Brian Edwards Media

A Sort Of Open Letter to the ABCs in the Labour Caucus

A good mate pointed out to me that it wasn’t very smart to heap abuse on the heads of people whose opinion you hoped to change. He was referring to my most recent post On the extremely rare danger of overestimating Labour Party Stupidity, in which I called the ‘Anyone But Cunliffe’ brigade ‘numbskulls’.

My good mate is right. It wasn’t very smart and you aren’t all numbskulls. But I was angry with you. Very angry.

I’m still angry with you because, though I’m not a member of the Labour Party, that’s where my political sympathies lie – left of left. Like you, I want Labour to win the next election. I want to see the back of a government that rewards the rich and powerful and punishes the poor and powerless. So I’m unlikely to have time or sympathy for anyone whose words or actions make that Labour win unlikely.  That is what you are doing by supporting either Grant Robertson’s or Shane Jones’ bid for the leadership. Robertson can’t win for Labour and Jones is a harmful distraction.  

I like Grant Robertson. He’s hugely intelligent, is a brilliant debater in the House, has a good sense of humour and seems to be a really nice bloke.

There are sadly several reasons to discount the ‘really nice bloke’ bit. The history of New Zealand politics for starters, a more or less even distribution of really nice losers and not-so-nice winners. Think Rowling, Goff, Shearer; think Kirk, Muldoon, Clark. Common factor in group two – ruthlessness. The pattern reflects our national psyche: given the choice, we’d rather have a bully than a wimp.

Still, it can’t hurt to be a brilliant debater in the House. No it can’t. But the mistake is in thinking that brilliance in the parliamentary debating chamber automatically translates into brilliance in the radio or television studio. It doesn’t. As Helen Clark’s media advisors, we were guilty of making that mistake before the first Leaders Debate in 2008. We’d written off Key as inconsequential, a lightweight in the House and no match for Helen in experience, intellect or mastery of the issues.

The Prime Minister lost that first debate and we had to regroup. Despite his inexperience and his mangling of the English language, Key connected with the radio and television audience, listening and watching at home in their ones and twos. Although they have a huge reach, television and radio are both intimate media. Parliament could not be more different. The debating techniques that are admired there – playing to the gallery, not listening to your opponent,  interrupting them, shouting them down, laughing at and abusing them  – are the precise opposite to what works on radio or television.

Even intelligence can be a two-edged sword, especially if it is seen as academic in nature, as ‘intellectualism – ‘Too smart for his own good!’ But then that may be more a problem for Cunliffe than Robertson.

But the real problems for Robertson lie in his inexperience, his lack of profile and that, as a television performer, he is no more than proficient. He’s solid, reliable, down to earth, articulate. But he lacks charisma. In the era of television politics, that is a fatal flaw.

Grant has been a Member of Parliament for only five years. He has never been in Government, let alone  been a Minister. This is in itself cause for concern. History shows that in politics shooting stars burn out quickly. There is no real substitute for experience. Longevity in office often reflects a lengthy apprenticeship in and out of office. Clark and Muldoon are two examples.

And Grant’s public profile is low. People don’t know who he is. The recent One News Colmar Brunton poll, which asked which of a list of Labour MPs would do the best job leading Labour into the election was evidence of that. Bad enough that among eligible voters Cunliffe was on 29% and Robertson on 10%. But, to add insult to injury, Robertson was behind both Jacinda Ardern and Shane Jones. Only Andrew Little fared worse. And the picture was little better among Labour Party supporters.

Small wonder that, as I write this, ipredict has Cunliffe at 78% and Robertson at 20% likelihood to become Labour’s next leader. Great odds for Cunliffe, terrible odds for Robertson.

The odds also reflect the view of a majority of editorial writers, columnists and bloggers that Cunliffe is the front-runner and the most likely Labour candidate to best Key in an election campaign.

What all of this does is create a sense of inevitability that Cunliffe will take Labour into the 2014 election. Like the polls themselves, these prophecies not merely reflect the current position, they tend to be self-fulfilling.

Those of you who support or intend to support Grant’s nomination for the leadership are swimming  against this stream. Your dislike of Cunliffe is stronger than your determination to win the election.

This seems to me to be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. So I withdraw my ill-considered and abusive comments about you and invite you to take another look at what you are doing.

You are in a very powerful position. There is a degree of uncertainly as to where the party vote will go in a month’s time; there is an even greater degree of uncertainty as to where the union vote will go. Your vote can be crucial. In backing Robertson to keep Cunliffe out, you may well be keeping Labour out of government in 2014 as well.

That seems to me a grave responsibility, not least because Cunliffe ticks all the boxes as the candidate most likely to defeat John Key.

Have another think. Three more years in opposition doesn’t seem terribly attractive.

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  1. Unfortunately I hardly think the likes of the nastiest man in Parliament Clayton Crosgrove has the best interests of the labour party at heart, he will continue to undermine & backstabbing, its in his nature & cannot be denied

    • NO! NO! NO!

      The nastiest man in Parliament, by the length of the pig-sty, is the loathsome Trevor Mallard.

      Whenever those from the “left” (to quote Brian Edwards) begin to wax lyrical about their passionate concern for humanity, I remember the member for Hutt South…and cynically mutter, “yeah, right”.

    • Who? Sorry mate the name does not register.

