Brian Edwards Media

The writing’s on the wall for David Shearer – and it’s in Tapu Misa’s hand.

A quite remarkable thing happened this morning. Herald columnist Tapu Misa gave it as her view that David Shearer should stand down as leader of the Labour Party.

Misa is the finest columnist in the country – intelligent, informed, rational, considered in her judgements. More importantly, she is never cruel or unkind. Unlike most other columnists, including myself from time to time, she never sets out to wound. In keeping perhaps with her strong religious beliefs, she is ever a charitable critic.

Her politics are to the liberal left.

For these reasons I believe she will have thought long and hard before sending this morning’s column to the Herald for publication. It will not have been an easy decision. I can only assume that, after long deliberation, she concluded that this was something that, in the interests of the Labour Party and the country, just had to be said.

Misa’s message is by no means new. The opinion that Shearer, however decent, however nice, is the wrong man for the job, is now regularly expressed by both right and left-wing commentators. Shearer claims not to be bothered by this groundswell of disfavour, but he is either in denial or putting on a brave front. It must be a dismal experience to be subjected day in, day out, to such relentless public humiliation.

What is both new and remarkable is that Misa, albeit reluctantly, has joined the chorus of opinion that Shearer is harming rather than helping Labour’s cause and that he cannot continue to lead the party. The writing on the wall could not now be clearer.   

It has been my view, expressed in numerous posts on this site, that the Labour caucus made a serious mistake in selecting Shearer as leader in preference to David Cunliffe. They are now paying the price for the infantile thinking of the ‘Anyone but Cunliffe’ brigade.

It has also been my expressed view that Shearer’s image as a nice but bumbling and inarticulate political leader, could not be repaired. That would require a rewiring of his brain, in effect a personality transplant, a feat beyond the most skilled media trainer. Even the redoubtable Ian Fraser could apparently not pull it off.

As it approaches its annual conference, the Labour caucus will be comforting itself with the thought that they don’t need to concern themselves with Shearer’s deficiencies as leader; National will lose the 2014 election to a left-wing coalition. They can sleep-walk their way to victory.

That strikes me as a very dangerous non-strategy. It fails to take into account that Shearer’s leadership is losing the party support now, that it will continue to lose the party support and, most importantly, that Shearer has no chance of besting Key either on the hustings or in the live television debates that play an important role in influencing (in particular) undecided and swinging voters in an election.  Key will crucify Shearer in those debates.

As an advisor to Helen Clark during the 2008 election I learnt to my cost the danger of underestimating Key as a debater. My view and the view of Helen’s other advisors was that Key would be no match for the Prime Minister. He was a new boy and she was a seasoned practitioner. She was ’Minister for Everything’ and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of every portfolio. She would make mincemeat of this upstart. Key, it turned out, had been hiding his light under a bushel. He was aggressive, interruptive and in his element. Helen lost the first debate and we had to regroup.

Why is this relevant? Because David Shearer could not hold a candle to Helen Clark as a debater. That is why I say Key will crucify him in any face to face debate. It’s already happening in Parliament.

So here’s what I think should happen: Shearer should announce at the Labour Party Conference that he has told caucus he wishes to step down as leader and will do so as soon as a replacement has been chosen.  To avoid the inevitable chaos (and possible collapse of the Labour Party) which will  result from the implementation of their proposed new rules for choosing a leader (which could be tested as early as February of next year), caucus should quickly select David Cunliffe to take them through the next election. Cunliffe is the only person for the job. There is no-one else.

Yes, I know, there’s a squadron of pigs flying over the Beehive as I write these words. But I really would prefer not to have to say ‘told you so’ again late some night in November 2014.

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  1. Despite the fact the Labour Party support has gone from 22 to 34 % in 11 months? That is a huge jump in popularity.

  2. The public hates Cunliffe. It was repeatedly shown in the opinion polls during the leadership contest. Shearer may need to go, but if you want a guaranteed defeat in 2014, put Cunliffe in charge by all means

  3. This is annoying. I don’t care who leads Labour but this government has got to go, the country is suffering under their “care”.
    Labour has to get behind a leader, they seem to need this sort of thing, and all work toward getting back into power. If the leader doesn’t look good then work to change that image. It would be quicker and cheaper, politically, than ditching him. Sorry if some ambitions get thwarted but this is kind of important.
    When they are in power then they can start jockeying for position.
    Right now the main point is to get the National party out.

