Posted by BE on April 11th, 2014
I recall a meeting in the Leader of the Opposition’s office some time in 1999. Present were Helen Clark, Heather Simpson, Mike Munro, Michael Hirschfeld (then President of the Labour Party), Judy Callingham, Brian Edwards and possibly some others. Among the topics for debate was whether Labour should enter into a coalition agreement with Jim Anderton’s Alliance Party. The view of those in favour prevailed.
Under MMP, Labour won the election taking 49 seats in parliament, while the Alliance took ten. Fears that the Alliance’s more left-wing policies would damage Labour were proved to be unfounded.
In 2014, Labour Leader David Cunliffe has declined Russel Norman’s invitation to enter into a pre-election coalition agreement with the Green Party, while conceding that, should Labour win the election, an unspecified number of senior Green Party MPs could expect to be part of his Cabinet.
Though it can be defended – a la Winston – as an appropriate reluctance to enter into coalition agreements before the votes have been counted, it’s hard to see Cunliffe’s rejection of the Green’s marriage, or at least ‘engagement’ proposal, as anything other than a snub. At the very least, the Labour leader is making it perfectly clear to Norman/Turei just who will be running the show, should National lose the election. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on April 1st, 2014
The following report by TV3 political editor Paddy Gower appeared on the channel’s 6pm bulletin last night. Setting aside as best you can your political prejudices, please answer the following question: Is this journalism or a party political broadcast on behalf of the National Party?
Posted by BE on March 24th, 2014
The phrase ‘presidential-style election campaign’ is bandied about a lot these days. Its intended meaning is that voters are as much or perhaps more influenced by the personality and media image of party leaders as by their parties’ policies.
This was clearly not, or at least less the case in the pre-television era when party leaders were generally seen in the flesh only at public meetings or very occasionally on cinema newsreels. Parliament was first broadcast in New Zealand on the 25th of March 1936 but offered neither the intimacy nor the capacity for exposure of the television close-up. Radio without pictures is sound without sight. It can be hugely informative but the listener is deprived of a large chunk of helpful non-verbal information.
Keith Holyoake was the first New Zealand Prime Minister of the television age. In 1971 in my book The Public Eye I wrote of his on-screen performances:
‘The studio Holyoake was everything that an interviewee should not be – evasive, pompous, patronising, overbearing, long-winded, repetitious, pretentious, boring.’
The trouble in part was that no-one had dared to tell him just how awful he was. That changed in 1970 when the recently knighted Prime Minister accepted an invitation to be interviewed by me on his life and times on the popular current affairs programme Gallery. Much against the wishes of his press secretary Arthur Manning, Gallery producer Des Monaghan and I sat Sir Keith down and told him the unvarnished truth about how he came across on the box. Though he still sounded as though he had a marble in his mouth, the outcome was a frank and in places quite moving interview. Unbeknownst to me, my career as a media trainer had begun. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Ghost of BE on September 25th, 2013
Now as every devotee of this site knows, BE’s defining characteristics are humility, modesty and self-effacement. He keeps his light hidden, it is said, not under one bushel but under several. His idols are Gandhi, Mother Theresa and the New Zealand All Blacks. The words ‘brag, crow, vaunt, bluster’ and ‘skite’ are not in his lexicon.
I rebuke him from time to time for this lack of ego, but he merely looks down at his feet and quotes Ecclesiastes: ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’.
Frankly he can be a pain in the arse.
‘You’re a pain in the arse!’ I sometimes say to him, but he invariably replies, ‘How true. How very true.’
A bloody great pain in the arse! Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on September 15th, 2013
Next step – the big desk of the ninth floor!
I hadn’t intended to do anything more on this mini-post than congratulate David and Karen. But I’ve decided to stick my neck out and make a prediction. I predict that a Labour/Greens coalition will win the 2014 election and that David Cunliffe will be New Zealand’s next Prime Minister. Labour might even go it alone.