      • Bit rich for a Cunliffe supporter to be pointing the bone over undermining and back-stabbing. Let’s just agree that’s how the game is played, and grow up a little? I’m intrigued that Brian has remained silent over Cunliffe’s cringe-worthy ‘launch’ event? Hooten nailed it when he said Cunliffe displayed a lack of any sense of proportion and self awareness. Besides, lashing out at those with a different view, Brian, is also not a good look. What will you do if Robertson wins? Attack him too?

  2. “And Grant’s public profile is low. People don’t know who he is”.
    Early on in the piece, TV1’s webside posted a survey for possible Labour Party Leader candidates. Unfortunately they listed Grant Robertson, as Grant Robinson before making the correction quick smart. The obvious error indicates that Grant is still, for many, a newbie.

  3. I’m a member of the Anyone But Shane Jones club. Should he get the top job I’m pretty sure along with me, women will bail from the Labour Party in large numbers.

    • I share your concerns, Christine. Did you see Shane Jones on Breakfast TV this morning ? Supremely full of himself.
      This guy thinks he’s the bees knees to the working bloke – but there is more to the Labour Party than just the working bloke : there are a lot of working blokesses, and he’s not too attractive to lots of us !

    • A great blog post.

    • And precisely, to where will you bail, Christine?

    • I certainly would. Ugh!

    • Oh too true Christine. What a sleaze Jones is.

    • I’m with you there, Christine! If Shane Jones gets anywhere near the leadership, I won’t be voting for Labour. I doubt there’s a self-respecting woman in the country would support Jones as leader. There’s only so much we’re prepared to put up with in order to roll the Nats….

  4. I’m a Labour supporter. I’m not a party member.

    There is something about David Cunliffe’s attitude that *really* bothers me. It bothers me to the extent that I would feel very uncomfortable voting for the Labour Party with David as leader. I’m not sure whether I would actually change my vote, but this is the way I feel right now. I don’t feel the same way about Jones or Robertson.

    As I get to know more about David Cunlffe, it’s possible that what bothers me will just go away. I hope it does. I also hope that not many other people feel the way I do.

    Sure, a poll showed Cunliffe out in front in terms of general public support. At this point I suspect many respondents would have based their answer on name recognition rather than a considered view of each potential leader’s strengths and weaknesses.

    • I know he seems to be overflowing with self-belief, Andrew, and his attempts to be down with the common people can smack of insincerity. But I admire him for taking a demotion from a clearly inferior politician and working hard while on the back benches.

      This speech from his website appeals to my Labour heart – a heart that will go to the Greens if he doesn’t become leader of the opposition!

      • 4.1.1

        That kind of speech is exactly why I don’t trust him. He is smart and experienced enough to know that most of the content is economic crap but that it will appeal to his audience.

        You have been warned.

        • “To our eternal shame” – he apologises for Rogernomics.

          I have a feeling that I have lived in the country (and the planet) longer than you:) Cunliffe’s simple, clear summary of what happened makes sense to me.


            I couldn’t agree more, Maureen. What this country needs is a clear, explicit and determined retreat from the neoliberal policies so beloved of Thatcher etc, back to a humane socialism fit for human beings and not just massive corporations. Go Cunliffe!!


            I suspect you are wrong on every point. He may apologize for Rogernomics. He and everyone else will continue to live with all of the Rogernomics reforms because they know to do otherwise is disastrous – most of all for the young and poor.

        • Alan, Cunliffe has a very good grasp of the many severe failures of standard economics thinking. Especially that of the free market Rogernomics style that NZ has followed for decades, to its overall deteriment.


            Be specific. Exactly what detriment compared with which country that has done better in comparable circumstances?

        • Dude you would have to be an economic illiterate to think that what Davo Cunliffe says regarding economics is bullshit. Go back to school.

        • You have demonstrated on virtually every NZ web forum that you have at best a very crude grasp of basic economic ideas, Alan. Everyone knows your schtick by now.


            And we know you are Cunliffe’s audience, Lee. Good luck, you will need it and so will the rest of us if the extreme Left take power.

            • They’re not extreme Left in the slightest. They just seem that way because of how far this Government has moved to the Right. As Grant Robertson said recently, we’ve got a “bosses’ government; it’s time for a workers’ government”.

      • Thank you Maureen. I’ll read this tonight.

    • Perhaps you could define what you don’t like with a little more articulation than “there’s something that *really* bothers me”.
      After all, its important that we elect a leader of the next party to govern New Zealand only after giving due weight to your fleeting ‘feelings’.

      • Don’t worry about it Peter. If people can’t articulate how they feel to your satisfaction, it couldn’t possibly have any influence on their voting intention.

        • What he’s saying is that you have an irrational phobia of Cunliffe. If you can’t articulate what it is that you think is wrong with him, that is exactly what you have.

  5. I remember thinking New Zealanders must be too sensible to elect such a nasty piece of work as Muldoon as prime minister. I was wrong, and New Zealand tolerated and suffered the ghastly consequences for nearly a decade.

    I sincerely hope history will not repeat itself.

    • Have you never watched Key in Parliament? History is here, today.

    • History has already repeated itself with the current Prime Minister!

      As for David Cunliffe, I have had the opportunity to work in his office and I become very upset at people who do not know the man making negative criticisms of him because of the way that certain elements of the media choose to portray him. Those comments have been fed by people who are jealous of David’s ability. The person I worked with bears no resemblance to some of the ill-founded comments one reads in the media and on pages like this.