  4. Julianne: “Despite the fact the Labour Party support has gone from 22 to 34 % in 11 months? That is a huge jump in popularity.”

    Agreed, and for this reason I think that this conjecture about the Labour leadership is largely the voicings of particular interest groups, rather than a picture of reality. Labour are growing their support significantly in the first year of the term(and at the expense of National, given the Greens and New Zealand First are holding steady). Changing leadership at this point is a risky, foolhardy strategy with little payoff.

  5. Any increase in Labour’s support is despite Shearer being at the helm, not because of him.

    I’m not sure sure what polls you’re reading, Julianne. Labour has fallen to 29% in the latest Roy Morgan released the other week:

    It seems that a new crisis befalls the Government every week. Labour should be benefiting, but as the polls show, Shearer is holding them back.

  6. Cunliffe is not a good alternative. That is the difficulty – no obvious contenders.

  7. Normally good practice to link columns on blog posts, Brian

    BE: Quite right, Dave. An oversight on my part. Now put right. Thanks.

  8. “The public hates Cunliffe. It was repeatedly shown in the opinion polls during the leadership contest. Shearer may need to go, but if you want a guaranteed defeat in 2014, put Cunliffe in charge by all means”

    Im not sure where you got that from Mighty Kites, the membership were right behind Cunliffe after the 2 leaders did the rounds. Once Cunliffe is given the Leadership the public will see how good he is. This is our best chance of winning in 2014, Great call Brian!

  9. If there were a stand out candidate this debate would have some merit. However there is no one in the Labour Party who looks to have any leadership ability. Nothing I have heard from Cunliffe has convinced me that he is the right man for the job.

    I think the party will have to grit its teeth, minimise the damage and hope that it can knit together some sort of coalition post election. However, since after all the troubles besetting the government the LP has not been able to make a serious dent in Key’s popularity, I do not hold out much for the future.

    I am still of the belief that there will be a coalition between the NP and NZF (with or without Key)regardless of whether Labour switches leader. Colin Craig and the Conservative Party could provide a coalition partner for National. For the LP to think it can sleep walk its way to victory is madness. More likely sleep walk to oblivion with the main opposition party being the Greens.

    Perhaps John Tamihere might be a guy to watch assuming he is allowed back in the party. If not watch for a Peters/Tamihere alliance which will sink Labour.

    The only bright spot in the glom is that whatever the result we will have seen the last of John Banks and if the voters of Ohariu have any sense the ultimate political prostitute, Peter Dunne, although there is now the fear that he may go for the mayoralty of a Wellington super city.

  10. I think Tapu Misa has got it right – much as David Shearer is nice person who is totally committed to Labour’s leadership, I just don’t think the NZ voting public ‘get’ him as the Leader of the Labour Party.
    When the LP (or David Shearer) face up to this, I hope they perhaps consider a younger face ( a Chris Hipkins or Jacinda Arden perhaps). I think a fresh younger would definitely change their polling fortunes. It would require Labour’s old guard (Shearer, Dalziel, Goff, Cunliffe & Robertson) to active swing in behind and actively support such a candidate. Such a move would provide a strong signal that Labour was indeed a vibrant, liberal democratic party ready to lead real progressive ‘change’. If they don’t I think the Greens (with Russell Norman and Metiria Turei) will capture the fresh vibrant look on the Left

  11. Shearer is a great leader and will demolish Keys in the debates

  12. Bring back my darling Helen.

  13. We need to get rid of Keys before he finds me a job

  14. Tapu Misa’s article summed up David Shearer’s situation, perfectly.

    The guy was never leadership material. Ever. And no amount of coaching, grooming, re-education, remoulding, refashioning by PR gurus, will make one iota of difference. (Sorry, Bill ‘n’ Jan).

    Shearer, at his most intellectually intense, looks remote; as his usual-self, he looks vacant.

