Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Limping Onwards

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  • Grant McDougall,

    A leadership change before the election will just take things from bad to worse for Labour. The likes of Shane Jones, David Cunliffe, David Parker and Grant Robertson (who all denied any likelihood of a coup on TV3 News on Saturday) all know this, so are keeping their powder dry until after the election.

    Goff is as "hobbled" as English was in 2002 - he's simply up against a very, very popular PM and leads a party that the public just aren't keen on. I also can't help but wonder if the problem with Goff isn't partially to do with his advisors / staff. He was a very solid, effective cabinet minister, yet poor as an opposition leader. Maybe his current staff aren't up to it, yet he continues to take their advice out of loyalty or because there's no one else ?

    Yes, Labour should be attacking National on the issues. But the quake has given Natioanl an easy "out" for bad figures. They'll milk it for all it's worth, as Labour would've too.

    Tizard's a has-been with a clear case of sour grapes.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 548 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Withers,

    I tend to focus on policy as that is the only thing that really affects my life when all is said and done. Politics is full of theatre and related human foibles, failures and follies. More often than not these prove to be irrelevant side shows on the way to better (or worse) outcomes as a consequence of policy implemented by whomever is the government.

    Darren Hughes? Ultimately irrelevant. Goff's handling of the affair? More relevant, as it provides insight into the cross-currents of his own decision-making processes and consequent execution of them. He may not have handled it well, but I can't help but feel Goff's heart was and remains in the right place. That "heart" flows on into policy formulation and implementation (IMHO) more than media timing or "optics".

    I'm not your "normal" voter, I guess. I tend to know what parties offer in the way of policy and allocate my vote accordingly. Political Theatre may be fun, farce or tragedy....but signifies little.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 279 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Grant McDougall,

    I also can’t help but wonder if the problem with Goff isn’t partially to do with his advisors / staff. He was a very solid, effective cabinet minister, yet poor as an opposition leader. Maybe his current staff aren’t up to it, yet he continues to take their advice out of loyalty or because there’s no one else ?

    But he got to choose his advisors. I've seen him up close a couple of times in the job, and was struck by what seemed to be a lack of assurance. Sure, no one envies the job of leading a party that's been dumped out of office after three terms, but as I noted, he did have momentum after Mt Albert and managed to squander it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17977 posts Report Reply

  • Lew Stoddart,

    Thanks for the bounce, Russell.

    The only thing I’ll quibble with is whether Goff can be blamed for Tizard’s conduct. I think he (and Little) carry the can for this as well.

    For one thing, if Goff had told those who needed telling about the Hughes allegations at the time they needed telling, this could all have been resolved behind closed doors, there now being the illusion of an organised, functional party apparatus (even if one which still prefers to cover up than to open up). What I’m saying, I suppose, is that the bad decision to cover up should have been put to some good use. That it wasn’t is down to Phil Goff.

    Second, as I argued at the time of the Chris Carter debacle last year, Labour needs to improve the informal processes which make any operation run, rather than relying blindly on stuffy, legalistic constitutional party procedure. For Carter, they needed to engage an Winston Wolfe/Malcolm Tucker-like fixer who’d turn up with a magnum of Bollinger, a bouquet of flowers, a letter of resignation needing only a signature, and an authoritative explanation of what the party needed (much better than the Herald’s bottle of whisky and handgun; after all, this is still Labour we’re talking about). They need the same now. The lack is more due to Andrew Little than it is to Goff, except inasmuch as Little has been caught on the hop by his own party leader.

    Lively, dynamic organisations – political and otherwise – don’t rely only on the letter of due process. In lively and dynamic organisations, each participant has an ingrained understanding of how their actions affect the wider group, and lively, dynamic organisations have ways of weeding out and excluding those whose motivations do not serve that wider whole. These events illustrate that Labour is neither lively nor dynamic, that it lacks firm and competent leadership, and that it still embodies all those perceptions – of disconnected, indulgent entitlement, venality and factional impunity – which caused the demise of the Clark government.

