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Labour heading to another meltdown under 'Captain Mumblef**k'

Pictured right: David Cunliffe at the time of the November party conference.


The wreckers of Labour’s November conference are again destabilising David Shearer’s leadership. They are likely to keep doing so all the way to the election.

Ahead of the conference, Mr Shearer was subject to an either controlled or spontaneous avalanche of criticism from across the left establishment, including Labour-connected press galley journalists, the Herald’s Tapu Misa, Helen Clark’s hagiographer Brian Edwards, the left’s poet laureate Chris Trotter and the anonymous and semi-anonymous writers and commentators at The Standard

As might be expected from New Zealand’s most-read and most influential left-wing blog, The Standard is a more collective effort than its right-wing rivals.

Its writers and commentators also tend to be overwhelmingly to the left of both the current opposition and Ms Clark’s government.

The so-called neoliberal consensus of the last 30 years is attacked and there is passionate debate on topics such as nationalisation of essential services, reorientating housing toward collective ownership, regulating or even abolishing interest and profit, establishing Labour as a true worker’s party and massively redistributing wealth from the 1% to everyone else.

Despite the radicalism of such ideas, which are closer to the Greens or Mana, most writers claim to be only slightly left-of-centre Labour party members. Some of the commentators have indeed been confirmed as Labour office holders.

One, for example, is Greg Presland, spokesman for the New Lynn electorate committee of Mr Shearer’s rival, David Cunliffe, and there is near unanimity that Mr Cunliffe is not only more politically talented than Mr Shearer but that he broadly supports the left-wing policy prescriptions that are usually advocated.

Herein lies Labour’s problem.

Extreme language
For some time, blogs have ceased to merely report grass-roots political activity: they are now where much grass-roots political activity actually occurs, with hundreds of different perspectives being put forward on various topics.

A generation ago, political reporters hung around dire regional conferences to get a sense of what the grassroots were feeling.

With little happening at today’s stage-managed conferences, it makes sense that they now observe the postings and comments on blogs such as Whaleoil, Kiwiblog and The Standard to get a sense of grass-roots opinion (noting, as always, that conference delegates and blog writers tend to be further to the extremes of the parties to which they purport allegiance).

Even with that proviso, the extreme language at The Standard about Mr Shearer is unprecedented, and it is again being ramped up.

A nickname for Mr Shearer has emerged: Captain Mumblefuck. His intelligence and admittedly poor diction are derided.

We are told he is a bully and coward for demoting Mr Cunliffe, and a puppet of Trevor Mallard and Annette King. He is accused of appeasing the middle class, his 100,000-house KiwiBuild policy is criticised as a veneer for public private partnerships and he is widely suspected of having a secret neoliberal agenda. 

Elsewhere, based on research by Mr Trotter, some even hint he may be some sort of agent for foreign intelligence services.

Since the November conference, writers at The Standard have demanded that despite Mr Shearer having the overwhelming support of caucus – and well above the 60% threshold required for him to automatically keep his job – he should put his leadership to a vote of party members and union affiliates this February.

To pressure him, a false rumour was spread in recent days that Mr Shearer planned to announce this weekend a membership and union vote. The motivation is because most Standardistas are confident he would lose.

In anticipation, people are being encouraged to join the party for the very purpose of voting against its leader and for the candidate, Mr Cunliffe, bizarrely seen as far left.

Internal fanaticism
This sort of internal fanaticism has been seen before, including when Don Brash’s supporters were undermining Bill English and when Paul Keating took out Bob Hawke. The strategy can work because, as Mr Hawke observed, it has a terrifying logic. 

If a challenger’s faction, even a minority, is utterly determined to make life impossible for the incumbent, then eventually the leadership or even prime ministership ceases to be worth holding.

Labour’s new rules make the strategy even more likely to succeed and have created a risk of chronic instability. With members and unions now having the power to choose the leader, whichever faction happens to be in the minority will spend its time not taking the fight to the dreaded Tories, but signing up new members and manipulating union personnel.

