Brian Edwards Media

Posts Tagged 'Labour Party'

I say, I say, I say: What is the secret of successful comedy?

“Common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing moving at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense dancing. Those who lack humour lack common sense and should be trusted with nothing.”

Clive James penned that glorious truth. Examples of the correlation between humourlessness and lack of common sense are all around us in present-day New Zealand. They proliferate like weeds. No doubt some will occur to you as you read these lines, but it may be wiser not to name them, to keep your counsel. The humourless weed is prickly and cannot see the joke.

I was reminded of Clive James’ words by the current race for the Labour Party leadership. If James is right  – and everything I have observed about my fellow man in more than seven decades persuades me that he is –  if those who lack humour should indeed “be trusted with nothing”, then we would be wise to include evidence of the presence of a sense of humour among our criteria for electing those who seek to govern us.    Read the rest of this entry »


Shock! Horror! Wife defends husband!!!!



In recent posts I’ve made some fairly trenchant comments about David Cunliffe, primarily about his media performance. Others, including some of his Caucus colleagues, have gone even further. The now resigned Leader of the Opposition has been under sustained and often vitriolic attack from friend and foe alike since Labour’s catastrophic showing in the General Election just over a fortnight ago. The media have feasted on his downfall.

Political survival and the retention of one’s self-respect require stoic denial from a political leader in these circumstances. To reveal hurt will  be taken as a sign of weakness. The response to Helen Clark’s tears at Waitangi in 1998 when Titewhai Harawira angrily challenged her right to speak on the marae is evidence enough of that.

But no politician can be totally indifferent to personal attack. David Cunliffe has admitted to being ‘close to tears’ following the 7-hour Caucus bloodletting after the election. That admission took courage and  should be admired rather than derided. A politician without feelings would be a dangerous creature indeed.

But what of the politician’s family, whose hurt or rage can be aired only in private, who must literally suffer in silence. For such  is the convention. So it was for Ruth Kirk and Thea Muldoon who kept just such a dignified silence in the face of the abuse, rumours and scuttlebutt that attended their husbands’ public and private lives. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Tough call!      Read the rest of this entry »


Yond Cunliffe has a lean and hungry look!

SNPA/ Ross Setford

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 »


If a picture is worth a thousand words, just what are these three pictures trying to tell us?


Michael Bradley/Fairfax

Michael Bradley/Fairfax

Kevin Stent/Fairfax

Kevin Stent/Fairfax

Chris Skelton/Fairfax

Chris Skelton/Fairfax

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?


On the extremely rare danger of overestimating Labour Party stupidity!


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 »


Confidence in the House: a layman’s guide to Labour’s new voting rules and their possible consequences.


WitchOn 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 »


That nice David Shearer reveals his bully side.


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.


An Open Letter to David Shearer










Dear Mr Shearer

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

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

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

It is, in the first instance, totally unnecessary:

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

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

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


A conundrum: When is a secret ballot not a secret ballot? When you want to get rid of David Cunliffe of course!












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 »


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.    Read the rest of this entry »


Shearer or Cunliffe? Why I haven’t changed my mind.

Fairfax NZ

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 »


I find myself wondering…

I find myself wondering whether I want to be bothered with the Labour Party any more. Increasingly, it seems to me, the Greens reflect the philosophical and moral values to which I subscribe more accurately than the Labour Party whose philosophical and moral values are now so ill-defined as to be beyond definition.

I’m a socialist at heart and, whatever it is, New Zealand Labour is not a socialist party. It wasn’t just Rogernomics that scotched that idea; Tony Blair’s ‘third way’, a significant influence on the Fifth Labour Government, was really just a watered down version of Douglas’s ‘trickle-down’ economics. The ‘third way’ was, by definition, a ‘middle-way’, neither one thing nor the other and ill-suited to political idealism of any stripe – a Clayton’s political philosophy.  

I read that Labour’s new leader, David Shearer, wants to move the party to that ideological no-man’s-land that is ‘the centre’. National already occupies that space but, as the distinctions between Key and Shearer lose focus – both promising to deliver ‘a brighter future’ and the Labour leader ditching policies specifically directed at putting more money into the pockets of the poor – I’ve no doubt that an accommodation can be reached between centre-right and centre-left. The centre is a wide church.  Read the rest of this entry »


Shearer or Cunliffe? Why I’ve changed my mind.


Fairfax NZ

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 »


Why Labour is both right and wrong about asset sales. (And how I’ll be voting on 26 November – as if you didn’t know!)

I’m against selling our state assets. I’m impressed by Labour’s argument that you can only sell an asset once, and that, as soon as you’ve sold it, you’ve lost the revenue stream forever. Forever is probably the key word. You have to calculate the dividend loss for an indefinite period that ends – never.

And I’m not impressed by the Government’s intention to use the money from asset sales to fund hospitals and schools. Funding for hospitals and schools shouldn’t come from  selling the family silver, it should come from general taxation. If it doesn’t, where are you going to find the cash to fund health and education next year, and the year after that, and the year after that,  when the assets are gone?

I’m familiar with the Government’s answer: ‘We aren’t selling off the lot; we’re keeping a controlling 51% share and we’ll still have the dividends from that.’ Well, 51% of the dividends! And I hope you won’t think me unkind, but I wouldn’t trust you as far as I could throw you on this. When you run short of dough, and you will run short of dough, you’re going to sell the rest. Of course you are. You’re philosophically opposed to the idea of governments owning and running businesses. That’s the private sector’s job.