    L

    Wellington, NZ • Since Aug 2010 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    WARNING: Links in the following are SFW but MAY BE TRIGGERING FOR ABUSE SURVIVORS.

    Nor is it particularly helpful when smart people like Brian Edwards who should know a lot better, let WhaleOily comments like this run unchallenged.

    My first reaction to this story was – was Darren Hughes set up? There has been no report (that I’m aware of) of the party for which the ‘youth MP’ went to Parliament.

    Could Hughes’s drink have been spiked?

    The whole thing smells fishy to me. Hard to imagine three politicians of the experience of Clark, Goff and King misreading the character of Hughes so badly that they would have taken him under their collective wings and promoted his cause (over quite a number of years now) without any of them discerning in his makeup the possibility of his making such a mighty error of judgement such as inviting a young man (whom he may or may not have known previously) back to his mentor’s home for a sex romp.

    M’kay… sounds like there’s some abuse apologist bingo going down at Brian’s house – and his later defence in response to my comment would be funny if it wasn’t so damn creepy.

    And with all standard trigger warnings in place, Michael Laws is reliably vile – here’s a hint, as soon as he starts using the word “sensual” avert your eyes. Prick.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11621 posts Report Reply

  • Lew Stoddart,

    Craig, I've found myself using the phrase "who should know better" with regard to Dr Edwards so many times in the past year that I'm now beginning to think he can't be expected to.

    L

    Wellington, NZ • Since Aug 2010 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • David Herkt,

    Goff is going to limp through to the election, a simple and hobbled place-holder. Tizard is just a bizarre side-show, the same as Chris Carter, and her peeved attempt to hold us all in suspense is a reflection on her lack of judgment. You want to be the most disliked woman on Parliament, go ahead, Judith…

    Labour needs to do a clear-felling. It should have already been done, but it hasn’t. A nice clean sweep of the Augean stables is in order. At a time when there are important issues (the failure of National’s economic policy, anyone?) to have an opposition party is such disorder is inexcusable.

    And, as a matter of personal belief concerning the Hughes Affair, having a closet anywhere is a recipe for disaster. I know we are in an intermediary time when sexual preference still matters to some, but the psychology of closetry inevitably leads to Bad Places and Poor Judgments. This is an example...

    Auckland • Since Sep 2007 • 37 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    A leadership change six months out from polling day would not look convincing to the electorate

    Depends on the leadership change and I think that's the bigger problem for Labour, a lack of star leaders ready to step up.
    Another strategy could be to form a solid pre election coalition, Labour, Green, Maori + Hone. Could that work ?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 424 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    David:

    I don’t know… on some level, I think Goff is a far too convenient scapegoat. I’m having acidulous flashbacks to 2002, when National won the lowest share of the popular vote in the party’s history. Blame the media? Well, that’s easy enough to do. Blame Bill English & Michelle Boag – well, that’s fair up to a point, but only that far. The simple truth is that an incoherent policy platform, a lousy campaign and a party organisation more focused on its unattractive in-fighting than public policy just turned people off.

    And anecdotally, I’d respectfully suggest a lot of people in Labour need to get the frak through their grieving process over the last election. There’s still a nasty strain of entitleitis; the conviction that the only way Labour lost was a stupefication spell cast over the moronic peasantry by Harry Crosby Textor. Well, folks, the counter-spell isn’t chanting “secret agenda, Smile and Wave, expelliamus!” but actually coming up with a more disciplined, credible and coherent platform than the ‘Axe The Tax’ bus tour farce.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11621 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    On Tizard: The people that voted for Labour were (if they could be bothered to look) aware of who was on the list and where. Effectively, they were voting for that list.

    So Tizard is now an elected MP by virtue of being next on the list. Isn't it rather manipulative for parties to pressure people to resign? If they didn't want her as an MP, why was she on the list in 2008?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4221 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    Michael Laws is reliably vile – here’s a hint, as soon as he starts using the word “sensual” avert your eyes. Prick.

