A Sort of Victory: Is Labour’s Old Guard Undermining Cunliffe’s Lurch to the Left?



THE LATEST ROY MORGAN POLL should worry Labour supporters. At just 30.5 percent, voter support for the Labour Party is bumping along at levels last seen under David Shearer. The Greens, by contrast, have jumped 3.5 percentage points to 14.5 percent – an increase in support exactly matching Labour’s fall. Combined, the Labour-Green vote only just equals the National Party’s 45 percent. The latter’s choice of coalition partners appears to have narrowed to Colin Craig’s Conservative Party and the Maori Party, but with NZ First once again clearing the 5 percent MMP threshold, the Government’s position remains precarious.

All well and good you might say if your ambitions for 2014 run to nothing more than replacing Mr Key with Mr Cunliffe. But if you’re looking for a government that is both willing and able to tackle the multitude of problems confronting New Zealand, then Labour’s performance in the latest Roy Morgan poll is deeply disturbing.

The sudden spike to 37 percent support for Labour which accompanied the leadership contest back in August-September seemed to suggest that Labour politicians pledging themselves to the Left’s traditional goals – eliminating poverty, full employment, affordable housing, a living wage, social equality – was exactly what the public wanted to hear. Certainly, Cunliffe’s victory had produced an audible sigh of relief among Labour voters. For the first time in two years they could listen to the Party’s leader on the radio or watch him on television without their hearts being in their mouths.

So, what has happened? Why has Labour fallen back to a risible 30.5 percent in the Roy Morgan poll?

The problem, in my opinion, lies where it has always lain – in Labour’s caucus. In the contest for the Party’s leadership Cunliffe did not win the support of a majority of his parliamentary colleagues. This would not be a problem if the decisive support he received from Labour’s ordinary members and trade union affiliates had been enough to convince Cunliffe’s caucus opponents to set aside their objections and misgivings, and get in behind the party’s choice.

There is, however, precious little evidence that they have responded to Cunliffe’s victory in this way. The conduct of his opponents at the party’s annual conference in Christchurch was surly and uncooperative. Even worse, there seemed to be a concerted effort on the part of some of the more senior members of caucus to head-off the modest attempts by the rank-and-file to match their new leader’s radical rhetoric with some radical policy.

Phil Goff was only the most visible of the Old Guard engaged in dampening-down potentially embarrassing policy hot-spots – most particularly the trade union affiliates’ attempt to distance Labour from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

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In the weeks since the conference it has been Labour’s economically orthodox finance spokesperson,  David Parker, who has taken the lead in publicly reaffirming Labour’s continuing commitment to the more conservative elements of its 2011 manifesto: raising the age of entitlement to Superannuation to 67 years; forcing all workers to join the Kiwisaver scheme; and the introduction of a weak Capital Gains Tax.

Behind the scenes the situation is, apparently, even worse. In spite of the fact that child poverty seems certain to become a major election issue for 2014, anti-poverty campaigners report extreme difficulty in persuading Labour MPs to embrace the policies required to eliminate it. Most worrying of all is the evident backsliding from Labour’s hard-won 2011 commitment to extending the same government assistance currently available only to the children of parents in work, to the children of beneficiaries. The hard-line neoliberal notion that paid employment, alone, has the power to lift families out of poverty, and that nothing must be done to delay the beneficiary’s transition from welfare to work, remains deeply embedded in the thinking of former Labour cabinet ministers – and aspiring cabinet ministers.

And herein lies Cunliffe’s dilemma.

Labour’s new leader knows that his party desperately needs to embrace a policy agenda of sufficient robustness to persuade the 750,000 mostly Labour voters who abstained from participating in the 2011 election that it is time for them to re-engage with the electoral process. For Labour, that can only mean making a decisive – and very public – break with the neoliberal policies of the past.

The ferocity with which the Old Guard responded to Cunliffe’s argument that Labour needs to undergo a radical ideological reorientation was instructive. It pointed to the presence of a powerful faction within Labour’s caucus that is absolutely determined to prevent the slightest deviation from the core elements of the 1984-1993 neoliberal “revolution”.

Just how determined this faction is to defend the legacy of the Fourth Labour Government was revealed when, in spite of the fact that the man they had vilified and demoted to the back-benches proved to be the emphatic choice of the Labour Party, they did not immediately announce that they would be standing down at the 2014 election. On the contrary, they loudly proclaimed their determination to stay on as MPs. In doing so they not only prevented the party from rejuvenating itself, but raised the unsettling prospect of a hostile, obstructionist and frankly oppositional element constantly foot-tripping a future Labour-led government.

This leaves Cunliffe in a position analogous to that of the highly popular and recently elected city mayor who must attempt to carry out his mandate in the face of a resolutely hostile and obstructive majority of city councillors. Without the ability to carry through his promised reforms the mayor’s popularity with the voters is steadily eroded. They do not see the day-to-day petty obstructionism of the mayor’s enemies; all they see is a politician who was swept into office on a promise to bring about big and necessary changes – and then failed to do so.