      • 5.2.1

        You are so ridiculous. Key is nothing like Muldoon in any respect. The ignorance if the Left is mind-blowing.

    • What do you mean “suffered the ghastly consequences for nearly a decade”? We are still suffering them. Go back to school!

    • True, we might get lucky and suffer Key for only 6 years. Muldoon would be proud of him.

  6. 6

    I always wonder just how dedicated a Labour supporter or someone who cares about the strugglers in our society is if they would prefer another three years of a right wing Government to Labour one led by somebody they don’t like the look of

    • 6.1

      Actually gut feel has a pretty good track record of sensing and warding off trouble. A few millennia of evolution has likely fine tuned it.

      I suspect you ignore it at your peril whatever your noble cause.

      • To quote Carl Sagan when asked a stupid question about his gut feeling on some important issue..”Madam (or maybe it was sir…. I don’t think with my gut”. I try to use my brain

  7. Brian once again you’ve called it wrong, and by deferentially referring to Robertson as Grant – damned him with faint praise.

    Cunliffe is a media darling – but that doesn’t make him leadership material. We now know Lange was a quizzling, only faintly principled and more about power than people.

    Labour is doomed in 2014 by a populist they cannot emulate. Is that really worth washing your left of left principles downstream ?

    • “Once again”? What were the previous occasions? And there was nothing ‘deferential’ about it. I’m talking to his supporters in this post. As for ‘your left principles’ I can’t think of a better representative than Cunliffe.

    • quisling, actually.

  8. I hear this a lot, David C is very arrogant, I couldn’t vote for him, He is nasty and on and on. Is this the ABC club? I have never seen anything but top rate behavior and no sign of this “arrogance”. To me he seems to be a really nice well,very well, spoken guy. He demonstrates a high level of intellect without coming across as pompous or an arseh…The old guard that inhabit the caucus right now disgust me, they are in it for the money, they don’t give a rats arse wither they win or lose. It’s all just a game to them, what with their income and perks and gold plated retirement. The smirks say it all, I have yet seen David C with the “smirk”. Watch parliament tv for an hour,it is a disgrace who labour have representing them.The ABC club year right should be the we don’t give a crap we are ok club.

  9. Its simple, Cunliffe is ‘job ready’ the rest are not.

    Even Key knows Cunliffe will be Labour leader. The interesting position is deputy, male or female.

    • Why should gender be relevant here, Kat? Surely the best person for the job should be appointed??? Or are you with the ‘man ban’?

      • Man or woman, male or female….how else should I speak of the different genders? Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough.

        • Why do people use euphemisms and say “gender” when they are referring to someone’s sex? If someone is male that is their sex, not their gender.

  10. Yep, have to say I entirely agree, BE.

    As I commented here before the December 2011 contest, “The last thing Labour needs is to waste precious time going through a series of ineffectual leaders…” Well, we’ve now gone through one, let’s hope the ABCs don’t foist another on the Party. Cunliffe’s always been the bleeding obvious choice as far as I’m concerned. Whether, of course, the ABCs can manage to fire-up the chemical interactions between their individual braincells is an entirely different matter. I see the DOM-POST is suggesting 15 definites for Robertson and 10 for Cunliffe in caucus (along with 3 for Corporal Jonesy).


    Like the recent ONE NEWS COLMAR-BRUNTON POLL, a June HERALD-DIGI poll (asking who should replace Shearer if he stood down) gave Cunliffe a clear lead, albeit with Robertson second:

    TOTAL SAMPLE: Cunliffe 32%, Robertson 17%, Little 14%, All others combined 11%, Don’t Know/Refuse to say 27%.

    LABOUR SUPPORTERS ONLY: Cunliffe 38%, Robertson 19%, Little 14% (no other details given – but that leaves, what, 29% for all others and Don’t Knows).


    To keep things brief, Cunliffe has the charisma, economic nous/credentials and experience to run circles around Key. He also happens to be an Aucklander and not gay (about which, more below).

    Robertson’s certainly more articulate than Shearer but not in the same league as Cunliffe. He lacks Cunliffe’s intricate understanding of what someone recently (and memorably) called “snake-oil finance-speak”, he has a fairly limited career background and he’s both gay and a Wellingtonian. Both of which, I’m sorry to say, are potential problems.

    Obviously there’s a degree of feel-good liberalism in electing the first openly-gay major-party leader, but it may well, of course, come at the expense of Labour’s most loyal constituency – the South Auckland/Porirua Pasifika vote. In fact, I suspect antipathy to a gay leader may even go wider than that – all those voters who swung to the Nats in 05 and 08 because of (what they perceived to be) a Labour Party dominated by identity-politics / minority interests and the associated ‘Nanny State’. If Labour want to regain the treasury benches, they can’t afford to ignore these people.

    And, although it pains me to say so as a life-long, highly-parochial Wellingtonian, Labour’s leader really does need to come from Auckland. It’s not simply that – with almost a third of the electorate – the Big Smoke virtually determines who governs. It’s also that the City recorded by far the greatest Lab-to-Nat swings in both 05 and 08. So, you’ve got a disproportionate number of former Labour voters in a relatively confined geographical area. They’re just sitting there on Ponsonby Road, waiting to be won back.

