Brian Edwards Media

An Open Letter to David Shearer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr Shearer

It will come as no surprise to you that it was my view when you were first elected that, though you were a considerable asset to the Labour Party, you were the wrong person to be its leader. That is still my view and I have expressed it in numerous posts on this site.

But nowhere in those posts will you find any criticism of your moral compass. I have never suggested and, more importantly, never believed that you were dishonest.  I now find it difficult to sustain that view.

Your decision to call for a caucus vote of confidence in your leadership later today is without political or moral justification.

It is, in the first instance, totally unnecessary:

You have just received a standing ovation at your party’s annual conference;

You already know that you have the numbers to defeat David Cunliffe in the now utterly improbable event that he would mount a challenge against you. You are not in any danger;

Cunliffe has publicly pledged to support you until the mandatory confidence spill in February. He cannot possibly go back on that pledge without losing all credibility.   

Next, the reasons you have advanced for seeking this vote of confidence are patently spurious. You say you want to end once and for all damaging speculation about your hold on the leadership – caucus endorsement this afternoon will give you that.

But that endorsement, almost certainly unanimous, will be as fake as your reasoning. Can anyone really believe that a caucus, at least a third of whose members appear not to want you as leader, could be genuinely unanimous in endorsing you as leader? To advance this argument as incontrovertible evidence of unqualified caucus support will make you a laughing stock.

Finally, you will use this fake unanimity as justification to severely punish David Cunliffe for challenging your leadership. But nowhere can I find any credible evidence of such a challenge. And nor, my reading suggests, can anyone else. There has been no challenge.

What Cunliffe has done is refuse to say whether or not he will endorse your leadership at the mandatory vote in February. His refusal is absolutely proper.

On the other hand, as I argued yesterday, asking him to give such an assurance three months in advance of a secret ballot is entirely improper. It could be justified only by asking every member of caucus to give the same assurance now. And that without the benefit of a crystal ball.

Such arrangements are common in totalitarian regimes. Here we subscribe to the concept of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. That standard has yet to be met in Cunliffe’s case. Far from it.

These are just some of my reasons for saying that your decision to call for a caucus vote of confidence in your leadership later today is without political or moral justification.

It’s the lack of moral justification that really bothers me, Mr Shearer. I thought you an honest man. But an honest man will take no comfort from fake support given under duress. And an honest man will not invent or exaggerate an opponent’s crimes for his own advantage.

Both are signs of weakness, not of strength.

Yours sincerely

Brian Edwards

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45 Comments:

  1. Well written, Mr Edwards.

    However, I suspect that someone else is largely behind this ridiculous and counterproductive move, and along with his mates is the real problem. If it walks like a…

  2. The knife is being sharpened to stick through the shoulder blades.
    Shearer has not the guts to do it. The gang initiation shall commence.
    Hipkins seems ready to give it a twist.

  3. “Finally, you will use this fake unanimity as justification to severely punish David Cunliffe for challenging your leadership. But nowhere can I find any credible evidence of such a challenge. And nor, my reading suggests, can anyone else. There has been no challenge.”

    Mike Smith wrote at The Standard yesterday (in Keystone Coups):

    “I recommended it recently to David Cunliffe over lunch, and he told me soon after he had got all four out of the Parliamentary Library. But he obviously hasn’t read it yet. His supporters clumsy attempt to make the Party leadership the focus of last weekend’s Conference has backfired on him and on others involved.”

    “My first indication that something was up was the rising temperature of comments on the Standard, culminating with posts written under pseudonym days before the conference calling for Shearer to stand down. I don’t know if the posters are Labour members or not, but it now looks like an attempt to destabilise Shearer days before his first conference speech.”

    Mike Smith knows the indenties of the authors at The Standard.

    The one thing that this doesn’t prove is if Cunlife himself had anything to do with it. Don’t you think it would be remarkable if his supporters would launch a leadership bid without him knowing?

  4. No secret, that Hipkins is Shearer’s hatchet man.
    It is he who’s counselling Shearer to take out Cunliffe once and for all.

    Honestly, his tirade against Cunliffe was a far greater show of disloyalty to Labour than anything Cunliffe could have conjured up.