David Cunliffe has precious little time to do something about his colleagues’ apparent unwillingness to join him in a radical reconstruction of Labour’s economic and social policy platform. The steady ebbing away of voter support is evidence that the same people who were so excited and energised by his victory in the leadership contest are now beginning to feel anxious and let down by the Labour caucus’s seeming inability to work as a team.

It was said of the Moscow-aligned Socialist Unity Party – which once held considerable sway in the New Zealand trade union movement – that it would rather keep control of the losing side than lose control of the winning side. It would seem that Labour’s Old Guard has similar aspirations.

After all, if your primary goal is to preserve the Fourth Labour Government’s neoliberal legacy from left-wing attack, then contributing to your own party’s defeat could be seen as a sort of victory.


  1. At the very least, Cunliffe needs to axe Phil Goff straight away. He is a relic, a liability, a neo-liberal old guard dinosaur who cant seem to keep his mouth shut.
    Labour need to distance themselves as much as possible from anything NACT are doing, especially the TPPA. Otherwise they are just National Lite. Until they do this, they will go nowhere….

    • Kia Ora

      I quite agree with Matthew. If the left wing want to see the interior of the Prime Minister’s office in some capacity better than that of mere visitors, it needs to harden up and deal with the core issues that most people expect a left-of-centre government to do.

      That means drawing a firm line in the sand on the T.P.P.A. It means coming out with a credible economic policy based on people and society and not foreign interests.

      And it needs to start now.

  2. The Labour Party’s 2011 election policy calling for the “removal of GST off Fresh Fruit and Veges”, was one of the signature Left policies that Phil Goff supported, that somewhat balanced out the Right Wing’s raising of the age of Super entitlement. What has happened to this Left policy Labour Party issue,? Has it been forgotten? Has this policy been left on the cutting room floor in the struggle between Left and Right going on in the Labour caucus?

    Leaving us with worst of both worlds?

    Unnecessarily high food prices, and lots of young people unnecessarily kept out of the workforce while their elders are forced to work on.

    No wonder the Nats are creaming it.

  3. Now is the time for head office to step in and give notice to the old guard that they will not be nominated and leave them with the choice of saving face by publicly announcing that they are stepping down at the end of this term.

    It needs to be done within the next 3 months to give cunliff a fair chance to do a reshuffle that is meaningful.

    Until this is done then my decision to walk away from labour in 1984 remains in place, I have no problem with cunliff i do with king, mallard street and goff and all the others that are ACT in drag

  4. I want to support a social democratic party. I’m hopeful that Cunliffe might deliver it. But, I’m yet to see it. Labour has some good social democratic people in it. But, it needs to expunge neo-liberalism. It hasn’t. For my money, the Greens are still the only coherent social democratic party in town.

  5. Who the fuck is Roy Morgan anyway ???

    Is he like Tele . Tubby . ?

    Balls .

    They are round and they roll .


    When this Gal was pissed off by that cunt , she walked over to him in some parliament and punched him . Respect !

    Pasty , flimsy , hugsy , kissy , Oooh Ums is NOT what we fucking need right now !

    Pop the bubble Dave . Tell us the Truth . Let NZ’ers build stuff on solid foundations for once .

    Again . In the immortal words of the Dahli Lama …. WTF ?

    ( Much drunken eye rolling . )

    It’s not rocket surgery . All Dave has to do is to do the opposite of what they’re doing .

    They’re lying , swindling , misappropriating and misleading us .

    Just do the opposite FFS ! Again , in the immortal words of the etc etc .

  6. If the so- called old guard are a problem then they should be put out to pasture so that they can join ACT along with Richard Prebble and Roger. Neo-Liberalism whatever that is has had its day if it ever had one and hanging onto it for grim death will mean the death of the party. The party should retire those who are not amenable to change so that Cunnliffe can lead without their 1980s baggage tripping him up.

  7. Sure, Goff has been a poverty creator his whole political career, but nobody really listens to him. People never listened to him when he was leader, so they aren’t going to listen to him now.
    But what about Cunliffe’s insurance policy? Sounds like an interesting story for the upper/middle class (again). I think it was pretty crap for a first policy after announcing that neoliberalism was finished. It looked like the same old third-way window dressing.
    Nothing for beneficiaries, the poor, the elderly, students, unemployed etc. Nothing about tax, CGT, minimum wage, employment conditions etc.
    I think I heard something about 10 year passports the other day, but to be honest I stopped listening to Cunliffe after the insurance blah blah.
    What happened to the change?

  8. Any changes in polling just before Christmas are irrelevant – people have got their minds on other things. The situation in Feb 2014 will be a different kettle of fish. Go and have a holiday break – enjoy Christmas with your family and friends.

    Happy Christmas everybody…

  9. If the old guard hold sway it will be costly Cunliffe needs to tell them to get with it or move on we cannot afford three more years of Key simple what part of that don’t Labours old guard don’t get

  10. I suggest the left is losing family orientated people to the conservatives because the left refuses to recognise the ‘trojan horse’ of radical feminism. Anyone actually concerned with intact families as being the best place for our children should view the left with concern. Look no further than the misandry dribble Labour’s min of women blogged for white ribbon. Misandry is a component of the ‘war’ on families. A major political party that trots out glib ideologically informed ‘research’ stats and lazily fails to engage with our world renowned Otago Longitundinal research which has released papers on domestic violence, is a party that lacks integrity.
    Radical feminism is the work of the neo-liberal agenda and it has done its job well in dividing men and women while the financial elite plunder the world’s resources and make hand to mouth peasants out of an increasing number of men, women and their families. Bizarrely this readily investigated ideology maintains its claim to being radical left. Wake up people and start respecting each other across the gendered divide and see who the real enemy is and who their agents are. Yes voting for the national does not help them either…but for understanding why people might vote for the very party that continues to bite them look at books like ‘Deer Hunting with Jesus’ (Joe Bageant) that cover the same bizarre voting habits.

