Saturday, March 2, 2013

Internal division

Chris Trotter's weekly syndicated piece this week is so good that it demand being published in full. Via the Taranaki Daily News, and under the heading Dishing out rewards to hungry enforcers Trotter opines:

I'm told there were six of them, and that they hunted as a pack. Their prey?
Delegates who had voted the wrong way.
Moving through the excited crowds at the Ellerslie Conference Centre last November, an angry group of Labour MPs was seen taking dissidents aside and telling them, in no uncertain terms, which way was up.
Leading the pack was Labour's employment relations spokeswoman, Darien Fenton, and her grim lieutenant, Dunedin South MP Clare Curran.
No surprises there. Ms Fenton and Ms Curran were among the caucus members most alarmed by the Labour Party rank-and-files' sudden outbreak of democratic distemper. The other members of the pack, however, came as a surprise.
I had never thought of Jacinda Ardern, Megan Woods, Kris Faafoi or Phil Twyford as attack dogs, but my sources assure me that they were there - chewing people out. So what?
Such brutal vignettes are the stock-and-trade of party conferences. Certainly "The Pack" was far from being the only example of caucus aggression at the Ellerslie conference.
It was Chris Hipkins who drew me aside long before the dramatic conference floor fight to murmur conspiratorially: "Our problems aren't external - they're internal." And Andrew Little, who first characterised the rank-and-file's bid to democratise their party as a statement of "anxiety" about the leader, David Shearer.
Even from the media table, the animosity directed towards caucus members who spoke in favour of the rank- and-file's resolutions (the most effective of whom, by far, was Leanne Dalziel) was unmistakable. Mr Hipkins' youthful countenance became an ugly mask of rage as he railed against the proposition that, to avoid a contest in Labour's new electoral college, the party leader must be endorsed by 60 per cent-plus-one of his caucus colleagues.
The underlying cause of all this angst was, of course, simple political arithmetic.
The first thing all politicians learn how to do is count and the people backing Mr Shearer were fearful that a democratised party (with sufficient support in caucus) might decide to wrest the power of choosing the party leader from their hands.
They were terrified that they would then be saddled with the rank-and-file's choice of December 2011: David Cunliffe. And it wasn't Mr Shearer's faction alone, who were counting heads.
Labour's deputy leader, Grant Robertson, had as much to fear from the leadership question being decided early, by the party, as his boss.
Now was the time for all who were not for Mr Cunliffe to unite against him. 
MPs from both factions fanned out across the conference venue to dampen down and/or extinguish the dissident hot-spots.
The Parliamentary Press Gallery were encouraged to interpret the rank-and-file's attempt to "take back our party" as a leadership bid by Mr Shearer's rival.
The roving pack made up of Shearer and Robertson MPs would be joined by an even more vicious media pack led by TV3's Patrick Gower.
The rest is history.
On November 20, Mr Cunliffe is demoted and his faction isolated. On February 4, Mr Shearer manages - just - to secure the backing of 60 per cent-plus-one of his caucus colleagues. On February 19, six days before the long- awaited shadow cabinet reshuffle, Charles Chauvel, a supporter of Mr Cunliffe, quits Parliament.
On February 25, Mr Shearer's new lineup is announced. The Pack are well rewarded. Ms Fenton and Ms Curran both rise two places in the pecking order, while Mr Twyford goes up three to take a seat on the front bench.
Megan Woods enters the top 20 - a backbencher no longer.
Mr Little rises with her.
Mr Shearer's chief swordsman, Mr Hipkins, climbs five places to claim the shadow portfolio of education from Mr Cunliffe's running- mate, Nanaia Mahuta.
Ms Dalziel's eloquence on behalf of rank-and-file democracy is rewarded with demotion to the back benches.
Mr Cunliffe remains outside the magic circle. In Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express all the suspects wielded the fatal knife.
Labour's MPs seem equally impressed by the advantages of collectivised bloodletting. 