I’ve been provoked into this rash course of action by my former media partner on The Nation, Bill Ralston, who tweeted something to the effect that Cunliffe’s win was just another example of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
Here’s my principal reason for thinking that Bill’s got it wrong. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on September 12th, 2013
SNPA/ Ross Setford
I note the many reasoned calls for unity in the Labour Party once the new Leader has been selected. I’ll happily add my name to that list, but the odds on a harmonious outcome seem to me slim.
It’s a matter of simple mathematics. The largest group in the current Caucus is the ‘Anyone But Cunliffe’ group, including no doubt most Robertson supporters and a few Jones supporters.
If David Cunliffe wins the leadership, this large group will, to put it mildly, be extremely miffed. Faced with the near impossibility of mounting a challenge to a newly elected Leader, making Cunliffe’s life as difficult as possible for the next 14 months might just seem an attractive option. True, the resultant disharmony and internal division would almost certainly mean losing the 2014 election, but the upside of that is that, having led the party to defeat, Cunliffe would be gone. So strongly is this group opposed to the Member for New Lynn, that they might just see three more years in the wilderness as worth it. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on September 7th, 2013
Shane Jones is one of only two people I have ever hung up on. Trevor Mallard is the other. I don’t take well to being bullied or abused.
I do Mallard an injustice by mentioning him in the same context as Jones. I have considerable respect for Trevor and nothing but contempt for Jones.
If I ever had doubts that such contempt was deserved, they would have vanished over the past couple of weeks in the face of his numerous appearances on television. This is not a man the Labour Party can ever afford to have as its Leader. This is not a man the country can ever afford to have as its Prime Minister. He would almost certainly bring shame to both offices.
When the story of Jones using his ministerial credit card to pay to watch porn in his hotel rooms first came to light, my primary reaction was that it was evidence of extremely poor judgement. The morality of watching porn concerned me less. Tens of thousands of New Zealand men watch pornography on the Internet every day. Porn-watchers form the Internet’s largest audience.
But I was impressed by the way Jones fronted up to the unacceptable nature of what he had done and, without overdoing it, apologised to his colleagues and the nation.
Jones is no longer apologetic. He is in fact now making capital out of his sleazy reputation. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on September 1st, 2013
The Sunday Star Times chose these three photographs to illustrate its story today about the impact being Leader of the Opposition might have on the candidates’ partners. Shane Jones is seen with his partner Dot Pumipi, Grant Robertson with his partner Alf Kaiwai, and David Cunliffe with his wife Karen Price. The paper labelled David Cunliffe ‘protective; Shane Jones ‘reinvigorated’; but offered no summary of Robertson’s mindset.
Why did the paper choose these particular photographs, what was it trying to convey by that choice, and what, if anything, do you think the photographs tell us about the candidates themselves?
Posted by BE on August 28th, 2013
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. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on August 27th, 2013
Posted by BE on August 25th, 2013
There is rarely any danger of overestimating Labour Party stupidity. Having described myself recently as ‘a sentimental socialist’, I’m inclined to think that sentiment may be the main, and possibly the only reason for my ongoing belief in an organism genetically predisposed to push the self-destruct button when faced with the slightest glimmer of electoral success.
With David Shearer’s resignation as Leader, something more than a glimmer of electoral success in 2014 now exists in the form of a Cunliffe/Robertson leadership with Cunliffe at the helm. This is the dream team. There will be an Opposition. A Labour/Green coalition will win the election.
So let’s get the ball moving. With only 14 months to go, time is of the essence. Agreed?
Well no. Not until we’ve canvassed the stuff-up option. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on February 25th, 2013
There’s been debate about the latest TV3 Reid Research poll. The poll, which was taken between February 12 and February 21, has National on 51.4%, Labour on 32.6% and the Greens on 11%. No other party reaches the 5% threshold.
In the ‘Preferred Prime Minister’ stakes John Key is on 41% with David Shearer on 10%.
Where the parties are concerned, the poll is out of step with recent TV1, Fairfax, Herald and Roy Morgan polls by between 2% and 7%. Commentators have also pointed out that in the last election all the major polls overstated National’s support by between 3% and 7%.