    • Wishful thinking Max. At 2%, the Conservatives are still swimming around in the primordial ooze of the margin of error, along with United Future, and the Libertarianz. From the Roy Morgan Poll, it’s pretty clear that the party Labour is losing votes to is the Greens.

      Keep in mind also that these polls are based on people being able to afford a landline, a working cell phone, or an internet connection, which means they’re always going to be weighted towards the interests of the wealthier end of society. If Cunliffe can shed the neo-liberal deadweight in his cabinet, and get his head around some serious climate change/ peak oil transition policies, National are on their way out.

      • Conservative as generic, (not Craigs outfit), which includes national. I stick to my assessment of the trojan horse. Both feminist writers Nancy Fraser and Hester Eisenstein argued as far back as 2005 the connection between feminist agenda and the neo-liberals. With the neo-libs using their agenda of attacking the family/patriarchy to change social policies to take away such as the family wage in favour of gender ‘equality’, to take away family friendlly work hours in favour of 24/7 consumerism, to get more tax payers and consumers in the work force and to flood the labour market to further diminish power of the unions. These writers have both published books this year. However they fail to debate the clear connections of Gloria Steinum (outed by red stocking fems in 1970’s), Ms mag, the washington post etc to the cia which is a tool of the financial dynasties pulling the strings of neo-liberal agenda and globalisation. Nor the idea that empires have forever ruled through divide and rule of the masses. The most fundamental divide of humans is along the gender division. The empire we live is that of the financial elite. The grass roots agendas of the class struggle, the health of families (dv, child abuse etc) are incompatible with the agenda of radical feminism. The left needs to sort that out or it will continue to eat itself from within.
        My blog on this
        plus new facebook addy pushing such repair across the gender divide. https://www.facebook.com/stopgenderwarnz

    • lolz.
      So Labour lost votes to the Conservatives, but then the Conservatives didn’t gain votes? Nice analysis noddy
      Why can’t Labour address gender discrimination and poverty at the same time?
      Is it impossible because you have a penis Max?

      • As above…conservatives as in ‘right’ wing, not the party. Please point to any real gender discrimination in NZ please. That is real research not ideological rhetoric. I will refrain from joining the insults, I understand weak logic needs name calling to ‘win’ arguments. With the radical fems being the masters of derogatory dialogue and worse.

        • Sure Max, here’s some research. Its different to your fantasy about Labour voters going to the conservatives, because these numbers make sense.

          Women in NZ work a lot of unpaid work – that is the work that sustained our unsustainable post-war sexist society. http://igps.victoria.ac.nz/publications/files/a3a60088fe1.pdf

          Let me know if you want more examples of gender inequality in NZ – Maybe education? How about violence? Or pay rates/earning potential? What about how the GFC has affected men and women?…

          Also, you have misread Nancy Fraser’s work on the link between feminism and neoliberalism. Fraser’s point is not that feminism should be blamed for neoliberalism, but rather they reinforced each other at deeper ideological levels – namely the discourse of individualism. Your suggestion that feminism is responsible for neoliberalism blames the wrong people. The link is there because the left turned to individualised capitalism. Returning to a post-war women in the kitchen society ain’t gonna happen. Gender equality has a long way to go, just like fair the distribution of resources does as well.
          The left needs to learn multi-tasking

          • Problem is, a lot of that research is pointless for a fem argument. Where you’re referring to say, a solo mum, then of necessity she’s doing all the work – part-time work (thanks Paula), childcare, housework. If you’re talking about the dynamics of a personal relationship, with him working full time and her working part-time, then hell yes, I’d expect to have the toilet cleaned, the dinner cooked and the kids looked after. When these sorts of studies try to generate an interest in who’s getting paid for what, they often bypass who’s getting looked after and who’s not getting what they want too.

            What this report does tell us loud and clear, is that overall women are quite happy with the allocation of time in work, housework, and childcare – and they’d like to keep the status quo, However men would like to increase the time they have with children so how about a 50/50 split? Women go out to work more hours while men stay in and play more? Seems fair – by the research.

            That was a satisfaction study, not a pay inequality study – we all know that exists.

