Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on the Labour reshuffle

September 24th, 2013

Like a dog with a bone, the media can’t seem to let a good angle about the Labour team reshuffle die without a fight. It has to be a story of blood and vengeance, whatever the evidence to the contrary. In fact, you could make the exact reverse case – that David Cunliffe really has made the promotions/demotions on merit, as promised. Isn’t Andrew Little a better shadow Labour Minister than Darien Fenton? Hasn’t Cunliffe extended an olive branch to his arch critic Chris Hipkins by promoting him a couple of places and giving him a prime shadow portfolio, Education? Doesn’t Cunliffe himself know a whole lot more about ICT than Clare Curran?

For someone supposedly arrogant, Cunliffe has handed out significant jobs to his defeated rivals ( Shane Jones, Grant Robertson) and rewarded loyal supporters Sue Moroney and Nanaia Mahuta, but not lavishly. Moroney, who has already been elevated to chief whip, advances only a couple of places above her previous ranking and is sensibly positioned opposite Paula Bennett on Social Development, with Louisa Wall – another winner who merits elevation after her skilful promotion of the same sex marriage bill through Parliament and among the wider public – as her associate. For the under-rated Moroney, that elevation seems a fitting reward for a year in which she’s championed pay equity and an extension to paid parental leave (both being core Labour issues) and landed more hits on the government than some of her more highly touted colleagues. Cunliffe himself has taken on an interesting mix. Security and Intelligence of course, but also his old ICT stomping ground – an area that he knows back to front from his time as Telecommunications Minister – and regional development issues as well. Thus, Mr Metropolitan Auckland will be taking responsibility for issues facing provincial and rural New Zealand, which should be a useful platform for Cunliffe for the 2014 election.

Putting Shane Jones directly opposite Steven Joyce on Economic Development is a good move, and will require Jones to lift his work rate. The apparent losers are obvious enough. Clare Curran has been the main one, and drops to the back bench. Jacinda Ardern drops a couple of places, but only to make way for Shane Jones and Annette King – who keeps Health, and is the main ( and the most able) survivor of the old guard. David Clark’s fall down the ladder is not all that surprising, given that his rise under David Shearer had been excessive. (Shearer himself takes foreign affairs from Phil Goff, and falls to 13 in the shadow rankings.) As Cunliffe said, Clark is talented, and more will be heard of him in future. Unfortunate though to see someone as able as Phil Twyford (and the Auckland issues he represents) lose a few places. The old guard – Phil Goff, Trevor Mallard, and Clayton Cosgrove who drops a couple of places – are being eased out of the way, but without being humiliated. Plus, in a recognition that Labour has to compete/strategise with the Greens on some issues, water issues have been split off again (as they were once before under Brendon Burns) from economic development issues, and given to Meka Whaitiri who will also be working with Cunliffe as associate regional development shadow minister. She can use both those posts to promote links with iwi (with Nanaia Mahuta) and work on water quality with/against the Greens. All up, the reshuffle makes the most of Labour’s limited pool of talent.

But in what direction is Labour shuffling ? Oddly enough, The Guardian yesterday asked much the same question of the party led in Britain by Ed Milliband. And it observed:

Of course any assessment of Labour’s fortunes depends on what you think is feasible. If it’s simply to mitigate the worst effects of free markets and to slow the rate at which the poor get poorer and the planet burns, I suggest you look away now. But if your desire for Labour’s purpose is more transformative – to change the country and build a good society…

Unfortunately, the chap in The Guardian didn’t have a clue about how a Milliband-led Labour Party in Britain might go about the transformative task. Beyond hinting perhaps, that a financial transaction tax (which Labour in Britain has backed away from) might be one way of combatting the power of the multinationals and their demands for “free” markets, ever lower taxes, and ever greater “flexibility” to fire and hire without strings, their ever cheaper work force. As always, it is far easier to slag the centre left for its complicity with neo-liberalism than to devise a credible alternative economic policy, or a viable political strategy for conveying it.

Probably, Cunliffe now has until the Labour annual conference in November to devise a coherent template for a post Third Way, post-GFC, post neo-liberal set of economic policies. Not a long time. Still, if he hasn’t yet got the answers, Cunliffe at least seems equipped to ask the right questions. And Labour hasn’t had someone with that ability in the top job since 2008.


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    1. 8 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on the Labour reshuffle”

    2. By Dan on Sep 24, 2013 | Reply

      One sure way to get my attention would be to simply announce a review of NZ’s drug laws, and an explicit promise to base NZ drug laws on the scientific and medical evidence. Then watch the screeching while the right tries to tell us how drug laws shouldn’t be based on scientific and medical evidence… because they know that if that ever happens, they lose.

    3. By Ray on Sep 24, 2013 | Reply

      “Trevor Mallard, and Clayton Cosgrove who drops a couple of places – are being eased out of the way, but without being humiliated. ”

      Only a practised spinner or Cunliffe ace supporter could say the poor old Trevor’s fall from Leader of the House and possible Speaker to dogs body is not deeply humiliating

    4. By MarkE on Sep 24, 2013 | Reply

      Perhaps the munters that pass for political journalists in this country are merely symptoms of our crappy economic system. Journalists are usually paid very poorly so anyone with a modicum of talent reads the writing on the wall and takes off overseas for greener pastures. Leaving vacant positions open for the likes of Patrick Gower, who in all fairness, would probably be more at home as a DJ on ‘The Rock’ or the like.
      Perhaps, deep in their bones, the munters know that they themselves are a product of this corporate dreck, so when the likes of Greens/Labour start to threaten the foundations of the system in which they were reared, it’s the most natural thing in the world for the wage-slave munter journalists to flock to their mother’s defence.

    5. By Lan on Sep 24, 2013 | Reply

      NZ does not “do” scientific or medical evidence ..just look at the way disputes with ACC have deteriorated over the past decade. If such evidence was understood we would not have this strange “Psychoactive Substances Act 2013″ in my view. Interesting to just read that there has just been a “$21m drug bust” of psychoactive substances while the same stuff is being sold in packets, scattered on “herbs” in “legal high” shops. No science and no evidence on toxicity or otherwise.

    6. By Awryly on Sep 24, 2013 | Reply

      King’s promotion, even retention, baffles me. She left the health portfolio in an unholy mess as minister.

      It galls me to have to say that Ryall, for all his sycophancy, has managed – despite more adverse circumstances than the relatively benign circumstances that faced Clark/King – to produce far better access to hospitals.

      Goff must have been even worse than I thought.

    7. By Joe Blow on Sep 24, 2013 | Reply

      Nothing about David Parker being made deputy leader and retaining the finance shadow portfolio? A strong signal that Labour will endeavour to be tight with the purse strings if let into power next election. Not exactly a radical move to the left… but they got to win the election first I guess… I better not jinx them. Good to see you’re in support Gordon. They don’t need too much criticism from the left or the right right now…

    8. By onenzer on Sep 26, 2013 | Reply

      the council do not need another israeli on it. so someone tell john key to pull his head in. most nzers i favour favour palestine over israel

    9. By onenzer on Sep 26, 2013 | Reply

      the council do not need another israeli on it. so someone tell john key to pull his head in. most nzers i know favour palestine over israel

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