Given Labour’s and Phil Goff’s woeful results in that election, one might think it barely mattered.
But when you take into account the current level of unemployment, the Government’s abysmal handling of the Christchurch school amalgamations and closures, the Novopay debacle and the Prime Minister’s complicity in the shonkiest political deal I can remember since I’ve been in this country, National’s and its leader’s high ratings do seem somewhat strange.
But in one sense, the accuracy or lack of accuracy of the polls really is irrelevant. This is because the pollsters are objectively proved right or wrong only once every three years: after the election, when it’s too late for their influence on the outcome to be undone. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by JC on January 28th, 2013
On Monday, 4 February 2013, members of the Labour Caucus will take a confidence vote on the leadership of the parliamentary party. This happens in the middle year of each electoral cycle, and generally passes without note. Not so on this occasion. November’s Labour Party Conference put the cat among the pigeons by deciding that this confidence vote would be held under unique conditions.
In past electoral cycles Labour Party rules required the leader to gain a simple majority of the mid-term vote to retain the leadership. That will also be the rule in future. However, this year is a one-off: the leader needs 60% of the vote plus one. That means David Shearer needs 22 of the Caucus of to vote for him on Monday. Should 13 or more of his colleagues vote against him, it will trigger a leadership contest.
Monday’s vote is a secret ballot. There will be independent scrutineers, usually senior members of the Labour Party such as the General Secretary and the President.
Previously the Caucus alone voted on the leadership, but the party wrested that absolute power out of its hands at the last conference. From now on a Labour Party leadership contest will be decided not by Caucus alone, but by an electoral college which includes the party members and its affiliates. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on November 20th, 2012
A little bird (not David Cunliffe) has told me that in the run-up to today’s emergency caucus meeting a number of Labour MPs, probably a majority, were rung by David Shearer or one of his apparatchiks seeking a cast-iron guarantee that they would be supporting Shearer today and in the constitutionally mandatory confidence vote in February.
This is both unethical and against Labour’s constitution. It makes nonsense of today’s ‘unanimous’ vote. And it makes nonsense of the February vote. If a majority of Labour MPs have yielded to this monstrous piece of bullying, that vote has in effect already been taken. Should Shearer prove a disaster over the next three months those MPs who assured him of their support in February will have no choice but to stand by him, regardless of the damage this might do to the Party.
And finally it makes nonsense of the most essential feature of any caucus vote on the leadership, that it is a secret ballot. Shearer now knows with reasonable certainty how each of his MPs intends to vote in the ‘secret’ February ballot. And there can be little doubt that there will be a witch-hunt if the vote is not heavily in his favour.
Meanwhile, Cunliffe has been banned from talking to the media about what actually happened at today’s emergency meeting. No-one in fact other than Shearer himself can say anything about what went on. Cunliffe has been charged, found guilty and silenced. So much for fairness. So much for openness and transparency.
So much for Labour.
Posted by BE on November 20th, 2012
Dear Mr Shearer
It will come as no surprise to you that it was my view when you were first elected that, though you were a considerable asset to the Labour Party, you were the wrong person to be its leader. That is still my view and I have expressed it in numerous posts on this site.
But nowhere in those posts will you find any criticism of your moral compass. I have never suggested and, more importantly, never believed that you were dishonest. I now find it difficult to sustain that view.
Your decision to call for a caucus vote of confidence in your leadership later today is without political or moral justification.
It is, in the first instance, totally unnecessary:
You have just received a standing ovation at your party’s annual conference;
You already know that you have the numbers to defeat David Cunliffe in the now utterly improbable event that he would mount a challenge against you. You are not in any danger;
Cunliffe has publicly pledged to support you until the mandatory confidence spill in February. He cannot possibly go back on that pledge without losing all credibility. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on November 19th, 2012
In February of next year the Labour Party caucus is constitutionally obliged to conduct a secret leadership ballot. The key word in this simple statement of fact is “secret”. No caucus member will be required to say who he or she voted for.