    There is no one in the Labour caucus who appears as an obvious leader-in-waiting.
    John Key has gifted Labour opportunities galore to rake him over the coals; instead, they have gone for the water bucket by dithering and missteps.

    The life blood of Labour is seeping away. They are impoverished as they are starving. Desperate for any kind of sustenance, even, if it’s a discarded mango skin.

  15. Not only is David Shearer not leadership material, I would go as far as saying that he is not MP material. He should leave politics altogether. He didn’t even make his mark in the House prior to becoming Leader.

  16. Shades of ‘anti Helen’ circa 1996!?

  17. “The public hates Cunliffe.”

    what utter nonsense. Half the reason the party is changing its voting system for the leadership is to ensure the membership of the Labour Party are heard. The membership like Cunliffe because he spends time with them and they didn’t like the way an unknown quantity — Shearer — stole the leadership.

    Cunliffe, Parker, Cosgrove, Street, Robertson, Adern, Hipkins, Dalziel, Sio and dare I say it (providing his name is cleared) Jones would provide Labour the best chance it has in 2014.

  18. 18

    Robbie Siataga/Kavanagh

    word !!!

  19. Anyone who thinks that “National will lose the 2014 election to a left-wing coalition – they can sleep-walk their way to victory” is misguided.

    I did not vote National in the last election – I simply did not (and still do not) trust John Key. What has happened since that election was largely predictable. I was really disappointed that the voters warmed to Key as they did – it was his cheesy smile, not his substance, that got him over the line. Now that cheesy smile has morphed into arrogance, and the people don’t like it.

    But that won’t allow anyone else to sleepwalk to victory over National. We have short memories, and I suspect Key might just turn on his cheesy smile again a year or so before the election. “That’ll fox ‘em” National will be thinking.

    Hopefully from the opposition will come a powerful and charismatic voice offering credibility, substance common sense and leadership. I don’t see Cunliffe filling that position, which is clearly vacant at present.

    John Stokes

  20. Cunliffe with Jacinda Ardern as deputy would be my pick. Both are very sharp, Cunliffe would rip Key to shreds in any debate, and Ardern is the perfect foil.

  21. @ Karen “Not only is David Shearer not leadership material, I would go as far as saying that he is not MP material.”

    To Shearer’s credit, he did manage to stir himself from the lethargic slumber that is the United Nations, and sleepwalk his way into becoming an MP.

    As for his accomplishments?
    Sadly — but unsurprisingly — he took the U.N. work ethic with him.

  22. Looks like the writing is on the wall. Shearer has been in the job for 11 months and has failed to flip the polling on the most consistently popular Prime Minister the country has seen since Savage, maybe Seddon. He has to go.

  23. I think Labour are more popular with a female leader so it should be Jacinda Ardern as the leader of the Labour party …Jacinda would be WAY more popular than John Key in the polls :)

  24. Well said Brian. Could not agree more.
    Shearer has got to go, and soon.

  25. I’m pinning all my hopes for a long lazy life full of riches on Shearer becoming PM.

  26. Haha, just because DC is popular with the party activists doesn’t mean he’ll be popular with the general public. The opinion polls last year showed that

  27. Surely the main problem for Labour is not Shearer but it’s complete lack of a grand (or even grandish) vision that is visible to anyone other than Labour Party insiders?

    Shearer has the rare gift of likeability. If he had a decent message to sell we wouldn’t be questioning his leadership ability so vigorously.

  28. When Tapu Misa strays into economics she writes utter nonsense. On social issues she is good. Writing on politics seems quite out of character. I suspect she is being used by others.

    As for poor Shearer, he’s trying to lead a party with more factions than Lebanon. The big question is why bother?

  29. I hate to admit it, but I agree with Brian Edwards. I like Shearer. I think he would make an excellent Prime Minister. However Mr Key is a cunning little mongrel and to defeat him one has to be prepared to go for the throat. Don’t tell the public that there is a tape that proves that the Prime Minister has lied to the nation and not produce the bloody tape! And people keep saying the public hates Cunliffe. Where did that come from? I didn’t know there was a referendum on that issue.