And this is where you’re out of touch with the essentially chauvinistic view of a majority of Kiwis: ‘Hey, this is our bank; it’s got our name on it – Kiwi Bank; this is our airline, it’s got our name on it – Air New Zealand; this is our power station – we built the bloody thing! This stuff is all ours and you want to flog it off to foreigners.’ Ours and foreigners are probably the key (but not Key) words in this debate.   Read the rest of this entry »


A Dissenting View on Chris Carter’s Expulsion from the Labour Party

In May 1996, six months out from a general election, the New Zealand Labour Party was in dire straits. Its poll ratings were in the low teens, while its leader’s ratings as preferred prime minister were around what is generally referred to as ‘the margin of error’.

In the same month Helen Clark received a delegation which she recalls as having included Phil Goff, Michael Cullen, Annette King, Koro Wetere and Jim Sutton.

“These people had rushed around the caucus counting numbers and then decided they’d come and confront me and ask me to stand down, and say there was a majority who wanted that to happen. And the line was, you’re a nice person, blah, blah, blah, but you can’t win the election and we don’t want to have to challenge you directly at the caucus, so it would just be better if you resigned. And I said to them, “Well, if you want a change of leader, you’re going to have to go into the caucus and move a motion.”’ 

The plotters declined to take that course of action. Clark’s decision to call their  bluff was not because she was certain she had the numbers, but because she knew that there was no-one capable of taking her place. Twelve years later there was still no-one capable of taking her place. Fourteen years later Labour is polling significantly better than in  was in May 1996, but its leader is languishing on single figures as preferred Prime Minister, while his predecessor, a non-candidate, still has support for the job.

In the interim, Helen Clark would keep the Labour Party in office for an unprecedented nine years. I’m uncertain which of the coup leaders had ambitions to wrest the leadership from her in 1996, but I’m willing to give  odds that, had he or she been successful, neither would be able to lay claim to that record today.

Even more interesting than the remarkable similarity between the situation in 1996 and 2010 – Labour miles behind National in the polls and its leader more than 40 points behind John Key as preferred prime minister – is the way Clark dealt with the mutineers in her party. Far from demoting or exiling them, she not merely brought them in, she promoted them as well. Better, as Lyndon Johnson observed, to have one’s opponents inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.  

Read the rest of this entry »


Thoughts on the Recent Life of an Embattled MP – An Invitation to Imagine

Imagine this. You’re a public figure. An accusation has been made against you, not of any criminal act, not even of breaching any rule, but of displaying an attitude of entitlement to the perks of office. Others have been as guilty as you, some more guilty. But the world seems largely uninterested in them. Its focus is almost entirely on you.

Imagine that for months you are vilified daily in the press, on radio, on television, on the Internet, to your face, behind your back.  Imagine that this relentless attack goes beyond what you have done to what you are said to be –  a person without integrity, without conscience, egotistical, narcissistic, a sponger on the public purse, a waste of space. Imagine being branded ‘worthless’.

Imagine not being able to open a newspaper, listen to radio, watch television, surf the Net without finding this judgement of your character somewhere expressed. Imagine it happening every hour of every day for months.   Read the rest of this entry »


10 Questions and Answers About What Chris Carter Did


Q.   Were you surprised by Carter’s  action today?

A.    I think ‘gobsmacked’ is the only word to describe my reaction.

Q.   Why do you think Carter did what he did?

A.    A mixture of two things, I suspect: a genuine belief that Labour cannot win under Goff and bitterness at the humiliation he suffered when Goff forced him to make a second public apology over his travel spending. At the time I described this as Goff ‘taking his pound of flesh”. That is still my view.

Q.   How would you describe Carter’s actions?

A.    Utterly stupid and hugely damaging to his personal reputation.

Q.   Is he right that there is widespread dissatisfaction in the Labour caucus with Goff’s performance as Leader?

A.    My understanding is that there is widespread dissatisfaction with his performance in the polls.

Q.   Is Carter right that a majority of the Labour caucus doubt that Labour can win the next election?

A.    That is my information.

Q. Doesn’t the unanimous caucus vote to suspend Carter indicate that the entire caucus is behind Goff?

A.    Not at all. Anyone who voted not to suspend Carter would effectively have been declaring that they agreed with his view that Goff could not hope to win the election. Anything other than a unanimous vote would have had the Press Gallery hunting to find the disaffected.

Q.   Can Goff win the next election?

A.    Probably not. But the honeymoon is definitely ending. The electorate is beginning to see Key’s shameless, give-them-anything-they-want populism as weak leadership. And the promise of ‘catching up with Australia’ already looks hollow.

Q:   Did Goff do the right thing in sacking Carter?

A.   Yes, it was the only thing he could do.  Carter’s action was disloyal to the party and intended to be damaging to  its leader.

Q.   Will these events be damaging to Goff’s leadership?

A.    On the contrary, they will probably strengthen his position as Leader and his image in the eyes of the public. He will be seen as decisive and strong.

Q.   What chance has Carter of winning Te Atatu as an Independent or Independent Labour candidate?

A.    None. Labour voters are Labour voters. Their loyalty is first and foremost to the Party.