            • Depends what argument one is trying to make. I posted that in response to Max’s request for examples of gender discrimination in NZ – my point being that women in NZ work a lot of unpaid work. Women doing unpaid work sustained our form of capitalism for as long as anyone can remember…its a form of gender discrimination

          • Hey Fatty thanks for posting that survey from Otago longitudinal study. I’m almost hopeful that you could post the Otago study on domestic violence on the white ribbon site. I can’t because wr blocked me and any discussion and then erased any comment on Otago’s findings. Reading your posted survey it backs up any other reputable time use survey with equal combined paid/unpaid work done by men or women to support a household. The only disparity to other surveys is that this one did not include commuting times for paid work and that would no doubt account for the one hour daily difference. I note also the dissatisfactions of the men with wanting more child care time and less paid work time and the telling lack of support for this from women.
            With regards Nancy Fraser, I have not misread her 2005 essay. Neo-liberals subsumed the rad fem agenda to further their aims. Other research suggest strongly that neo-libs created the ‘vehicle’ of radical fems. Certainly both pushed the cult of the individual. The cost of that is the intended destruction of family, the increase of available labour/taxpayers who because of numbers suppress any real union influence on descent wages enabling families off state provided welfare.
            Funny that you mention education. NZ now has a one third male to two third female split at undergrad level. This is a component to why we will continue to build prisons. Undereducated and thus underemployed young males is a great recipe for the mayhem required to arrive at the prison gate. In this disrespect for our young men is contained the seeds of future violence against both women and other men. But as long as you have your individual choice then who cares about bigger social pictures!

            • Max, you seem to view gender differences from a 1960s nuclear family perspective. Today families split, merge, people don’t have children etc. Congratulations on noting that men want more time with their children. This situation is because men are paid more so they tend to work more – something that radical fems are trying to address.
              If the Nancy Fraser article is ‘Mapping the Feminist Imagination:From Redistribution to Recognition to Representation’, then she would be disturbed to see people using her work to justify your claim that “Radical feminism is the work of the neo-liberal agenda”.
              Fraser never made the point that radical feminism was the work of the neoliberal agenda. She linked some strains of feminism (I’d say liberal) with neoliberalism – they reinforced each other through the deeper undercurrent of individualism. I agree with her point, but your interpretation suggests that the feminist movement was some sort of astro-turf movement. This ignores what life was like for women prior to the 60’s, and it also ignores probably the greatest protest movement ever
              Predictable that you mention university rates. Weird how as soon as women move into uni, degrees become worth a lot less. Also weird how trades are quite highly paid now eh? In 2009, only 12% of apprentices were female – most of which were lowly paid hairdressers.
              Uni degrees are overrated, loads of people have them.
              Your linking of not enough males at uni and our high prison rates is weird. How do you come to that conclusion?
              Your individual choice slur is wrong. Opposing systemic oppression is not promoting individual choice. Individual choice is a meme that is used to disparage systemic critiques – whereas radical feminism encourages systemic critiques.
              Ironically, despite all your snide remarks about radical feminism, it seems that some forms of radical feminism actually has the answers you are looking for

              • Response to Fatty. Analysis often includes ideas and theories taken from many sources, which Feminist critiques has certainly engaged with over the last 50 years. So your concern for what Fraser’s (I used Feminism, Capitalism and the cunning of history), analysis has been combined with to form other hypothesis or a wider picture of history is farcical. I will repeat, feminism has been used by neo-liberalism to advance its agendas in our society and the wider world. You are the puppets on their strings. They wanted more individualism (workers/tax payers in the marketplace), destruction of strong nuclear families (which held governments to account with social policy on wage and work hour protections) and the union movement and you gave them that. That is the cunning of history and empire rulers! People thinking they were doing one thing but in fact aiding something else, have been referred to as ‘useful idiots’.

                • So you don’t stand by your original comment: “Radical feminism is the work of the neo-liberal agenda”?

                  That is not correct…now you have reworded that as: “feminism has been used by neo-liberalism to advance its agendas in our society and the wider world”

                  Sort your shit out. Either defend what you say or retract it.
                  Also, I ain’t no puppet. The nuclear family was finished by the time I was born. As much as you wish this was the 1960s again, its never going to happen. Crusty old sexist and racist social democracy with a welfare state has failed us. Its unsustainable and we can never go back to it. Go read some Zizek.

    • What a rant! If radical feminism has taken over the world, why have we only seen two female PMs in NZ (with only one of them being elected)? And if you are worried about family structures, how about considering male behaviour as well as female decisions?

      You argue that gender shouldn’t play a role in politics. Well, guess what, mate? The struggle for freedom of choice is political. Societies which oppress women are denying half of their population their human rights. Sounds pretty damn political to me!

      • What a particularly shallow read of what I said. Its not about women taking over positions of power. The rad fem agenda was started by and for the neo-liberal agenda who do not give a shit about who they screw. The movement (I do not include equity fems in this) easily attracted the abused and the hurt (real or otherwise), the dumb and those not watching what they were actually enabling. The neo-libs allowed the illusion of identity recognition but only provided a few with any real financial recognition. The combined agendas merely keeps us arguing amongst ourselves, abusing each other and our kids as we struggle to make ends meet while the real winners rip as much stuff as they can from the earth before the rest of the people wake up and actually do something about it. You are playing their game well.

        • Max does have a valid point. People should not get their hackles up as soon as something labelled “feminism” is criticised. Max is in no way critiquing feminism as it relates to patriachy – except to say there is an ideological strand masquerading as feminism that is closely aligned with the dominant patriarchal structure. Ie, the rise of female leaders in politics and corporates is not necessarily a feminist triumph – look who built the ladder they were climbing.