  30. @ Alan,

    I agree with you about Misa, her ‘out of character’ political uttering and the factions bit within the Labour party. But then that goes with the territory of truly broad brush representation.

    Why bother? well Shearer has already answered that question. He sees a better life is possible in this country for that broad brush electorate. Some would like to see him go as a quitter, but I doubt he will back down. Its only those that don’t know him that underestimate him.

  31. If Cunliffe is, as Edwards assumes, ready to take Key on in debates etc- why did he hide this skill in the previous term when most of his questions to even boring old English were own goals?

  32. Kat, I am sure Shearer wants a better life for New Zealanders. I have no idea how he thinks that can be achieved. He gives the impression of being at the mercy of whichever faction currently washes to the top of the Labour cat-fights – and figuring out whether to “me-too” or “not-quite” whatever nonsense the Greens are blabbing about.

    If there is an intellect alive and well in the Labour party I haven’t seen it. Lots of ideological nonsense though.

  33. JC: Edited. Disgusting.

  34. Alan, well sure, Shearer is a novice when it comes to political maneuvering, given his short time on the job what else can be expected. But! he is resolute, and his intellect reflects a real power, not just a feeling or a will. At least that is how I see him.

    Any left bloc will ultimately include the Greens and other far left extremists who at the present want ‘anyone but Shearer’. But then thats what we got with Key/Act and the far right brigade. So what about some balance in govt that works for everyone?

    The USA just set the benchmark in political nouse, we in NZ should take heed.

  35. I have always formed the opinion that David Shearer was merely the “seat warmer” for the Labour Party leadership, until someone more capable came along…. The rise in popularity has very little to do with Labour’s improved performance but National’s continual effect to shoot itself in the foot in an effort “to bring this country forward”.

  36. Kat, I don’t think the US taught us anything except that factionalised political parties don’t win elections – which is hardly a new insight.

    There is only one way to improve New Zealanders’ future and that is to improve the creativity and productivity of those New Zealanders and allow them to keep and enjoy the value they create.

    Ways to do that need to be the intellectual focus.

  37. Despite the fact the Labour Party support has gone from 22 to 34 % in 11 months? That is a huge jump in popularity.

    I’m not sure sure what polls you’re reading, Julianne. Labour has fallen to 29% in the latest Roy Morgan released the other week”

    Not only that, but Labour at the last election got 27.5% of the vote, not 22%.

  38. Alan, what the election result in the US showed was that ‘all’ those that create and produce have a right to benefit from their contribution, but they didn’t get there without buying into an existing social contract, one that also includes giving something to the future generations.

  39. People who vote for Labour do not turn up on election day.

    Why not?

    The Labour Party caucus is out of touch with its voters.

    The Labour Party caucus chose Shearer.

    The Labour supporters stayed away.

    Caucus is responsible.

    Caucus needs to give power back to its supporters, not to cabals (fish and chips and ABC do not advance Labour views, only egos).

  40. “rational”… “with her strong religious beliefs”

    Sorry, you can’t be both.

  41. Kat, I think you colour events with your own agenda. Everyone who creates and produces benefits future generations. The social contract is an endlessly twisted and stretched conceit with an inexhaustible supply of claimants.

    It is the quantity and quality of donors that must be increased but Labour ideology, policy and electoral success requires requires an ever increasing State and dependence on it. It has created a lolly scramble and now finds itself the perpetual focus of a vicious fight for those free lollies.

  42. Good post Brian. Labour has a real dilemma on its hands. Everything you say about Shearer is true but if you recall the campaign between the 3 Davids to replace Phil Goff, Shearer was deemed to be the compromise candidate. He does not have the bottle for what is a very difficult job. Cunliffe appeals to many on the left in Labour hence his appeal however there is a good reason why so many in the caucus have adopted the ABC stance – it takes a special kind of arrogance to trigger such a visceral response AND tactical voting to block the ambitions of a single aspirant.

    All the other alternatives lack experience or have other baggage that National will easily exploit. Labour’s cunundrum stems from Clark’s failure to properly groom and prepare a successor because she felt she was good enough for a 4th term. Key is wisely talking about this and should he win a 3rd term, he will be maneuvering and grooming his chosen replacement(s).