The new rules put Labour at constant risk of old-fashioned Leninist entrism. Already, party bosses report infiltration by former members of the Alliance who have no interest in being part of a modern social democratic party but want to recreate Labour as a replica of their old far-left ideal.

Mr Shearer has a big speech this weekend. He would be well advised to throw some red meat to his far left to settle them down a bit. But the subversion by Mr Cunliffe’s supporters will continue all year. There is another meltdown ahead.

More by Matthew Hooton

Comments and questions

This column was written before the blowtorches came out last night at The Standard. Accusations of lies and disloyalty, author versus author, faction versus faction.

There is ongoing deliberate attempts at destablisation for sure.

But Labour's leadership are being lured in and inflaming further, Shearer's spokesperson has poured petrol on the cauldron by saying “His talk of a rift in the Labour Party is crap.”

Whether you like Labour or not, changing leadership to David Cunliffe and the left-leaning policies will at least ensure that there is a true leading opposition party in NZ. At present we have a choice between basically THE SAME policies from both main parties - dressed in either Blue or Red.

David Cunliffe is a clever guy and Labour need to get more acceptanace with the voters and stop the strong polling by the Greens - the Green party are obtaining votes by default due to Shearers ineptitude, lack of political experience and weak communication skills - the public think he is a joke. Cunliffe is a bright guy and is articulate and politically savvy - a real match for John Key. At the momenyt John Key wakes up each day with a big smile on his face to continue opposing Captain Mumblef..k Shearer.

Labour needs to part ways with yesterday's model with Mallard and Ms King and position itself left/centre not centre, where it is now.

Cunliffe would give Key and the Nats a good fight - he, like any Labour leader at present, probably won't win the next election but they would go close and be well positioned for the following election and next term would have a strong and large opposition team.

Labour needs to take votes from National by exposing just how cruel, callous, miserly and irresponsible they are being with people's taxes. They need to get their priorities right and stop being controlled by the rich and powerful who give them election money. Labour and National are just the same shit in a different bucket - in the past 30 years of reforms the rich have got way richer and the poor have become more degraded & more oppressed.

When John Key can brag about how well National have done to improve the financial situation of ACC by taking away health care and entitlements to abused men women and children you know the people who lead this country are sick (that includes the NZ media).

While I did not vote for National (or Labour) I prefer my $538 of taxes going anywhere except paying for the choosers who want to stay at home because $13.50 per hour is beneath them or the woman who have children to different fathers and want more in their DPB.

When we have children I am certain I am not going to get a pay rise because of the situation. In fact I will only get a pay rise if I prove myself not because I want it.

We are all responsible for our decisions. Labour shouldn't make me or anyone else pay for others so that is why I am comfortable if their priority isn't what you say.

Simeon, when you have paid hundreds of thousands in taxes as I have, then come back to me with your opinion. I feel as though I am supporting every single welfare beneficiary singlehandedly. I know I'm not, but that's what it feels like.

Don't pay the beneficiaries a cent. They are responsible for their own plight. The poor of India make do. They come up with ingenious money making ventures.

a bunch of apes - bring back phil!

It's true: there is a short circuit somewhere with Shearer's synapses. Ask him something that requires him to think on his feet, and a stupefied blank look passes over his dial and the tongue begins to slowly protrude from the corner of the mouth.
I'll bet anything, he couldn't figure out the Herald's Word wheel and the Word builder.

That may be so. However, he's certain to appeal to the voters far more than Cunliffe ever would. If they dump Shearer ifn favour of Cunliffe, they'll be handing the next election to National on a plate.

I have always seen Mr Hooton as an avid supporter of National and therefore his words are suspect. I have now shifted my suspicious nature to one of respect because I think he has summed up so well the corrosive nature from within the so-called Left. Perhaps the underminers are doing such a good job that the usual anti-Labour writers just need to sit back and watch their job being done for them.
...the minority will spend its time not taking the fight to the dreaded Tories, but signing up new members and manipulating union personnel.
So true!