          The undermining of the domestic unit, ie, one parent at home caring for the children family (whether male, female, whatever, who cares?) is a cornerstone of neo-liberal ideology, where we all have to be individuated consumers, and our children are product. Too often the woman’s “right to work” is a beard for the demolition job on our most basic social ties.

          • Those are good points PB, and I’d say most people here would agree with you. But you are talking about liberal feminism, whereas Max has explicitly labeled radical feminism as the problem.
            Within radical feminism there are many strands, and many of those strands are necessary as they provide valid critiques of our social/political/economic systems.
            Liberal feminism is problematic, and that is also what Nancy Fraser focuses on – Max has misread her work.
            If Max is going to give a D-grade critique of a group in society that has been historically subjugated, and continues to be marginalised, then he needs to get the basics right.

      • Now if only we could find a society that oppresses women here in NZ, that would have been a valuable contribution.

        The very public campaigns that you see addressing the ‘modern issues’ of women is actually nothing more than the propaganda that creates the banality of evil of which Arendt spoke in relation to the Nazi regime. Society begins to turn on the idea that men are bad, and men need oppression for the good of the society as a whole. In so doing, we suppress them from power and the ability to speak and think freely thus leaving the power to those who sit aloof at the highest point in the pinnacle. The political agenda behind the feminist agenda remains until the end largely unseen in politics, law, business, medicine, academia, media and commentariat, sports, and the Internet.

        It is time to break the code of silence and recognise the damage being done to our society by the tolerance of femifascist views lurking within New Zealand. We have political parties advocating that women, by reason of their gender, should be accorded special rights to MP status. An entirely separate judicial system is being demanded in order to protect women complainants from defense lawyers – despite 34% of sexual violence allegations being either ‘no offense’ or ‘false complaint’. Special funding is provided by Government to promote women into the upper echelons of the business community, and the nature of the Internet allows for a massive army of foot soldiers to sweep into action to attack, denigrate, and discredit anyone who dares to refuse to toe the now ‘normalised’ gender separatist line. Lest we forget, there has also been talk of culling the male herd to about 10% of the population.

        We don’t have an ‘oppression of women’ in NZ. The real moral battles of feminism were won long ago. Women have had the vote for over a century. Feminism has no purpose any more.

        • Further response to fatty. On your supposed “…historically subjugated, and continues to be marginalised…” As challenged above by Rachel, show us this fact that does not actually include the men of that class.

          Do you ever wonder why the average woman and her family are no better off (and many are worse off), relatively, than before the radicals took hold of the feminist movement? You disconnect the individual from the male/female unit of humanness and then devalue their contribution of unpaid work to the family. As if the marketplace is the only measure of personal worth in life. The feminist focus on the marketplace as the definer of success for women is deeply flawed and certainly has not produced much other than low paid drudgery for many men and women.

          You disparage the nuclear family when it is on average the best place for children to be raised. Your apparent support of current free floating family arrangements and natural fatherlessness are actually linked explicitly to negative outcomes for increasing numbers of children and as they negotiate life as adults.

          You state that men are paid more so they work more. Orthodox gender earning disparity knowledge is only informed by shoddy ideological based analysis. In NZ today, if it is continuing to be true this relates to individual choice on what education and professions are pursued plus continuous time on the job, not gender. Within a relationship that then relates to the choice of partners and then the choices they make as a family unit (note that this is not individualism at work). Add to this that innate factors still influence human behaviours, with women (even the educated), on average, still preferring to marry up the social/financial scale (provider model for children-whether children are had or not). This in turn would tend to disadvantage the more recent push of men to have more child time and also of influence is the innate female trait to maintain control around her children.

          I also note the ‘weird’ disconnect on the MSD website which in one instance details the amount of feminist influence (read this as cult of individual vs family) into social policy and then elsewhere when discussing higher rates of abuse amongst Maori it trumpets the importance of family, of whanau. I could not agree more and not just for Maori.

          According to the various feminist inspired and indoctrinated organisations like white ribbon and refuge we have a child abuse and rape culture in NZ. After 40 years of increasingly significant influence on social trends and socio-political policy the feminist movement as it stands today can not shirk from taking some responsibility for how our society is. It goes to a question of integrity for any social movement, which you accurately describe with the term ‘great’, to be prepared to critique itself and take ownership of failures and unintended consequence.

          I stick to my claim that the left continues to enable the trogan horse from the neo-liberal agenda and enabling its own continued struggle to gain traction. The problems of our society are class and education based, they are not gendered other than in the ideology of feminism which unfortunately is still influencing society way beyond its merits at this time in history. Most particularly pushing a cult of the individual, actually of the ‘divided and the ruled’ and in ignoring the innate connection between male and female as two halves of the species forming the most common individually sort after unit in the social world.

  11. Goff, Parker, Mallard, Jones. Why can’t they be kicked out? They don’t belong. Can the NZLP only move against those on the left? A party that got rid of John A Lee and leaves these clowns in senior positions needs to have a bloody hard look at itself.

  12. Meh.

    They were never going to let him do anything worthwhile. Democracy turned out in the end to be just a waste of time and yet another means of enabling the far right agenda.