  5. Pete, perhaps you should have waited for some clarification…as noted in the comments. Like this from Irish Bill:

    ‘Jesus Mike, you’ve jumped the shark on this one. If you think Cunliffe has control of teh blogz, the party, and the affiliates then you’ve been reading too many coup stories.

    It’s occam’s razor mate. If a whole host of people from across a broad and messy left are calling David Shearer on his poor leadership (and have been for months) it’s probably not because of some labyrinthine conspiracy. It’s probably because he’s a poor leader.’

  6. This is Grant Robertson, Trevor Mallard, Chris Hipkins and the old guard using the Party members bold decision to make a more democratic Labour Party to destroy Cunliffe. It’s about Grant’s leadership ambitions and not Shearer’s.

    Chris Hipkins should immediately resign for his behaviour yesterday.

  7. Hmmmm. Ddidn’y Helen Clark have a private meeting with David Shearer prior to the annaul meeting?
    Conspiracy me thinks……

  8. We learnt from George Soros that once a run on a countries currency starts all the intervention in the world wont stop it. This has been underscored with the recent financial troubles in Europe, all the EU bailouts have achieved is a stagnation of the donor economies and a staying of the inevitable…

    The same can be said with media speculation on the longevity of a political leader.

    When you say “Your decision to call for a caucus vote of confidence in your leadership later today is without political or moral justification”, I believe you conveniently ignore the political pressure that is inherent in the media focus on this issue. Sure there are (party)political elements, and moral elements, but in this day and age the media, particularly TV, has to engender change, the more dramatic the better, to underscore its relevance.

    I’m no Shearer fan, more of a John Key type actually, so all of this stuff is good from my standpoint – we’ll have one round now and another in february…. (someone in Government is probably dusting off the ‘Release the bad news’ emails now)

    However, you can’t deny that Cunliffes activities were inflammatory, and that despite the party and public reaction to his stance the media have ensured that a stand-off was as inevitable as a further raft of Greek austerity measures. It sells adds and makes Sainsbury, Campbell, and the other prime-time journos look like they make a difference.

    Whatever the origins, Shearer and Cunliffe are both along for the ride. The challenge is to see who gets off with the least amount of vomit on their shoes.

  9. Peter Martin – Mike didn’t claim that “Cunliffe has control of teh blogz, the party, and the affiliates “. He claimed there was a deliberate attempt via posts and comments at The Standard to destablise Shearer’s leadership.

    That doesn’t mean all authors and all commenters were involved or anyone outside The Blog, but it suggests strongly that he knows of incriminating links of some.

  10. I really think you’re on the wrong side of Occam’s razor here Brian.
    Is it really more plausible that the leadership and pretty much all of Labour’s most effective MPs along with a decent swathe of their most promising new MPs have exchanged secret hand-shakes with the “old-guard” and committed to dragging out the leadership saga a little longer in order to prosecute some personal grudge against David Shearer?
    Or is it perhaps more likely that those same MPs are sick of being polled by Cunliffe’s lieutenants on their allegiance, sick of having policy overshadowed by talk of coups that never happen, sick of having Cunliffe take credit for work when his only contribution was delay and obfuscation, sick of feature articles and interviews with Cunliffe coinciding with leaks or leadership stories.
    It’s not something that’s come out of the last weekend. It’s a clear pattern that stretches back to 2009. And it’s equally clear that it has harmed Labour in the electorate. That’s likely to upset some MPs and it’s heartening to see them speaking out.
    Cunliffe has had definite windows to grab the leadership. To grab it decisively rather than by cowardly sniping at his competition playing for a victory by attrition. That he lacked either the political vision to see those moments, or the political skill to gather his forces and capitalise on them speaks volumes to me on why he’s not the right person to lead the party.
    That he doesn’t lie down when his leadership ambitions don’t take hold, that he just keeps on sniping and undermining is why he needs to be disciplined. A spell on the back benches is well in order.
    I do think he needs a pathway back to the top. He is talented and if he can harness his energies for good he would be a valuable asset to the party rather than an ever present time-bomb. I’m not sure the same consideration should be given to his top lieutenants.