    I am no fan of Laws but I thought he had a point re trial by media. Hughes has been found guilty and had to fall on his sword with almost no due process - it could be a false allegation we don't know yet.
    Over here Sue Bradford is asking for" a little more reflection and empathy at times from those who are the first to criticise those delectable falls from grace among our elected representatives"
    She has a point - how ready we are to stone those leaders who fall from grace.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 424 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    The assessment that the Labour caucus will need to make is not whether someone other than Goff can win the election, but whether someone other than Goff has a better chance of staving off disaster. It may be that the future leaders of the Labour Party - Cunliffe, Parker, whoever - don't want to be leader now because of a near certain election defeat, but that shouldn't be the only calculation.

    Also important, is avoiding a National Party 2002 result. If they want to win in 2014, then having a larger contingent in the next Parliament - including some new faces - will be very helpful. It may be - if there is a concern that Goff may now be too damaged to pull that off - that a change now would avert disaster. A new leader may be necessary, not to raise Labour's fortunes in the polls, but to maintain them at around their current levels. Should someone be the sacrificial lamb? If not an up-and-comer, then it seems someone like Mallard would be the choice. An election in which Andrew Little failed to make it in on the list would be disastrous.

    p.s. I still don't completely rule out that Labour - or for that matter, Goff - can win the election.

    p.p.s. I imagine I'll stop with the political analysis now.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2971 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    If they didn’t want her as an MP, why was she on the list in 2008?

    Is it too obvious to point out that the roles of Party President, Party Leader and Deputy Leader are now filled by entirely different individuals?

    If Little, Goff and King were drawing up the list in 2008 maybe Tizard wouldn't have been on it at all.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2971 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Waite,

    The interesting aspect to this, for me, is that Goff is now more or less fully revealed as a completely un-electable leader. Prior to this there were doubts. He wasn't doing well, but with a strong effort in the election run-up he could have made a fist of it, and kept National honest.

    I don't believe Labour was ever going to win the next election whatever he did. In my view Goff is a 'night-watchman', pushing the ball around to take up time until the next real player comes in to bat.

    But it's as if the night-watchman is playing so badly that there's a chance he'll get out too soon. Naturally there is probably some consternation back in the pavillion, as they watch him wave his bat ineffectually outside off stump and the ball is millimetres from knicking an edge.

    And Labour isn't the only party to watch carefully between now and the election. National's reaction to all this will be interesting, as will other parties, as they all realise that there may well be a *lot* more votes up for grabs than they previously thought.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Withers, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Graeme: I tend to agree. Goff's 'gaff' aside, anyone who wants public broadcasting; doesn't want asset sales - overt or by stealth; does want public transport, *can't* vote for the National Party. No matter what.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 279 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant, in reply to David Herkt,

    You want to be the most disliked woman on Parliament, go ahead, Judith…

    Might be worth $160,000

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1593 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    when the country needed an effective, aggressive Opposition

    That's the real tragedy, as Matt McCarten noted:

    Labour needs more urgency, more mongrel and more seriousness about its obligations to its supporters who are really hurting under this Government.

    Yesterday, a tweet from Clare Curran:

    Can we please talk about what really matters ...

    led me to what I'd have to characterise as her not-our-fault whinge on Red Alert:

    There are no new jobs on the horizon. There are no new industries. There are no really good ideas that people can latch onto and think “this is our future” “I get what this is about”.

    There is no hope.

    Meanwhile our front pages are full of finger pointing and rotten egg throwing at the latest scapegoat in a political scandal.

    I was prompted to reply:

    I'd love to focus on real issues. managing the opposition's ability to actually oppose is in your own hands

    and then to respond at Red Alert along what turned out to be similar lines to McCarten's:

    Put forward a bold vision of hope, then. Call the government to account for its slashing. Talk in terms that connect with the public. Get on with it.