    As an admirer of John Tamihere he had many of the qualities that strong Labour leaders of the past possessed but I stress the past. Labour has driven so many small c conservative white working class blokes from the party with the increasing power of the feminists, Rainbow and union activists that Labour now struggles to appeal to a series of key demographic groups (so-called Waitakere Man) that were once it’s core who are easily swayed by Key’s ‘kiwi bloke’ persona. That the Labour Council are having to consider even Tamihere’s membership is testament to how political correctness and the narrow agenda of the activist base has paralysed the party.

  43. Why on earth should anyone listen to a FAR LEFT WING immigrant? Surely she should fix the problems in her own country first?

    BE: Perhaps I should fix the problems in Ireland before voicing an opinion here. Though, like Tapu Misa, I am a New Zealand citizen. Good to know that stupidity and racism are alive and well on the Right.

  44. “Surely the main problem for Labour is not Shearer but it’s complete lack of a grand (or even grandish) vision that is visible to anyone other than Labour Party insiders?”

    I tend to agree. The media like to focus on the leaders of the main parties but the public are a little more savvy than that. If Labour want to become part of the next Government, they need to articulate clear policy differences (where these are appropriate). I’ve commented before that in terms of social justice, Labour seems to be weak. When Don Brash was leader of the National Party, he and Katherine Rich were advocating for a wide-ranging inquiry into the Peter Ellis (Chrisrtchurch Civic Creche) case. Where was the support from Labour? There was nothing but silence from Labour MPs. If Labour aren’t prepared to show some moral courage when it comes to social justice, they don’t deserve to be in power.

  45. Today’s, Herald pic of Shearer, seems to encapsulate the quintessence of the persona: he always looks singularly stupid.

  46. Labour must immediately stop rearranging the deck chairs.

    Think outside the square….General Petraeus.

    Suddenly made available through events beyond his control, the General brings a suite of desirable attributes to the Party.

    !/. Fought in more wars than even David Shearer.

    2/. CIA contacts.

    3/. Drone experience…there’s plenty of them in the Labour Party.

    Above all he is attractive to young women remarkably similar to Jacinda Ardern. Could be a marriage made in heaven.

  47. Once a politician gets a reputation for being ‘grey’, it does seem to be difficult for him (or her) to get away from it. But Mr Shearer is only the messenger. I think the real problem that Labour has is the lack of a bright shining message. Even with the (sometimes) enthusiastic help of the media, just being against whatever the incumbents are for is not enough.

  48. I am astounded at the mentality of the left wing supporters and their comments. We have no other person to lead this country. We vote Labour / greens in. What a joke. # Increase maternity leave.# Don’t force people to get off the DPB and the DOLE, just leave them be and don’t upset them. # Increase wages for people who have no qualifications. Where is all this money coming from. Don’t give consideration to the many who have worked hard to get degree’s or qualifications # Don’t mine for minerals, don’t progress, don’t do anything. Just sit here in the Pacific under Labour and the Greens and become another little island that will sink further and further into oblivian. Do you people not realise and understand, National may appear to be tough and unforgiving, but dear God how else do we fix the mess we are in. The treaty settlements are dragging this country down enough without the rest of us helping it sink further. No one wants to tighten their belts anymore. It is all about me me me.

  49. Helen Clarke was in a similar position to David Shearer and history allows us to to see the big picture of leadership.This leadership wrangle does nothing to resolve the problem of Key and National rampaging through New Zealand with their kneejerk policies.Labour needs to focus on winning the next election and sorting their leadership problems(if they are really problems)later.Key and co are beginning to publically unravel and I would be surprised if they can win another election.It really is time for a change in Government .

  50. Of course David Cunliffe for leader – ” the public hates him ” – don’t think so – speak only for yourselves…

  51. Labour lost the last Clarke contested election by pandering to the Bradfords etc, the last Goff election by pandering to the disafected old guard and will become marginalised at this election by an ever conservative middle class who will make the party pay for it’s lack of direction and fragmented loyalties. The rise of the Greens and New Zealand First as quasi-independants will continue thankfully. I feel the ever incresingly weary Labour party members need to clean out the board while it’s at it the block with Shearer.