    In stark contrast, if there’s one place where the Labour (and broader Left) vote has held up – it’s Wellington City. Unusually weak Labour declines over the last 3 elections and at least half of the swing – such as it was – went to the Greens. Like Dunedin (and unlike The City of Sails and Chch), Wellington remains well to the Left of the rest Of NZ. We Wellingtonians shouldn’t, of course, be taken for granted by Labour, but the priority has to be on winning back votes from that huge cultural wasteland in the north(populated by Philistines like Hamish Keith).

    And so to bed…

    • Wow, Markus, you deserved to sleep well after that thoughtful contribution to the debate. I will look up “snake-oil finance speak”.

    • Good to see you posting again, markus. You always provide the best value-for-money amongst all us partisans.

      “It’s also that the City recorded by far the greatest Lab-to-Nat swings in both 05 and 08.”

      You usually have all the stats readily to hand. To what extent was that because the voters of West and South Auckland stayed away, meaning 2008 was one of the lowest turn-outs?

  11. So, Brian
    You are ABABC
    Anyone But Anyone But Cunliffe


  12. A united Labour is what’s really required and all 3 have important roles to play. Whoever wins , the most important item to address is unity.Cunliffe may be the best choice but the other two can bring advantages to the party.Jones does resonate with the working class and his higher profile will bring benefits(I don’t think he is a suitable leader).Robertson and Cunliffe need to group together whatever the leadership result is.A 74% voter turnout from the last election needs to be addressed.I don’t know if thechoice of leader will remedy this problem.

  13. Clayton Cosgrove is just unpleasant. Back in 1930s’ Germany, he would have been standing at the side of Ernst Röhm.

    Trevor Mallard is just your typical school playground bully; not much intellect.

    As for Shane Jones, every time I see or hear him, I just want to take a long shower. YUK!

  14. Nice to see a clear and sensibly argued piece from Marcus. Those above who indulge in personal attacks, intemperate language, vernacular speech should understand the negative affect that has on the reader.
    Over the last parliament Russell Norman has become the real leader of the opposition. Oh that he was in the Labour Party. If the LP gets this one wrong the drift to the Greens will continue apace. Some of us are already starting to feel comfortable there.

  15. BE have you ever talked with the so called members of the ABC club to find out why they seemingly don’t want to support Cunliffe? A genuine question here; it’s just that I suspect it may be more than just a general ‘anyone but him’ sentiment that can be so easily changed. It just seems that by implying they had all better support him now or else all is forever lost means potentially a substantial shift for many of them.
    Also, don’t forget that despite the caucus vote, there will also be a membership & union vote. The outcome of those will then surely show the way for the caucus to behave.
    I have an open mind towards both Grant and David and am looking forward to hearing both of them speak.
    I would prefer not to be told (by implication)that I am cutting my nose off to spite my face if I support Robertson over Cunliffe.
    I want this Government gone as much as anyone, but I am being hounded by certain bloggers and media with the repeated message that Cunliffe is the ONLY answer – that he holds the ONLY hope. This is very off-putting. It’s a superior position being adopted by political pundits such as yourself and Chris Trotter – the sort of ‘we know this is best for everyone’ line.
    Why should I believe you? Should I not hear them first?

    • I’m not inviting you to believe me. I’m expressing my opinion based on very extensive experience or party politics and, in particular, the leadership of the Labour Party. And you’re not the one who’ll be cutting your nose off to spite your face. Only the ABCs are in that position.

      • So I’ll take that as a no then to my question as to whether you have asked any of the ABCs why they are reluctant to support Cunliffe?

        • Duncan Garner says it is because Cunliffe’s caucus critics consider him unreliable, and all-to-readt to throw folks under the bus to further his won selfish and ambitious ends. That is particularly the opinion of Phil Goff, Annette King, Trevor Mallard, and Clayton Cosgrove (incidentally about the 4 longest-serving Labour MPs).

          They felt particularly let down by Cunliffe when Goff was forced to give the admission, “I’ll get back to you” in his 2011 TV election debate with Key over costings. Apparently, Cunliffe, as Labour finance spokesperson, was the guy who should have had the numbers to hand, and briefed Goff beforehand.

          Just saying…


            Thanks Kimbo. I find it odd that BE & others seem to think it irrelevant why a good number of caucus have had an issue, furthermore that they should just drop it in order for him to win. Clearly it’s a matter of trust. That might be a bit hard to ignore. God save us from another Kevin Rudd situation. The air needs to be cleared. Hopefully this leadership contest may help towards doing that.


            the reason for the ABC faction is that he wants to labour to return to its roots, Phil Goff, Annette King, Trevor Mallard, and Clayton Cosgrove are to the fore of that ABC because the are all rogernomes along with others in caucus, rogernomes are now known as neo liberals.
            The good thing about a candidate runnoff is the party will choose the direction not caucus whoever wins is the direction,lo and behold the caucus member that bucks that direction for upcoming after the new leader is found comes the rounds of candidate selection which the party has a major say in, any faction-ism remaining may well be dealt with during the selection process by way of political be heading.

          • Let’s face it, Goff wasn’t up to the job. He couldn’t even give Peter Ellis the time of day even when it was clear that Ellis had been the victim of a witch hunt, how the hell was Goff going to run the country!


              On that I agree with you and National has been no better. The justice system is extremely poor at fixing its mistakes. There is far too much butt protection by its hierarchy.

    • My guess is that Cunliffe just knows more than they do and they find him intellectually intimidating. He’s also too bright to have fallen for the crude nonsense that has paraded as economic orthodoxy for the last 30 years. Like any sane person, he knows that there are always alternatives. Our parliament is filled with the incurious and the dull. No wonder such people find Cunliffe annoying.