    The only reasonable thing to do is to find personal means of shielding yourself from the idiocy of your fellow citizens. Screw voting.

    • you can say that, surrender to the economic jungle. But do you retain compassion for those who do not have the means to protect themselves in this faux democracy?

  13. While I agree that there are some in caucus, who do not make life easy for David Cunliffe and those that stand besides him, I think the problem goes deeper and is wider.

    David Cunliffe has been getting a fair bit of media attention, but with that came many hints and questions, that surely, he cannot mean that he wants to shift Labour to the left again.

    There are as many in the media, as there are in caucus, who are either followers, or themselves “products” of the neo-liberal economic philosophy that was pursued since the days Roger Douglas started the “reforms” towards privatisation, outsourcing, liberalisation, softening of labour laws, and so forth.

    Cunliffe had to find himself in between a rock and a hard place, when asked about his direction and that of Labour. The interview Rachel Smalley conducted with him on The Nation was telling it all. Cunliffe was very ambiguous and non-committal towards many topics and issues.

    His talk about “corporate welfare” may catch on with some, but for most, I fear, it sounds too much like “slogan talk”, that many in the public have become tired of.

    While Cunliffe is a much better speaker and interview communicator, has better answers to present the media, that means, Labour has a more capable and competent leader now, but he alone will of course not win the election. Regrettably the caucus MPs cannot simply be sacked and sent off, they have their seats, and Cunliffe and his supporters have to make do and work with them.

    The mostly right leaning mainstream media do not believe that Cunliffe will change Labour that much, and they see Labour more in the same way as it was over the last decade or so. A slight shift to the left there may be, but it is more talk to appeal to traditional supporters, than real action.

    This shows itself when looking at how weak Labour has now become on welfare issues. While Ardern may have disappointed, lacking some experience as a rather young spokesperson, Sue Moroney is hardly heard or seen raising issues about social welfare. Even Louisa Wall is not to be heard much, who is the associate now. I do not believe they are so timid on welfare, because they get hassled by caucus colleagues, I have the impression, that Labour is not going to reverse the welfare reforms, and will not be doing that much for those affected by them.

    They will cater for the middle class in work, offer them some policies with improvements, but they will hardly buy back sold asset shares, will hardly make a firm left turn, that is what I observe.

    Those who want truly left policies may need to look for Mana, or at least the also somewhat more centrist Greens, than at Labour, I fear. How can you execute a left swing, when New Zealand is bound by many trade agreements that tie its hands? New Zealand would risk isolationism, I fear, and that in itself will force Labour to only make moderate changes, like lifting the minimum wage, extending parental leave, bringing in some housing policy that make life easier for first home buyers, and by taxing only very high earners a little bit more. Do not expect too much, dear folks!

    • Well said Marc, you’ve pointed out Cunliffe’s main problem, his image through the media, and his actual policies…the media initially painted him as far left (lol), but his polices have offered little (yes its early days, but he missed his opportunity when he had the bump).
      Cunliffe needs to reverse his image and reality if he is to be successful…or at least start putting out policies that are anti-neoliberal.
      Sure, it was great to see the end of Shearer, and Cunliffe will probably finish off Key next year, but do we want 6-9 years of more third-way neoliberalism before Simon Bridges becomes PM?

  14. Increasingly the main fault line between political parties is climate change.

    This is the great political struggle of our day.

    We are at war with our environment, everyone is aware of it. From stuff.co.nz today:

    Sustainability Increasingly Mainstream.

    Businesses must cater to Kiwis’ growing sustainability concerns or be left behind, a survey shows.

    ….Businesses needed to provide for the increasing needs, desires and purchasing power of Gen Y

    ….Colmar Brunton chief executive Jacqueline Ireland said New Zealand was witnessing the beginning of a “seismic generational shift” that would continue to drive sustainability.

    “Being sustainable is the choice of Gen Y,” she said. “It is a generation that will rival the size of the boomers, and their decades of heaviest consumption are still ahead of them.”

    Businesses that did not take note should beware.

    That’s the employers. What about the unions, what do they have to say?

    Trade Unions: Extending Solidarity to the Ecosystem

    “It is obviously a class issue poor and working class communities are hit doubly hard by hurricane disasters like Sandy as we have seen.”

    Laura Flanders grittv.org interviewing Trade Unionist Sean Sweeney

    2:10 minutes ……If we get Sandy if we get Katrina if we get the monsoons we have been seeing and the droughts and the forest fires we have been seeing with the less than one degree Celsius of global warming, What’s four degrees, five degrees, 6 degrees going to look like?

    2:25 …..And if the business as usual is allowed to continue, with the fossil fuel companies burning carbon selling coal oil and gas around the world, that is what we are looking at, 6 degrees celsius of global warming within the the lifetime of children born today. That is a horrendous scenario and we really need to start with the truth.

    02:53 …..We have to tell the truth that this is a planetary emergency, that the transition being proposed by corporations and the politicians isn’t happening.

    And we Need democratic control over energy resources and options, and I think that is a narrative that we should be pushing forward.