  52. All the best for the Labour Party conference this weekend, David.
    Go slay ‘em, Tiger.

  53. Maybe Shearer should go and probably will but will replacing him make any difference?
    It seem Helen didn’t really foster new leadership before she left and the Labour Party is still trying to recover. I don’t see any standouts in the current lot, Jacinda yes young blood etc but not leadership material by a long shot. David Cunliffe , will he unit a divided party ?
    The fact that the Labour Party seem to be struggling to let Tamihere back in says it all , I mean how dumb is that? Who else didn’t get in, I know for one that Sue Bradford was ring fenced , yeah yeah she polarizes but she is effective.

  54. “Labour’s David Shearer has hit back at critics who claim his job is in jeopardy, saying he is doing a “good job” and there is no leadership challenge”.
    Three News Political Editor Duncan Garner, targeted the Labour leader’s poor performance after a recent list of scandals in the National Government.
    Garner called Mr Shearer a “stuttering, incoherent mess” and “the opposite of what an alternative Prime Minister should look like”.
    A very accurate assessment of Shearer’s leadership abilities or lack of them. Clarity in speech and quickness in response would benefit any future leader, along with witty replies to keep the opposition off balance. I am certain if we retire most of our dead wood MPs, then a strong leader will undoubtedly surface.

  55. That John Keys is looking better each day, except I hope he don’t find me a job.

  56. Alan, yes you are correct, my agenda is based on a longing for this country to have decent govt. A govt that represents ‘all’ fairly. Sadly you seem consistently to take exception to that.

  57. “Alan, yes you are correct, my agenda is based on a longing for this country to have decent govt. A govt that represents ‘all’ fairly. Sadly you seem consistently to take exception to that.”

    Don’t waste your time. He’s a broken record. He’s been posting essentially the same few comments for at least ten years.

  58. Erratum:

    “The guy was never leadership material. Ever. And no amount of coaching, grooming, re-education, remoulding, refashioning by PR gurus, will make one iota of difference. (Sorry, Bill ‘n’ Jan)

    Sorry, Ian Fraser.

  59. Johan: “The rise in popularity has very little to do with Labour’s improved performance but National’s continual effect to shoot itself in the foot in an effort “to bring this country forward”.”

    It brings to mind the old saying, “oppositions don’t win, governments lose”. An integral part of being an opposition party is to set tripwires for the Govt of the day, no matter how accident-prone the Govt. So far, the Greens and Winston First have been the most effective at that. Do agree that Helen Clark was a unifying influence.

  60. DeepRed:
    “oppositions don’t win governments lose”.

    Where is the opposition?

    Labour is now an azure version of true blue national.

    No wonder no on turns out to vote for Labour.

    Not all of us are Gordon Geckos.

  61. It seems Labour voters have to choose between TB and cancer: Shearer has the personality of a lungfish, and Cunliffe the bedside manner of a starving hyena. Good luck!

    I’m with Mary – if you want money for nothing vote red, but if you want the country to progress, don’t.

  62. I wonder if there aren’t other plans afoot, Brian.
    There was talk of a reshuffle sonths ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if Helen was here to conveniently expedite some changes to the support team:

    I think they must be some reorganisation to differentiate the Labour message from the Greens. I’d say Curran will be getting some personal coaching and Robertson and Ardern will be in line for some different responsibilities.

  63. “I’m with Mary – if you want money for nothing vote red, but if you want the country to progress, don’t.”
    Does that include tax cuts for the wealthy?

  64. Monique thanks for that blog link , not sure how well researched it is but the idea that Helen Clarke is in the country working the electorate patch and rallying support is bloody huge .
    It says she is backing Shearer and may attend the conference. The media will go into a feeding frenzy.

    Brian ! If you are still reading this far down what do you know of Helen Clark’s activities and if she in on an agenda in NZ?

  65. Well Helen Clark is definitely in NZ , lecture at Vic Uni last night,

    speaking at a conference of world Ombudsman this week . Nice timing for the Labour Party conference this weekend .

    Bye the way how do we put link urls into our posts here?