      Given that the current model has failed, it’s time for a new crop of leaders to move us on. Of course that will frighten and dismay those who have a lot invested in the status quo.

      If he wins, he will be the first genuinely left wing leader of a major New Zealand political party since Bill Rowling. That in itself would be a significant change.

      It will also be good for Labour, since many traditional Labour voters no longer bother to vote. I’ve heard numerous people say that not only will they bother to vote next time if Cunliffe wins, but that they will likely canvass for Labour.

      • 15.2.1

        Goodness. We can expect a Nobel Prize for his new economic revelations then?


          yep alan more than you can expect for your trolling comments


            I just call it as I see it, Lloyd, and seek no reward. Contrary to the Left’s fantasy world, the only and inevitable remedy for the ever increasing size of Government that Cunliffe ostensibly promotes is bankruptcy. Greece is there. France is heading that way. You doubtless want us to follow.

            Cunliffe’s Nobel prize for uneconomics won’t save you.

      • “The first genuinely left wing leader of a major New Zealand political party”

        An interesting perspective. The problem I have is knowing if Cunliffe is genuine or not.

        He appears to say the right things, but what he says is contrived to suit whatever audience is most important to him. At the minute that audience is the Labour party membership and the affiliated unions because they will have the greatest influence on who gets elected leader of the Labour Party. Cunliffe’s talk of raising taxes and of socialism and the like is what this audience wants to hear.

        I ask myself …. would a genuine left winger have worked for the Boston Consulting Group, a global firm helping capitalist global corporates improve their profitability? And whose clients would have included the same investment banks that he now criticises that created the GFC? Or, would a genuine left winger live in a 2 million dollar home in Herne Bay? Sounds more like a chardonnay socialist that a genuine left winger.

        Watching Cunliffe this last week on tv reminds me of one of those pompous Shakespearean actors pontificating about this or that. All theater and dubious substance.

        But I’m not convinced that Robertson is right person for the leadership either.

  16. “Like the polls themselves, these prophecies not merely reflect the current position, they tend to be self-fulfilling” – that’s what MacBeth discovered as well

  17. It is an intriguing quality of the left to save your most virulent venom for each other. This is an opportunity for Labour to reenunciate and reaffirm your goals. Despite the relish apparent in mutual immolation I do believe that many goals are universally shared on the left. Whoever wins the leader selection, the energy and efforts of all available participants will still be needed. This obvious truth seems to have occurred to the three candidates, but has apparently been lost on many contributors above. David Shearer’s inability to harness all his caucus was just one reason he had to relinquish the leadership. The new leader must do better. So must the rest of the party.

  18. I don’t care who leads Labour. I will vote Labour anyway. I don’t want to get a job. Anyway there are no jobs in Sth dunedin for washed out Bingo Players.

    • 18.1

      Quick, Bryan Bruce wants to interview you. It’s disgusting that you are suffering growing inequality and might have to get a job. David Cunliffe will surely agree – at least until he gets elected.

      • 18.1.1

        I’m interested in your thoughts on Mr Bruce’s latest exposé, Alan.


          When I saw the promo claiming NZ had the fastest growing inequality in the OECD I didn’t bother to watch it, Warren.

          These are the facts:


          The guy is just a Lefty liar.


            I’m still unsure why I bothered. Among other things, he attempted to perpetuate the myth of the “good old days”. Although billed as a documentary, I hesitate to call it such because it documented very little, other than Bryan’s socialist viewpoint.


            And here –‎ – is a document that shines an interesting light on some of Mr Bruce’s claims.


              Apologies, that link doesn’t work. Try this one:


              Thanks Warren. I’ve read some of that OECD work before though I’m not sure if it was that document. Obviously it was a world-wide trend, and acerbated here by Muldoon’s chubby finger in the dyke of reform and adaptation for so long.

              I suspect there were three main drivers – a) technological change obsoleting manual work with automation, and b) competition from cheaper sources of manual work via trade and better transport, and c) greater participation of women in the workforce competing for relatively unskilled jobs.


                I’m no expert on any of this, of course, but from my reading and understanding, I’d agree with your three factors. The point is, the OECD data shows a general worldwide trend, with NZ somewhere in the middle of the pack. This belies the hyperbolic premise of Bryan Bruce’s “documentary”.

                Those who truly believe that we are going down the gurgler should read a little more social history, or something like Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”; a terrifying portrait of the working poor. Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel And Dimed”, about the 21st century working poor in the US, also illustrates that NZers are far better off than they think.

    • If you’re going to troll, at least make it less obvious, please.

  19. I’m one of those who believe that some ‘conspiracies’ are actually proven to be true. I also hold to the belief that the Mainstream media are generally right wing. No surprise there. What interests me is watching how the issues e. g. labour leadership is played by the MSM. Credibility is frequently given where it should not be, and side shows and trivia are the normally. The media call the shots. And the Political parties largely dance to their tune. They frame the issues, with increasing assistance from Parties PR spin doctors. Follow the money folks. That’s where the answers lay. It’s the corporates that ‘govern’ NZ. The Government is the ‘shop front’ for corporatocracy . Labour or National, they come and go, but the corporates remain the force. It’s obvious really.