    03:30 ……what we are seeing is the privatisation of energy, the liberalisation of energy markets has opened up profiteering and asset stripping, under investment all across the world. That’s got to stop. So reclaiming what was once public and turning it into a public service again, is a step that the unions can support from the point of view of their own members interests, but also from the perspective of planning the transition to a renewable based economy. That can be done, it is technically possible, we must make sure that it is politically done.

    11:50 …..for unions to get away from playing defence to playing offence, they first of all have to tell the truth, they have to be aware of the urgency, and seize the opportunities.

    12:45 …..a lot of working people who are struggling to make ends meet get that. They understand that they are being abused in the same way as the environment is being abused. That the kind of economic system we live under now, which exploits them is also having the same approach to the planet itself.

    So people are aware of it, we just have to build a political strategy around it and not be afraid.”

    Sean Sweeney Director & Founder Global Labor Institute



    Both business and unions from their different perspectives, recognise the problem. It is our political leaders that are lagging behind.

    Leadership is the key, without it nothing will change.

    But political leadership has not been forthcoming, or has been hesitant. The first major political party that starts showing displaying some real steel around climate change will seize the day.

    On the government benches we have a disgusting shower of Climate Change Quislings. On the opposition benches a seeming succession of Climate Change Chamberlains.

    To turn the tide what the times call for is a Climate Change Churchill.

    No Deep Sea Oil Drilling!

    No New Coal Mines!

    No Compromise!

    No Surrender!


    • Anyone remember the “Teamsters and turtles” marching together in the Battle of Seattle? Great to see unions start to integrate solidarity with the non-human exploited into their strategy.

      The biggest thing holding the unions back is their top-heavy management structure, and the resulting tendency of upper management to whimper under the tables of the political elites, to make sure the workers they represent continue to be thrown crumbs. A labour movement that started using day-to-day direct democracy to make union decisions, rather than handing them off to a layer of middle class professionals (with all due respect to union organisers who are generally sincere and passionate people), would radicalize pretty quickly I suspect, and potentially attract a lot of younger workers back to unions.

      Also, NZ unions need to get behind worker-owned co-operatives, as US unions are starting to do since Occupy – fire the boss!

  15. I was for D.C in the last ‘vote for leadership’. But he is sounding more like a National Lite by the day, to me and many others I know of.
    He just isn’t talking about real left wing politics. NZ has moved too far right and it’s a country massively weighted in the favour of the well off….at the expense of the VAST majority of poor…………….. So unless D.C and Labour put this right, we may as well vote Green or maybe (??????) NZ first, to be against National but NOT explicitly for a wishy washy slightly left of far right, ………i.e. new Labour.
    As one chap earlier said, do the exact opposite to National if you want a quick and simple solution……given that ‘you’ haven’t remotely come up with any thing the voters want.
    But mainly solve the bolt holes for the rich to hide paying their fair taxes, land banking, real estate speculation (and by the way BAN foreign money speculating in the NZ property market), tax loop holes etc.
    Until Labour does this it FEELS as if they’re owned by the same vested interest money as National, but they’re the alternative. i.e. Labour are still for the wealthy, but just not as obvious as National and ‘would you like some nice left leaning comments to go with that’?
    I’m not for far left politics, just good old fashioned left wing politics-action that make a level playing field were the poor and working class have a better than half a chance of making it.

  16. The Rogernomes are like weeds and they need a good dose of industrial strength herbicide, only the LECs can now supply that.

    They should build on the new democracy re electing the leadership and call for local support at special meetings and deny selection to anyone that does not sign up to a basic list of left leaning policy. 100s used to turn out at meetings in Auckland Central when ‘Mad Dog’ Prebble was ACTing up, those days need to return.

    This is a fight to the death for NZ, Roger Douglas was a traitor and unless the remaining caucus members don’t do the decent thing and piss off they will be put in that category too as they are an impediment to getting rid of the key gang.

    There does need to be a stronger Labour in this election, it is not possible for the Greens to grow that much more or is it?

  17. Niceties like Cunliffe’s dilemma are insignificant in the face of climate change and deepening inequity. Greens, by and large, see further than the next three years. Social and liberal Democrats can scarcely see past next week.

  18. The reality is that Cunliffe can’t makes the changes we want.

    We have to make them.

    He got put in charge of the Labour Party because the members wanted him there and he’s not going to be able to achieve much unless that mass support stays active.

    Most of this discussion has as it’s backdrop the belief that the right person in charge of the Labour party can save us but he won’t achieve anything if we just leave him to it.

    Look what happened to Helen Clark soon after she got in power; the business press ran repeated stories about how Labour was going to ruin the economy and then she got a call from the business round table inviting her to a meeting.

    No one knows exactly what was said in the meeting but the pressure from the newspapers immediately stopped and there were a few sudden changes in policy from Labour (the only one I remember now is the Genetic Engineering issue).

    The exact same thing will happen to Cunliffe UNLESS he can point to a significant mass of agitated people and suggest that it might be better not to piss them off any further.

    • The reality is that Cunliffe can’t makes the changes we want.
      We have to make them.

      All politics is about pressure.
      Either from above or below.
      Whichever is the stronger,
      Is the way the politicians will go.