  11. If Shearer does exile Cunliffe to the Back Benches — as is widely expected — it will be seen as less than a show of leadership mettle and more like a knee-jerk response by proxy. This will only add to the growing belief, that Shearer is weak. This action will cause more ructions within an already hopelessly divided and dysfunctional party.

  12. 12

    I would not buy a used car from David Cunliffe

    BE: Fortunately, Robert, he’s not selling used cars.

  13. There seems to be a Labour campaign to will the issue away after today:

    @felixmarwick
    Clare Curran says David Cunliffe should get behinnd the leader and do the job he’s paid to do. says leadership speculation should end today

    Labour MP David Parker says numbers are clear, doesn’t expect Labour Leadership speculation to continue until February

    Or it could just be spontaneous wishful thinking.

  14. I agree with you Brian. I had hoped that this would all be sorted out without a blood bath and with common sense, sadly not.

  15. The disdain by the clear majority of the caucus shows the stupidity of the Labour Party changing its constitution.

    In our Westminster system, the leader is first amongst equals. Cunliffe’s colleagues see and judge and experience him in a way that members of the public, and Labour Party loyalists have no possible way of matching.

    And there is clearly something very deficient that they see in Cunliffe’s ability to lead. Bear in mind that these are folks who, more than any member of the public or party, have a significant interest in Labour winning, and winning well.

    Yet they don’t want Cunliffe anywhere near the levers of power.

    No matter how talented or charismatic you are, politics is a team game, and you can’t succeed on your own. Cunliffe’s colleagues have clearly judges him deficient in that matter.

  16. “He claimed there was a deliberate attempt via posts and comments at The Standard to destablise Shearer’s leadership.”

    Wow. If a few blog posts can destabilise Shearer’s leadership, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes when the shit really does hit the fan.

  17. Wow Brian you have certainly fired a shot across Mr Shearer’s bow. Nice piece of artillery work sir.

    Another perspective is by calling out Cunliffe now, Shearer is showing the strong leadership that some said he was lacking.

    The constant speculation on who should be the leader and does Cunliffe have the numbers etc is surely damaging the mana of the Labour party – “who wants a bunch of squabbling boys running the country”.
    One of David Lange’s achilles heels was an ambitious lieutenant – Douglas – chipping away at him.

    Yes its a bit brutal, *totalitarian even, but will it produce the better outcome?

    * Actually I think a real totalitarian leader would have done far worse.

  18. @Kimbo “politics is a team game”

    Make no mistake that what’s happening today is a team effort. Cunliffe has been playing his own game for too long, the team has had enough. He’s the Carlos Spencer of the Labour Party, some nice moves, but he keeps handing over possession while playing for his own glory.

  19. “Wow. If a few blog posts can destabilise Shearer’s leadership, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes when the shit really does hit the fan.”

    His shoes are squelchy enough as it is right now.

    It’s quite feasible the blog posts were a catalyst for the conference catastrophe. They certainly stirred up Camp Shearer, and attracted media attention to it, and it snowballed from there.

  20. @Trevor Albert

    Could you please substantiate your claim that David Cunliffe “has harmed Labour in the electorate”?

    I can give you many examples of Trevor Mallard doing this. He has managed to create bad headlines for Labour by … ranting about the PM’s bodyguards, ticket-scalping on TradeMe, obsessing about right-wing bloggers, bike-racing WhaleOil, getting thrown out of Parliament and generally acting like exactly the kind of politician the general public despise (be they National OR Labour OR any other party).

    And Mr Mallard was Labour’s strategist at the last election. How did that work out?

    But apparently Mr Mallard and the ABC gang are not the problem. Mr Cunliffe is.

    Would you like to explain how you reach this conclusion?

  21. “Make no mistake that what’s happening today is a team effort. Cunliffe has been playing his own game for too long, the team has had enough.”

    Most Labour supporters would appear to prefer Cunliffe’s game to the other one.

    The Greens must be welcoming the opportunity to become Her Majesty’s loyal opposition – and they aren’t even having to work for it.

  22. Brian, David Cunliffe may or may not have declared war on Shearer, but you certainly did.

    He and you will reap what you sowed. Too late for regrets now.