  20. I’m one of those who believe that some ‘conspiracies’ are actually proven to be true. I also hold to the belief that the Mainstream media are generally right wing. No surprise there. What interests me is watching how the issues e. g. labour leadership is played by the MSM. Credibility is frequently given where it should not be, and side shows and trivia are the normal. The media call the shots. And the Political parties largely dance to their tune. They frame the issues, with increasing assistance from Parties PR spin doctors. Follow the money folks. That’s where the answers lay. It’s the corporates that ‘govern’ NZ. The Government is the ‘shop front’ for corporatocracy . Labour or National, they come and go, but the corporates remain the force. It’s obvious really.

  21. Just tell me this. How does 5 to 7 percent split 3 ways win the next election? Cunliffes got no chance of bringing any of the 880,000 non voters back on board. He has no appeal …. he’s mr no personality. The middle class voter is already hooked up with the Greens and aren’t interested in jumping ship just for the sake of it and the staunchly conservative will stay with the nats or go NZF or the Conservative party even. Labours apparatus/apparatchik are so out of touch and pretend to be in the “know” through their union arm which too are deluded and will be lucky if they have 8% union membership nationally! The maths don’t work and the person doesn’t work. Get use to another Nat government for this badly thought out strategy. I hope I’m wrong ….. but I don’t think so.

    • Takere, I can feel your anxiety. The Tories must be worried sick when they start attacking the front runner for the Labour leadership post. The point really is how many of the swinging voters have been pissed-off by John Key’s insincerity to ordinary New Zealands by favouring his mates.
      The trickle down theory has not worked.

      Your 5-7% split is nonsense, some sections in South Auckland, Labour’s stronghold, the non-voter turnout was greater than your stated percentage. Certainly, Labour must do a better job at the local level.

      What a great opportunity for Labour to present a positive, united front and take the next election.

  22. Exactly what I have been thinking myself, Brian. Robertson is a nice bloke, but that is not what the New Zealand electorate, rightly or wrongly, is interested in. Clark and Muldoon were the examples I thought of, too. How many swinging voters really liked Helen Clark? Probably not very many; they just saw her as strong and capable. And the current public polls about the labour leadership have Cunliffe so far ahead the party would be crazy not to make him leader — if they want to win an election anyway.

  23. 23

    Cupboard looks bare, as far as the leadership stocks are concerned.

  24. Robertson didn’t do that well in the last version of this.

    He promised us he could foot it with anyone in the house, and it’s not exactly clear that he has.

    Really liked him on Backbenches when he first came out, but the criteria to be a Labour leader these days is not as stringent as it used to be. Cunliffe is the one who has been through the toughest examination.

    Cunliffe comes across as a little bit dorky sometimes- as you would expect from a guy who’s Dad was a preacher and he went to Harvard. In particular I remember a cringe-worthy interview with Wille Jackson. Sometimes he’s a little serious and stiff in his response- exactly the opposite to Key’s jokey, relaxed and very in control demeanour.

    Robertson has got the very in control thing from what I’ve seen so far in that he’s relaxed and confident. Another untested and new MMP thing- can a list MP expect to be come Prime Minister? One thing for both Jones and Robertson is that they haven’t faired too well in electorate races.

  25. Mr. Elliott,
    Letters via USPS sounds so novel in the internet age even if it is one particular letter produced for many, but it surely doesn’t sound like a pen-pal relationship. Can just one write again into the author with the letter?

  26. I thought Cunliffe won on The Nation this morning. Robertson spouted fluent generalisations. But at the first party meeting (Stuff video and text) Robertson seems to have tacked to the left in a prepared speech, saying women candidates in 2014 would be 50% and announcing a break from the Third Way (which he kind of espoused as Shearer’s deputy). Stealing our man Cunliffe’s thunder. Damn democracy!!!

  27. I kind of agree with what you say David:

  28. I want an effective opposition that is more than the Greens and Winstone.

    While I am essentially a green/labour voter its just downright embarrassing that Russel Norman has become the default opposition spokesperson on finance. Labor has not been pulling its weight here.

    Post Helen the labor party has been on a downward slide, internal bickering, petty internal politics. Self flagelation. Fair enough it was big fall from grace but the times are calling for action and an alternative vision. It will take assertive leadership to pull Labor out of the doldrums.

    Cunliffe is my electorate MP, I vote for him but I don’t actually like him much. I don’t care anymore. I want to see the Labor party rebuild itself into a credible alternative to National. I have come to the conclusion that David Cunliffe with all his obvious personal flaws might just have the ambition and skills to do that.

    Robertson is just too nice and crumpled to appeal to the swinging or non voters, he will lose significant votes to the anti gay sentiment – rightly or wrongly – but I don’t think he could pull in enough new voters to balance that.

    Cunliffe has the support of nearly all the senior labor MPs with real experience, he will need that if they make the treasury benches.

    Its almost a non debate, Cunliffe will get the job without a doubt. The potential leadership debate helps raise profile for Labor and once Cunliffe gets in he has the skills to surf on that profile and really lift Labor’s prospects to election success.

    What I want to see is Labor holding out a clear hand of friendship to the Greens, they will need them in coalition.

    To think Labor can win next years election by themselves is foolish in the extreme.

    • 28.1

      I’d settle for an opposition with brains but the coast is clear. Labour has an over-representation of idiots which it is obviously seeking to increase.

      We can only hope National does not allow power to fall into their hands as the ridiculous promises now being made will certainly be disastrous if ever implemented.