  66. Kat, worthy objectives are only as good as the implementation and outcomes. Generally, the greater the centralisation of power and decision-making the worse the eventual outcome. And that is the reason I prefer Shearer to his challengers – he is less of a politburo man.

    Lee, vacuous ad hominem. Try to say something interesting.

  67. Alan, “…the greater the centralisation of power and decision-making the worse the eventual outcome.”

    Sadly the Pike river tragedy gives the lie to that statement. There we had a situation of minimal centralised power and ‘light handed’ regulation and the outcome could scarcely have been worse.

  68. I wonder if Clair who writes about far left wing immigrants is related to Candy who on 30 September made reference to Asians cluttering up Cornwall Park. I find it curious that the Clair’s comment brought forth an immediate and well deserved rebuke, but the earlier remark attracted no condemnation whatsoever.

    Perhaps it is not racist to make disparaging comments about Asians.

  69. Ben, re Pike River, actually no as I understand it. The regulatory control was centralised from a dedicated Mines unit to the Labour Department. The on-site worker-appointed safety inspectors were abolished in favour of central government inspectors – remote and reportedly over-loaded.

    I don’t know much about it at all, but my impression is that those who knew what should be happening didn’t know what was happening, and those who knew what was happening didn’t know what should have been happening.

    Even if your interpretation were correct, a single counter-example doesn’t refute the general tendency for centralised control to fail for lack of local information and flexibility. I suspect exactly this applied at Pike River too.

  70. Alan I think you make a good point about the perils of central control. I’d extend to the perils of mechanical approaches where common sense and individual initiative are suppressed in favour of policy and process. The emergency response to the ChCh disaster was a classic example.

    My issue is you seem to imply centralised control and associated mechanical process is the reserve of the left, shadows of the old soviet era. I think the world – both left and right – has changed.

    For me no left or right ideology is right any more.

  71. @ Richard Aston:

    There was a claim by Steven Joyce on 1ZB this morning that Helen Clark was seen dining (in a private room at Bellamys)with a group of Labour politicians and they were believed to be plotting their next move re-the leadership stakes. It transpired it was nothing more than a reunion dinner with about 20 former colleagues from both sides of the leadership divide.

    As National stumbles from one disaster to the next, we can expect to see a lot more of this type of spurious activity occurring.

  72. You are right Brian, Cunliffe is the only choice, and as a Labour Party member he is more popular than any other potential candidate amongst the grass roots members. I like the fact that he is a bit of a toff, I call him a Tory educated socialist. He can mix it up with the best of them. My only concern is that he may not be much of team player, I hope I am proved wrong, and I really hope he is elected leader.

  73. pjr:
    “Does that include tax cuts for the wealthy?”

    I hope so. But it depends on what you mean by wealthy. I don’t think max tax should kick in at $70k or whatever it is – but I can’t see why anyone would object to their earnings over $175k being taxed at 55 or 60%. I think if you’re doing THAT well, most ought to be pleased enough to feel as though they could contribute to the needy in some small way.

    But as always, the argument is how the taxes are spent. Paying billions in settlement to the few when we stole from the many isn’t right. Funding hip-hop tours doesn’t go down well. Permanently forking out for state housing and dole to the
    lazy, the pissed and the stoned isn’t good.

    But if someone were to cut Paula Bennett loose from her shackles to cut down on wasteage in the benefit business would be a start – and don’t get me started on how to save half a billion out of the health service and their $200, one day’s use moon boots….

  74. Correction, corretion pjr…of course I meant NO – I DON’T think tax cuts for the wealthy is a good idea! :+[

  75. Richard, I’m not sure that we disagree. I dislike over-centralisation in any guise or ideology. And, as I said, I prefer Shearer to his challengers on that basis. Having said that, I think he is more pragmatic than ideological and this is the reason he is more resistant to over-centralisation.

    The threat from the Left is direct Government control. The threat from the Right is Government collusion with big business to create monopoly powers. My libertarian desire is for free competition, individual freedom and prevention of monopolies.