Trotter's piece explains the thinking behind David Shearer's reshuffle earlier this week. Loyalists have ascended in the rankings, whilst those loyal to Cunliffe have had the rug pulled from under them..

We're spending the weekend in Christchurch. We'll be especially interested to hear what our Christchurch friends and whanau think, given that Liane Dalziel, Labour's spokeswoman for the biggest ever single investment in this country's history ($30b and rising) sits in the lower third of Labour's rankings. Is that how Labour really wants to be seen in Christchurch, and is that the party's level of commitment to the rebuild?

It's a fascinating insight into the Labour Party mindset at the moment. How could a party wracked by such internal division ever hope to govern the country?


Penelope said...

Your Christchurch friends will tell you that the National Party is loathed throughout the region.

Pete George said...

Curran 'responded' to this lasty night:

"Well, I’ve known Chris Trotter for quite a long time, and I think he’s a great writer, ah, I think he might be, um, better at writing fiction these days, ah, and, but I think he’s also a bit like a dog with a bone, and he tends to live in the past a bit in his writing, and, ah he also has hasn’t been a member of the Labour Party for a very long time, but he likes to give us the benefit of his very strong views, so I guess that’s what I’ve got to say I mean, um, you know I that’s not the way I um saw it, and ah you know we had a great conference, and we’ve we’re a united party moving forward."

Gavin said...

Penelope i live in CHCH and most of the people i know or talk to have nothing but godd things to say about National and the rebuild, they realise that CHCH was hit by one of the most expensive quakes in the world followed by over 12000 more. The kind of thinking that you have is promoted by Campbell Live, Labour,the talking heads on TV ONE and those who have a barrow to push. Instead of moaning get out there and see what you can do to help.

Keeping Stock said...

Well said Gavin. Whilst people are undoubtably frustrated if their particular property has not yet been fixed, most see the bigger picture. The scale of the Christchurch rebuild is immense; the largest ever single project in New Zealand's history, and the most expensive. The John Key-led government (also known as The Government) has made an enormous financial commitment to the people of Christchurch and Canterbury.

And the voters of Waimakariri and Chch Central sure showed their loathing of National at the last election, didn't they...

Penelope said...

Who are you going to vote for in October to represent you on your regional council?

Democracy has been strangled in your part of the world. It happens in other countries too, so don't feel too bad about the dictators you support in Central Government. We are no worse off that Burma or Afghanistan.

kiwiincanberra said...

Burma or Afghanistan....... serious Penelope you are truely offensive, to all of Christchurch, Burma and Afghanistan, to try and compare the three just shows what a left wing communist you are.... or is Penelope really Leanne Dalziel or Clare Curran?
It is so unfair to compare the awful times Burma and Afghanistan are going through

Keeping Stock said...

Penelope's comment to Gavin where she says "in your part of the world..." that she is not actually from Christchurch, just a self-appointed spokesperson. I get my info from genuine Cantabs.

Maybe she hails from Riverton...

William W. said...

Who are you going to vote for in October to represent you on your regional council?"
Good question from Penelope. Anyone got the guts to answer her?

Gavin said...

William W Ill vote for the person I feel that best represents my interests and the interests of CHCH not who you say I should, i do not vote blindly on some misguided sense of loyalty, so why don't you answer your own question and tell us who you would vote for and why.

William W. said...

Gavin - don't you know yet that you are not allowed to vote for your Regional Council again?
There will be no regional council vote for you Cantabrians this October because the Government has decreed that there will be no election for Ecan. They are going to continue their dictatorial, undemocratic control over your resources, despite Nick Smith promising that there would be elections in 2013, but that doesn't suit National's plan to grab and control the water from your rivers, in order to gift it to the farmers (National voters, curiously enough!).
Don't you read the papers?
Do you live under a rock?
You are being screwed by Key, Brownlee, Joyce and the rest of the Gnatty thieves.