      • Speaking of idiots, what do you think of Banks and Dunne as a supporting cast, propping up JK’s party in power? Alan why don’t you learn to think for yourself instead of repeating what JK said, on morning TV!

      • 28.1.2

        @johan, obviously unlike you I never watch morning TV so it is hard for me to repeat what is said on it. I hold no brief for Dunne and Banks though I can’t recall either promising anything quite as half-witted as Cunliffe and Robertson are currently achieving. Perhaps you can? Now there’s a challenge for you.

      • Wow Alan. Comments like that fall so far beneath any idea of rational discourse that my immediate response is to ignore them as meaningless.

        But I have seen you make intelligent comment here before – I am sure I have – hence I am replying .

        “ridiculous promises … that .. will certainly be disastrous if ever implemented.” Are not the sole domain of Labor.

        Besides its such a broad sweeping statement that really doesn’t say much more than ” I am a unquestioning National supporter so there!” . Well you could just wear a badge or something to say that.

        The current asset sales process is a good example of a ridiculous idea that makes no economic sense. It will buy votes though.

        • “The current asset sales process is a good example of a ridiculous idea that makes no economic sense. It will buy votes though”.

          Yes indeed, a very foolish idea, spending $120 million to promote the sale of assets, which belong to all New Zealanders, so that National can say to the voters before the next election, WE HAVE BALANCED THE BOOKS.


          @Richard, verbose rubbish, the asset sales program is eminently sensible. It is the State’s responsibility to run the country, not power utilities.

          As for a minimum wage increase of 40% – it’s beyond ridiculous and would certainly be disastrous.

          • Actually, asset sales are a monumentally dumb idea. They don’t many any sense whichever way you look at the issue.



              The reason Campbell, Hickey and Oram are journalists is that they don’t know how to do anything else successfully enough to make a living. You can take their estimates of value and return vs risk with a huge pinch of salt compared with those prepared to invest their own money.

              There is simply no good reason for a Government to own and run a power utility.



                One good reason, why the govt would own these strategic assets, would be for the dividends – the same reason as any private investor. Or why then not sell 100%. Would assets have needed to be sold, if the big tax cuts had not occurred, and was the GFC/downturn, really the best time for it? If the govt manages to achieve a surplus, they will have managed to get back to a similar fiscal position, to what the country was in, under Michael Cullen, which is a good thing, and deserves credit. Referenda are an important part of democracy, just like those pesky elections. At least 10% of voters are not happy with asset sales, and the dubious justification, while those that strongly agree, may be in to gain. The PM could stand for ‘poo machine’ after his latest bowel evacuation, complaining of the referendums $9m cost. It would make sense for the PM to just call the election next September, so the two polls can be combined – simple. The last comment by “mandy” on the thread in the link below, touches on asset sales.


                Perhaps the propensity for the far right to produce nutters, could be used to politically profile weapons license applications, just to be on the safe side.
                We can only hope Labour does not allow power to fall into their hands, too much, because the history is that labour has achieved notably higher averaged economic growth than national, over the past two generations.
                Go Cunliffe. With Ardern or Jones as deputy.


                  Your only “good reason” is not a good reason. The Government is not an investor, it is a regulator. It has neither expertise nor proper incentives since it is playing with other people’s money and has a huge conflict of interest as the market regulator.

                  The asset should be sold for the fair market price which will fully compensate for the value and risks of the dividend stream. Power generators are no more strategic assets than potato growers – and just as everyone can plant potatoes if they wish you can put a solar panel on your roof and generate your own electricity.

                  The asset sales hysteria is pig ignorant stupidity on a grand scale whipped up by cynical self-serving politicians – as well as some simply too dumb to know better.

  29. @Alan my first instinct to ignore you, was right.
    Consider yourself ignored.

    • 29.1

      That’s fine, Richard. I’m entirely used to Lefties hurling a few silly insults and running away. The number who can maintain a position on facts and logic can usually be counted on a couple of fingers.

      • “It is the State’s responsibility to run the country, not power utilities”

        Which commandment is that Alan, it doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the ten well known ones. Or is this something you have unearthed on your very own rocky island.

      • 29.1.2


        Would you keep to your position, if public hospitals were being privatised instead of power companies? Their are countries with no public hospitals, where patients without health insurance, can apply for a fixed govt grant, to cover various needed treatments, in private hospitals.

        If this feels a step to far, some may feel the same way about power companies. If the ownership ends up being held overseas, then the situation will be the same as bank profits leaving the country. The link I gave to “mandy” doesn’t agree with what I said, but I included it because it was interesting. She suggested extending the mixed ownership model, to further enterprises.


          Actually that sounds like a pretty good policy. Most people prefer to go private if they can. Why should poor people not have the same option?

          I have to say that in my experience private hospitals are far more efficient, both for their own staff and patients. You turn up on time, go straight in for treatment and are dealt with by a small number of competent people considerately and in nice surroundings.

          In contrast in the public system my experience is being interviewed and notes solemnly taken nine times by nine different people in the course of getting a deep cut in my arm sewn up which took over two days to get done. Nothing wrong with the actual treatment but the process would have bankrupted a private operator.

          Some of the best hospitals in the world are private – eg the Mayo Clinic in Chicago. Most of our best specialists have private practices. Our GPs are mostly private practices. What on earth is your problem?

          As for overseas ownership, there is no problem so long as the market is competitive and properly regulated and NZers are also able to hold overseas assets efficiently. Some of the lunatic taxation laws passed by the Labour Government have inhibited that to our detriment.