  76. Alan W: When Occupy Wall Street was at its peak, it had the strangest of bedfellows in the form of Ron Paul.

  77. DeepRed, yes, but in his usual thoughtful, principled manner:

    Ron Paul has been right on many issues.

  78. Yes, all this debate over the leader is academic now because it seems Cunliffe and his rag-tag supporters are sharpening their knives. Experience and feral factor against opponent Mr Key are one thing, but decency is another and what the psychopathic Cunliffe has to offer is to make decent people like me hate politics. I listened to John Key on The Nation and his performance was truly awful to those of us who were of analytical minds and have memories. He out-spun Steven Joyce. This is also where Clark put me right off. Her bare-faced lies were eventually too hard to take and the media seemed unable to hold her to account. I believe Cunliffe is of the same ilk and has the same nauseating teflon quality to him.

    Current politics doesn’t offer me much. I am one of those forgotten statistics people love to vilify. I am 60 years old, unemployed and in a state house. I am far from uneducated, but I do not have the right qualifications and, due to a high-functional autistic disorder, I have been unemployable for over 10 years and, having only recently been diagnosed, I could not, at a stage when it was still important, understand why I alienated and offended people so often – many prospective employers. I am not useless, however, and I am a caregiver for a child in CYF custody. But I am like so many people, shut out of the housing market and, as with most people my age who have been unemployed long-term and quite poor, there are no political agendas that offer me and others any hope at all that we are can become valued citizens again. I guess we’re all waiting to die.

    Labour have just announced its so-called housing policy and, for nearly every low-income person (especially on a benefit) $300,000 dollars for a first home is an impossible pipe dream unless financing packages can go with it. I don’t see a neo-liberal party like Labour offering this as it has a smell of sub-prime risk to it and will frighten the corporate horses.

  79. Martin, have you thought about looking for customers instead of for a job?

  80. 80

    Why was the writing on The Wall? Was Conference at Belshazzar’s Feast?

  81. I have to humbly confess I got things wrong. I agree with you, Brian, that how the Cunliffe situation was handled was somewhat odious. Some things particularly stand out over this sorry Labour in-fighting: Cunliffe has a lot of grass-roots support within the party; Shearer’s support is largely from the centrist and right-wing caucus; Shearer’s stammering waffle over the media’s critique of its housing policy was indecisive and embarrassing, and, finally, Cunliffe obviously has a lot of support in his New Lynne electorate and among the unions.

    As I opined earlier, most of Labour’s problems lie with Labour. Your conservative contributors suggest they would vote National however Labour is dressed up, and Labour’s move to the centre does absolutely nothing to offer inspiration to lowly people like me seeking a fairer society where children no longer have to go to school hungry and can learn in a fair and equitable education system that values each and every one of them. Shearer, like Goff and Clark before him, gives me no confidence that he is prepared to take a brave stance and look more closely to Labour’s roots to finally toss out this crippling neo-liberal cancer once and for all. At a political and policy level anyway, Shearer has shown himself to be a coward, a bullying coward as he now demonstrates, but still a coward.

    Cunliffe may be a mongrel, but he has left leanings and a strong academic background. He is a very intelligent man and might have been just the person to peen and panel-beat this ragtag mafioso rump of the Douglas era back into a winning team. With Shearer the bickering will remain, especially so with his very ill-advised decision to demote Cunliffe to the back benches. This, and attempting to cower Cunliffe’s supporters, will only breed a simmering resentment, something Labour seems eternally able to cultivate through inept and unwise parliamentary leadership. Clark seemed to be able to master this, though, through the adage: “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

    So I don’t believe it is over by any means. Cunliffe has an awful lot to offer and lets not forget his great masterstroke of unbundling the Telecom monopoly. He is clearly an intelligent, tough and determined man. However, he lacks insight and how to time his moves. If he can take the time to regroup, marshall his supporters and do a great deal of soul-searching about his many and annoying personality disorders, he could take a Labour coalition to a comfortable victory in 2014. With the rudderless, bumbling and muddling Shearer (the Mitt Romney of New Zealand politics, surely) leading the party, the mantle of main opposition will go to the Greens who espouse a real alternative to National.

    How’s that for a complete U-turn, Brian. But I am prepared to admit where I have erred.