What about Grant Robertson for leader? Everyone seems to have forgotten him in the mix. He is surely even more palatable than either Cunliffw or Shearer now?

I was a little aghast to see DC on the news the other night - sans whiskers. If he wishes to be taken seriously with his tilt at the leadership, he needs to regrow that beard immediately.

But David - ditch that cap!!

Ahh its always amusing to come to Capitalist wet dream central and see how deluded you die hard Oligarch lovers truly are. You might convince the blue rinse brigade and the Bankers clique of Labours impending implosion; but to New Zealand voters the failure of National to have an economic policy that works will toss your hopes out into the gutter of history where you and your failed policies belong.

I'm no fan of the Labour Party. If you want a nation of mediocrity (which is what we now have), vote for them. You'll be guaranteed lots of it.

But in spite of my dislike for Labour, I couldn't care less if Mumbleton-Shearer wasn't quick on his feet, had fluent diction, or was a master of the glib one liner. I want our senior political leaders of what ever stripe they may be, to be men and women of substance, rather than style over substance.

If style over substance is the answer to your political prayers, then you've been praying for the wrong damn thing. That this is the main preoccupation of many within the Labour party is telling. This is party that is not fit for purpose for leading this country.

It really doesn't matter . It could be either of the David's running for the next election. Regardless of that , My vote is planned for Labour.

Have always noted for National since I passed out of Uni. They have had 4 yes and no progress on the job market and housing is a distant dream for people of my age. Like the labour plan for housing. And that with the Greens plan would make it feasible for young families like mine to own a house.

You obviously haven't noticed what happened to house prices last time Labour was in power. If you think Labour's plan will achieve anything other than win votes from suckers you are one of them.

Cunliffe has youth, vigour, intellectual grunt and the communications skills up overlay on his strong core values. He is a great leader and was a brilliant minister. He turned Titirangi from a National seat into the current Labour seat.
There is no coherent reason Cunliffe is not at Labour's top table.
Shearer will never recover from asking MPs to commit how they will vote in a future private ballot.
Shearer will never recover from personalising the members vite by demonising Cunliffe and demoting him.
13 MPs must withhold confidence for "game on".

If he's a great leader how come his MP colleagues don't want him to lead them?

Oh, I forgot. Rationality is lost on the Left. You just have to believe - or be axed.

Yes substance over sound bites is best

JUST POSTED THIS OVER AT THE STANDARD - waiting to see if it will pass moderation..

Overwhelmed by the content - it is like going back to the past....


Your comment is awaiting moderation.
27 January 2013 at 12:55 pm
Wow, I can’t berleive I have not come across this site before!

It is awesome – got directed to it from a great article in the NBR

I have added to my RSS feed as I was getting a bit bored with The Onion and needed another satirical online tabloid.

Neoliberal agenda rants, hilarious housing policies thought up by a character from The Young Ones and comments by people that take it all seriously (plenty of time i guess).

Classic, I am going to send snippets to all my friends who actually work for a living and rely on them selves!

Of course I will have to read it at weekends and in bed as my job demands my attention 7am to 7pm each day so I can look after myself and my family.

Keep up the good work, whoever the writers actually are!!

Hopefully you will get your own programme on Comedy Central along side The Office soon!

[Click to Edit | Delete] (7 minutes and 12 seconds)

Can't be headed for another "meltdown" when they're already a sticky, gooey mess.

One eyed and one sharp tooth between the BTL contributors... I must have strayed upon a gathering of the Graeae in one of those gaps when the eye is in transit.

Does That Eye ever look up from Those Awful People Below to see the so-similar scroungers and bludgers and shirkers Above who also pop out kids and have their hands out (or in the till) for unearned rewards?

Are there any true conservatives left? Or just reactionary preservationists? Pass the Eye and the Tooth right, if you please.

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