      • “The asset sales hysteria is pig ignorant stupidity on a grand scale whipped up by cynical self-serving politicians – as well as some simply too dumb to know better”.

        Alan you are completely out of touch with what really goes on in the world, who pulls the strings, and how one economy seems to dominate another.

        In your many past comments about separation of gov’t and investment, I get the impression that you are a true follower of John Locke’s liberalism??? There is no gov’t in the world that runs its country to your way of thinking or Locke’s. Several of the biggest nations such as, USA, Russia and China operate along much different lines.

        Alan instead of abusing the followers of this blog, perhaps you need to take off your blinkers, open your eyes and try to examine what is going on in the real world.

        Sorry, BE, we are way off topic as usual.


          Still waiting to hear one sound objection to asset sales, johan. I’m all ears and eyes waiting and ready to examine it.

          • Asset Sales Guide for Small Islands:

            When the current debt to GDP ratio is lower than the historical average, as it is now, then the proclaimed necessity for asset sales to relieve debt is unsound and illogical.


              That’s an entirely reasonable proposition, Kat. However, first I would query whether that assessment properly factors in the various threats to that position – less favourable terms of trade, Chch earthquake commitments, renewing the EQC fund, infrastructure investment, future demographic and retirement impacts, exchange and interest rate changes.

              (Not to mention the frightening possibility of a change of Government!)

              Second, that is only one of the reasons for selling these assets and not, in my view, the most compelling.

              • The only reason the govt can come up with for asset sales is relief of debt. Any other of your perceived ‘threats’ can be met more economically in fiscal terms by govt debt.


                  That ignores both risk (eg interest rate increases that raise the cost of debt) and cumulative effects (increased overall debt impacts credit rating and cost of debt rollovers).

                  The market assesses risk when pricing the asset. Opposition to asset sales totally ignores that risk when comparing costs.

                  The better reasons for asset sales are increased competition, better governance, more appropriate non-political investment decisions, and independent, un-conflicted-interest, regulation.

              • And you may as well brace yourself now as there will most likely be a change of govt in 2014.


                  Horrific news for the poor. They will be stuck in welfare traps in a stagnating economy with no jobs and no prospect even of escape to Australia until Abbott manages to fix the economy Gillard wrecked.


                  No Alan, horrific news only for the greedy and the top 2%.


                  No, Kat, the rich are far more insulated from stupid policies than the poor. Both they and their assets are mobile. Australia is the only escape option for the poor and that slams shut when Australia weakens. The rich and skilled have the whole world to choose from.


                  Phew! John Key will be ok then, when he mobilises himself back to Hawaii.

          • Alan, I see that you are still trolling. Typically, you avoid answering what I have mentioned. You rely too much on your database of knee-jerk comments. I am surprised that you have not mentioned the Reds under Beds scenerio.


              Am I supposed to be a mind-reader? What question have I not answered? How is having a factual discussion about the real issues trolling? Or matching wit with Kat?

              Asset sales hysteria IS pig ignorant stupidity. I would hope most readers of this blog have enough brains to think more rstionally. You are obviously more pessimistic.


                Refer to 19.1.3 You may want to comment on that, nothing to do with Kat.

                “Asset sales hysteria is pig ignorant stupidity. I would hope most readers of this blog have enough brains to think more rationally”. Hardly intelligent Alan, I expected better, definitely bottom drawer stuff.

                “The rich and skilled have the whole world to choose from”.
                Obviously you class yourself as a member of the above elite.
                Let me be the first to donate a dollar towards the cost of a one way ticket for you to OZ, since you will probably wouldn’t want to reside in NZ after the election.


                  Presuming you mean 29.1.3, nope, no wish to comment on an irrelevant straw man. Plenty of countries have privately owned power companies.

                  I’m still waiting for one good reason that anti-asset sales hysteria isn’t pig ignorant stupidity. But that seems beyond you.

                  No need to pay my fare. Save your money since you will certainly need it if the Left win power.

  30. Kat and Johan I implore you don’t feed the troll it only encourages him.

    • Hi Richard, the interesting thing is the arguments put forward are not dissimilar to general National/Act party mantra and give a timely insight into the sad reality of monotonous blind right wing ideology.

    • 30.2

      That is truly pathetic, Richard. Run Away! Run Away! Run Away!

      Or make your case if you have enough brains and integrity.

    • No No..the trolls on this site are amateurish but sooo amusing. Life is too serious without them.

  31. The Prime Minister lost that first debate and we had to regroup. Despite his inexperience and his mangling of the English language, Key connected with the radio and television audience, listening and watching at home in their ones and twos. Although they have a huge reach, television and radio are both intimate media. Parliament could not be more different. The debating techniques that are admired there – playing to the gallery, not listening to your opponent, interrupting them, shouting them down, laughing at and abusing them – are the precise opposite to what works on radio or television.

  32. To say Mr Shearer’s first 11 months in the job have been underwhelming is an understatement. Confronted by television cameras and microphones, he is rendered incoherent unless he has previously learnt his lines, no one has got a clue what Labour stands for and his senior MPs are being allowed to idle away their days. It is no surprise, therefore, that supporters of defeated leadership candidate David Cunliffe continue to agitate on his behalf, or that Mr Cunliffe continues to make pronouncements that fuel speculation about his intentions. ….