    Or if you can not actually function as an opposition, get out of the way. Real people are hurting, as you say. What are you doing about it?

    I know the conventional political wisdom is not to change leaders, but if the party has already given up on even the prospect of winning this election on behalf of their constituents, then they should all just get out of the way. Incompetence hurts others.

    I really do not care about Darren Hughes - but then I'm not the one who dropped the ball for the umpteenth time and allowed the focus to go onto a sideshow. The Labour caucus need to take a good long look in the mirror. And consider the quality of advice they're paying for.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15762 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    On Goff: As I might have said before, Goff is going to resign within a few days of losing the next election, if not on election morning. Given that, why not cut out the next eight months?

    I think the main problem for Labour is that the centre-left policy core of "better managed capitalism" is failing. This article from Clare Curran kinda illustrates it - she identifies a problem but conspicuously doesn't identify what Labour would do about it.

    What *would* Labour do if elected? Restore some (but not all) of National's cuts? Tweak a few programs? They'll still let a lucky few make untaxed fortunes in property speculation, enable multinationals to pay no or negligible rates of tax while shovelling our money overseas and pretend we can keep on with a fossil fuel economy forever.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4221 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    I just dispair for Labour at the moment, a lack of judgement and a failure to back them-selves will lead to a rightful drubbing in the next election
    An election that can be won as anybody who has done the numbers can see
    But no, just a bunch covering their own butts & salaries and certainly not worrying about the down trodden

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 522 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    It all makes me so sad. Once again, we have a National Govt making everyone bloody miserable with their policies of slash and burn, and "never mind the promises we made, poor people, you can all get fucked" and do we have any viable chance of seeing a change of government? No we don't. I hope all the swing voters are enjoying their shiny new National Government. I would say it serves them right but we're all suffering.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3112 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Richard Aston,

    Another strategy could be to form a solid pre election coalition, Labour, Green, Maori + Hone.

    And the lack of visible cross-party work is also notable. Goff on Q&A calling Matt McCarten his "political opponent" may have some truth in it but does not come across as someone capable of working with allies on the same side of the House.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15762 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Richard Aston,

    I am no fan of Laws but I thought he had a point re trial by media.

    I’ve got to pop out for the rest of the day, but I thought the only point being made is that Laws will concern troll on behalf of nice white middle-class people who look a lot like him, while continuing to void his media bowels all over everyone else.

    If Laws genuinely gave a shit about trial by media he could clean up his own act. But he won't, so he can go screw himself.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11621 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    If Little, Goff and King were drawing up the list in 2008 maybe Tizard wouldn't have been on it at all

    I understand the mechanism: Labour have moved to the right, basically, and don't want left-of-centre MPs.

    But the voters of 2008 voted for the list as it stands, and I think that if Tizard wants to do six months as an MP, she's been elected and has every right to sit. It's ridiculous to suggest she's being dishonourable to do so.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4221 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    What *would* Labour do if elected?

    I am sure they have some good and different policy based on what they seem to have been discussing. Fat lot of use though if they don't have the ability to organise themselves well enough to communicate that compellingly to voters.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15762 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Steve Withers,

    Graeme: I tend to agree. Goff’s ‘gaff’ aside, anyone who wants public broadcasting; doesn’t want asset sales – overt or by stealth; does want public transport, *can’t* vote for the National Party. No matter what.

    They can’t now. The only thing that endears me to Goff is that the party under his watch is fairly clearly against all of those things (and most especially further welfare reform). But that’s not to say that after a calamitous electoral defeat and under a new leader the party wouldn’t tack to its right and start selling us austerity with a human face. So on the one hand, yes, I think Goff needs to go for the reason that Graeme suggested – it may be more about staving disaster than winning at this point – but also because I’m afraid of where Labour might go if it was decimated. Whereas if it changed leadership now probably even under Power it would probably set a fairly decent agenda. (Relatively speaking: I’m not a huge Labour fan obviously.)

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

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