    Oh, and Stuff reports: Suggestions this morning by Labour Party president Moira Coatsworth that leadership speculation was a “media beat up” were incorrect, Clare Curran said.

    David Parker described Cunliffe’s actions as “destructive”. “Destructive of himself and New Zealand’s interests.”

  23. Talk about hubris Brian.
    Shearer said he doesnt read blogs for starters (i found that another particularly weak and telling comment of his)

  24. “It’s the lack of moral justification that really bothers me, Mr Shearer. I thought you an honest man. But an honest man will take no comfort from fake support given under duress. And an honest man will not invent or exaggerate an opponent’s crimes for his own advantage”.

    This self-manufactured situation that Shearer has placed the Labour Party in is divisive and destructive, John Key must be rolling over with laughter. It is ironic that Shearer, who has in the past, received so many humanitarian awards in Rwanda, Albania and Afghanistan to name a few places, has the will, and the undemocratic power to politically destroy a fellow member of his own party. This tells us a lot more of who the real David Shearer is. This is a man not worthy of my trust nor my vote.

  25. Much has been made of Mr Shearer’s past and the success he had in negotiating with warlords in foreign countries.
    How come then, he has been so spectacularly unsuccessful in handling Mr Cunliffe in the last year. Where were his leadership skills when required, to get Cunliffe onside and supporting him?

  26. I agree with Trevor Albert above and find this new line from Team Cunliffe, that was no leadership challenge, Quite incredible. Even I knew months ago from people associated with Cunliffe (NZ is a small place and political Auckland village) that a leadership challenge would be launched in November to coincide with the conference. Then Cunliffe behaves and makes comments that even a newbie to politics would know would be reported by the media as a challenge. And this follows the Guyon Espiner Listener feature a week or so ago. If this WASN’T a leadership challenge then Cunliffe is too naive to be a serious political player. But I don’t think he’s naive at all.

  27. The real culprit behind leadership de-stabilisation is Grant Robertson who is playing so many people against each other it ishard to imagine there are any players left.
    Problem is other than ambition Robertson has no ideas or general electoral appeal,

  28. ‘Even I knew months ago from people associated with Cunliffe (NZ is a small place and political Auckland village) that a leadership challenge would be launched in November to coincide with the conference.’

    Who knew that you would know that eh, Matthew?

  29. Peter, anyone who listens to RNZ or RadioLIVE would have known I knew that, because I said it several times on air over recent months.

  30. I can’t believe my eyes. Matthew and fellow card carrying National Party hacks are trying to clarify a situation, perhaps inflame or muddy the waters. Now it is obvious, Cunliffe is the big threat from a National Party point of view.

  31. Johan, I’m not “trying” to so anything. I’m just putting the truth on record unlike the “there was no leadership challenge” brigade who are either rewriting history or less connected with Team Cunliffe than I am. You can decide which is more likely.

    BE: I have never had any difficulty in separating your statements from the truth, Matthew, least of all since reading The Hollow Men.

  32. I do hope that, before I cast my vote in 2014, I’m not required to say how intend to vote in 2017 and 2020, because I doubt that I’d know.

  33. The Rainbow mafia in Labour cannot resist their bitchy machievellian streak getting the better of them…Labour will be relegated to history….Shearer is already a footnote of history…Cunliffe will ride again but god help the party that he creates in his own image…NZ politics move forward a notch…good stuff

  34. On the other hand, what else could Shearer do really? He is the leader and his leadership was being threatened, and what does any leader do when that happens? You take your threat out with one foul swoop. ANd that is what he did, he weakened Cunliffe and showed an example of him in front of his colleagues, it ain’t pretty, but he showed whose the boss. I truly believe that that is what Don Brash, John Key or Helen Clark would have done. Does this mean I think he is the right man to lead Labour? Hello no. But you can’t fault Shearer for being assertive, showing he is the boss and he is in control.

    BE: Be interested to know if you could identify the threat you’re referring to. Cunliffe had given his support to Shearer until the February spill. You can’t demand that some pledge to supporting you in what is meant to be a secret ballot in three months time.

