled this very well despite the best efforts of Michie, Williams, Trotter et al.

  24. Here are the facts. At a union event a couple of weeks back TV3 showed many people saying that they would not vote for a gay person. Not that we needed to see this, but that is clear evidence that being gay is actually something that will instantly turn some voters off.

    Newsflash! There are conservative people in New Zealand. Some of them vote for Labour.

    Just as some people are turned off by Grant Roberson’s sexual I have very little doubt and know for a fact there are some people who will be voting and supporting him BECAUSE of his sexuality. Should we talk about that? I doubt it, it doesn’t really matter, but I think it’s interesting.

  25. What a bizzare blog Chris. To start with your recollection of what happened in 1992 (21 years ago!) is wrong. The posters concerned were all over the campus and had been covered over with messages suggesting I was a secret Young Nat and a fool. Yes I did brandish one at a candidates meeting and challenged the person to come forward. The defacing of the posters did not mention my sexuality. And while we are at it, the opponent you are referring to was not even close to coming second, that went to Bevan Tipene. As for the overall tone of this, you know very well that I have not sought at any point to draw my sexuality into this campaign. I have focused on the issues that NZers care about- jobs, wages, housing, opportunities.

    • The thing is Grant why didn’t you take some sort of public action with Clare Curran, who is one of your supporters. By not saying or doing anything publicly you’re actually fueling the fear that you instigated or at least, support what she did. Considering you enjoy the majority of caucus support my qeustion is, are you afraid of hurting the feelings of your friends? Is that why you didn’t say anything?

  26. Chris, I know you want your guy to win and do well, but comparing homophobia-phobia to McCarthyism is… bizarre.

    Sometimes I think you need a cup of tea and a lie down before being allowed near a keyboard.

    You have this unfortunate tendancy to take a good point – that Michie wasn’t being homophobic, but rather engaging in a discussion around the unfortunate streak in some NZers to be homophobic – but take your point entirely too far.

    I think considering how many Labour MPs voted against the gay marriage bill, it’s entirely reasonable for party members to be a bit touchy on the subject.

    Now, if your point is that the Robertson camp has deployed some sort of 11th dimensional chess homophobia jiu-jitsu, as you insinuate he did back in 1992… I dunno man, there’s this saying about holes and continuing to dig.

  27. Well said Chris. The central identity in a society where we work for someone else or perish (apart from the intervention of the state and welfare} is that of a wage slave (as Marx put it}. All other social identities are blighted and distorted by the fact that our relationships with other people are mediated by the cash nexus that dominates us all. Eliminate this and we will be a long way down the road towards eliminating prejudice and ignorance.

  28. Well said Chris. The central identity in a society where we work for someone else or perish (apart from the intervention of the state and welfare} is that of a wage slave (as Marx put it}. All other social identities are bighted and distorted by the fact that our relationships with other people are mediated by the cash nexus that dominates us all. Eliminate this and we will be a long way down the road towards eliminating prejudice and ignorance.

  29. What I can’t understand is why Grant Robertson didn’t immediately distance himself from Claire Curren’s comments, especially as she managed to slag off all union leaders by implying that two of them (unnamed) had said something homophobic.
    I also thought Claire was very unfair to Jenny Michie who was asked a direct question about how she thought socially conservative voters might react. I saw the original interview and thought the question was unfair, but that she handled it well.
    Has Claire also commented on Shane Jones’ misogynism? Calling us “geldings” is extremely offensive, as is minimising his various indiscretions as a big joke. For the record, I was there when he sang “Somewhere over the rainbow” and I didn’t think that was funny either. Or is Claire only interested in tarring Cunliffe’s campaign?

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