None, that is, except David Cunliffe. Talk of Cunliffe’s demotion or exclusion from Labour’s shadow cabinet and, beyond that, of his possible expulsion from the parliamentary Labour Party, revolves largely around the issue of his refusal to say whether he will support David Shearer in that February ballot. Cunliffe is being asked to say how he will vote in a secret leadership ballot three months from now. His failure to do so is being taken as evidence of his disloyalty to Shearer and possible grounds for his expulsion from the Labour caucus.
This is not merely entirely unreasonable, it is a major breach of Labour’s own constitutional rules. A caucus member is being asked to declare in advance how he will vote in a secret ballot. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on November 12th, 2012
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. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on August 14th, 2012
On December 7 of last year, around the time the Labour Caucus was considering which of the two Davids, Shearer or Cunliffe, would make the best leader for the party, I wrote a post entitled ‘Shearer or Cunliffe? Why I’ve changed my mind.’ The post basically said that I’d initially thought Shearer was the man for the job, but I no longer thought so.
Well, that’s almost nine months ago, a reasonable gestation period one might have thought for the most diffident political butterfly to emerge from the chrysalis of anonymity. But it hasn’t happened. David Shearer has been branded ‘invisible’ by the commentators, while his opposite number, John Key, continues to bask in the warm sun of electoral approval.
I understand that the Labour Caucus is meeting today and that there may be mutterings about a recent speech in which Mr Shearer made an unfortunate reference to beneficiary ‘bludgers’ – not a term that normally sits comfortably on the lips of Labour leaders.
Meanwhile, Duncan Garner tells us that David Cunliffe is reviled by his caucus colleagues, who would not elect him leader if he were the last bee in the beehive. That, and convenient changes to the way the Labour Party can dump a non-performing leader, would seem to ensure that Mr Shearer will lead his disciples into the next election.
So is it time for me to change my mind again? I don’t think so. You don’t change your mind when you’re sure you were right in the first place. And I’m pretty sure I was right in the first place. Have another read. See what you think. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on May 14th, 2012
If you got out of bed early enough on Saturday or Sunday to watch TV3’s The Nation
or its counterpart on TV1 Q & A
, you might have noticed something interesting: No Labour Party spokesperson appeared on either of television’s principal forums for political analysis and debate. The Nation
had SOE Minister Tony Ryall being cross-examined on asset sales by Duncan Garner; Q & A’s
Paul Holmes looked at where the economy is or should be heading with the Greens’ Russel Norman and New Zealand First’s Winston Peters. The two are increasingly filling the media space left by Labour as the official Opposition.
The absence of anyone from Labour on The Nation was explained by Garner at the very start of the show. The programme had invited Labour’s Spokesperson for Economic Development and Associate Finance Spokesperson, David Cunliffe, to discuss more or less the same things that Norman and Peters were discussing on Q & A – the future direction of the economy. Cunliffe was happy to appear but, conscious of the current sensitivities in the parliamentary party over Labour’s leadership, sought an assurance that that topic would not be canvassed in the interview. He received that assurance in writing from Executive Producer Richard Harman and Garner himself. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by BE on December 7th, 2011
I like David Shearer. He’s nice. On the one or two occasions that I’ve met him, he’s struck me as unpretentious, warm, natural, sincere. These are the qualities that make him attractive as a future leader of the Labour Party. And, in the now popular terminology, borrowed from the world of soap operas, his ‘back-story’ suggests both organisational competence and idealism.
David Lange had some of these qualities. But like so many political shooting stars, he burnt out quickly.
Helen Clark lacked Shearer’s engaging warmth. But her long political apprenticeship and iron will rewarded her with three terms as Prime Minister.
You can see where I’m going. Praising Shearer’s freshness and dismissing his lack of experience in the bear pit of the Debating Chamber as irrelevant has almost become the norm in comparing him with Cunliffe. I was on that side of the argument myself when Shearer first threw his hat in the ring. But I’ve changed my mind. Read the rest of this entry »