  19. The members of caucus who are a bit slow and have not yet ‘gotten’ the very clear message that their party members gave them on the leadership vote could be put on the party list and low. This is justified for performance reasons and avoids a moral hazard going on at present.

    Justified because ignoring what is clearly popular indicates that they are not hungry for a ‘win’ and putting them lower down could make them more motivated. This approach addresses the moral hazard because if they they are high on the list they get paid whether Labour gets into government or not whereas when lower down they would have to join forces – become more cooperative – in order to get the higher party vote required for them to keep their jobs.

    Do you think this could work?

  20. Democracy is more than just voting every three years, it is about becoming involved, it is about, being on the right side of history, it is about standing up to pressure, it is about doing the right thing, even when sometimes you find yourself in a beleaguered minority. Even if you are derided and pressured by those around you, even by friends and colleagues, to go against what you know is right, democracy means finding the courage to stick to your beliefs. Democracy is about finding your hidden voice and listening to it, and being unafraid to give voice to it. It is about trusting your instincts and standing up for what you believe in. Most of all, be honest to your self no matter the pressure. You may feel reviled and put upon and besieged for standing up for what you believe is right. You may even suffer because of it. But in the end you will be judged by history. And if you get it wrong, be honest and admit to your mistakes and try and make amends.

    Don’t do what these guys did.

    The Southland Times. Editorial:

    Southland Times, December 10, 2013

    The Government has made a weak, mean-spirited decision not to include a representative from the 1981 Springbok tour protesters to help represent New Zealand at Nelson Mandela’s funeral…..

    …..Instead of finding room for just one member from their ranks, we have a boutique delegation who hazarded nothing much during that time.

    Note the weasely passive language that Prime Minister John Key uses. “The decision was made” that the grouping was the right one, he says. Not a lot of accountability in that phrase, which in fact he made after consulting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade….

    …..And what of Opposition Leader David Cunliffe? As he sees it, he’s representing Minto et al. Except he isn’t, really. He’s representing the worst sort of tokenistic political expedience.

    Mr Cunliffe also says that he doesn’t want to be political about it – which is something politicians generally say when they’re about to be passive-aggressively political – but if he had been PM then, gee, he would have found room for one of the protesters. He even thought about giving up his seat for Mr Minto, but “was talked out of it”. More anonymous persuasion, you’ll notice. Persuaded by whom? On what grounds?

    “Talked out of it”

    “By whom?”

    “on what grounds?”

    Raised by the Southland Times, these are some very good questions,

    that go right to the heart of how our democracy works.

    Who are these anonymous behind the scenes players that influence our elected leaders?

    “Elected Leaders”, the last two words of that sentence should give you a clue as to what we expect of them. To Lead. Who gave them the right on getting into office to become followers?

    If John Key and David Cunliffe are not the leaders they proclaim to be, then who are the unnamed advisors, who are really giving the lead?
    Shouldn’t they declare themself so they can be asked what their mandate is. And, Who gave it to you? And how did you get it?

    What right have you to be telling our politicians what to do?

    The big question is; If our government can be talked out such things like this, what else can they be talked out of?

    Is this why, no matter who we elect, we still get the same policies?

    Is this why despite governing in the age of climate change, both Labour and National still support deep sea oil. And massive expansion in coal mining, and can’t seem able to turn this ship around, even though if you put each of them on the spot they would both agree we should.

    It is well past the time our leaders grew a spine. The world demands it.

    It is well past the time that our leaders stood on principal and stopped letting themselves be led by the hidden persuaders.

    If they are not prepared to do this then let us hear from the real decision makers.

    Who is the person inside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade who persuaded the Prime Minister? You need to declare yourself. Who are you? And; What are your motives? What is the rationalisation behind your decision? Who do you get your advice from? Who are they linked too? What were their grounds for making this decision? What agenda if any do they have?

    And the Leader of the Opposition; Are you really such a spineless jelly fish? Is that what you were promoted over your predecessor for?

    Is this what we can expect if we elect you and your party to lead this country?

    To stand true to what you believe in despite the pressure, is the positive message left to us by the life of Nelson Mandela. This is also the salutary message hidden in this (hopefully, soon to be forgotten), sordid petty drama played out around the New Zealand delegation to his funeral.

    On the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s death. Let this shoddy affair as detailed by the Southland Times Editorial act as a salutary warning to all of us.

    Madiba you are a leader who would not be swayed. Who through long years of imprisonment and suffering and humilitation, would not be bent. Rest in Peace.

    P.S. And David if you can’t get support from your caucus, reach out to your members, and if that is not enough, reach out the country and the world. It is what Churchill and Mandela did. They are leaders, who to quote President Obama, “Belong to the ages”.


    • I agree CHURCHILL won the WW2 with his mindset of “never ever surrender we will fight on the beaches we will fight on the sea we will fight on the battlefield etc”

      Neo liberalism has to go or this planet is stuffed.

      Mandella won the worlds respect now someone from this generation MUST DO THE SAME.

  21. Labour need to start bringing the issue of economic disparity and the growing income inequality between the “haves” and the “have nots”, the rich and the poor to the forefront of people’s thinking. It needs desperately to re-engage with its many supporters who could not be bothered voting in the last 2 elections

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