  35. “I have never had any difficulty in separating your statements from the truth, Matthew, least of all since reading The Hollow Men.”

    lol lol… my recollections too, exactly. An eye opening book that, The Hollow Men.

    Hipkins should read it; hopefully he might learn some of Matthew’s smoooth moves. Being a whip after all doesn’t mean he should remain a fool.

  36. 36

    Grant Michael McKenna

    I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Shearer in Liberia and in Rwanda. He always struck me as competent and determined, and I although I have been disappointed in the less than stellar leadership he has shown, I do think that he means well.
    Of course, I should add that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Labour Party; I understand economic realities!
    I believe that Mr Cunliffe had been moving to take the position of Leader of the Opposition, and so think that Mr Shearer was right to slap him down- but I think that it is to no avail, as Labour’s new rules make the forthcoming official challenge inevitable.
    Does anyone know when iPredict will launch odds on Russell Norman being the Leader of the Opposition after 2014?

  37. Brian. May I compliment you on your Donald Trump tribute hairstyle. Very republican.

  38. Brian: Your comment re ‘Matthew, truth’ and ‘Hollow Men’ has to be the best this century. I shall read the book again.

  39. Hello Brian,

    I’m not sure either man comes out of this particularly well, even less so the Labour party. Surely this leadership issue is more than about mere people, or loyalty or character; it is much more about policy and direction and fundamental philosophy.

    To me Shearer represents the sort of steady as she goes faux Labour, beholden to so-called centrist policies as typified under Clark/Cullen, a nod to socialism, but much more about continuing the neolibleral experiment, globalisation and to hell with sovereignty and the planet. Cunliffe represents a return to a more socialist/directive/redistributive Labour party, as scorned by the media and National and unfortunately rather a large number of Labour MPs, but not so much the membership.

    There is still a powerful old guard of this non-evolving Labour constituency, who see, I think, Cunliffe as a sort of political asteroid who’ll wipe them off the political map – it scares the s..t out of them. Shearer, for all his credentials and basic decency, is a hostage to this, as for instance is Barack Obama a hostage to a dinosaur and corrupt Domocratic Party. As long as these no longer relevent views hold and the old guard continue to wield influence, it won’t change, and Labour remains as irrelevant as National in seeing to any sort of livable future for this country. This is why the Greens have become now the nominal and more effective opposition. The world is changing dramatically, I believe Cunliffe and his supporters have some understanding of this, his opponents just haven’t got a clue what’s going to hit us. In the long run, Cunliffe is right, but he may, like many right people in the past, be too uncomfortable a bed-fellow for those who prefer their politics to be unfruffled or untrammelled by reality.

  40. “I have caucus’s unanimous support.” yeah right
    While no one buys it, it has left the impression that Shearer is in charge, and that could be helpful to him later. I don’t agree his actions are immoral but this silly new housing scheme is. Bribing the voters with taxpayers money is an old trick without moral justification. it’s not policy, just power grabbing.

  41. @JohnM

    Well said. labour is evolving. That means change. Some people can’t hack the pace. By 2014 the appropriate leader will be at the helm.

  42. “Brian: Your comment re ‘Matthew, truth’ and ‘Hollow Men’ has to be the best this century. I shall read the book again.”

    It’s a book that should be read once every two years as a constant reminder of the machiavellian nature of the principle players including Matthew Hooton.

  43. I look forward tot Trevor’s reply to Simon…..very unlikely I think.

    Well Brian as one of the morons in the blogosphere, I must say this, my historical party of choice has been destroyed over the last 20 years or so by people such as yourself……my whole political interest has been in the Labour Party, until the rainbow faction sycophantic idiots and “politicians for life” came on the scene.
    You Sir have had a real part to play in the demise of my party, and you can play the wounded soldier as much as you like, but in fact you as a communication expert within Helen’s inner cabal, are as much a part of the disease, and to come to us with words of sanctimonious righteousness is a bit rich…..Shearer ain’t my cup of tea, and in fact there is no one in that train wreck that spins my wheels.

    Instead of sitting on your high horse, give us an opinion on the future and how you as a high and mighty specialist would stretch the party to the finish line.

  44. interesting. Plays right into Keys hands.
    I would vote for Cunliffe.