Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on David Cunliffe’s latest troubles

June 19th, 2014

Who knew that David Cunliffe’s speech to last year’s Labour Party conference was not a new beginning, but the last gasp of the credible phase of his leadership? In itself, his 2003 letter to the Immigration Service was innocuous. Yet only a Jesuit could make the fine distinction that Labour is now trying to make between Cunliffe’s inquiry about how long Donghua Liu’s residency application was taking, and outright “advocacy” for that application to be approved. Not surprisingly, such letters are seen by officials as “hurry up” reminders, and are intended to serve as such. This was advocacy; the same advocacy that Cunliffe had just this week denied ever making. Probably he did so unknowingly. Either way though – fool or knave – it’s not a good look.

The inability of Cunliffe and his staff to adequately research Cunliffe’s track record with Liu is also lamentable – especially given that photos of Labour MPs in the friendly company of Liu had already emerged. Yet earlier this week, Cunliffe had been left to paint himself into a corner of denial, only to be sandbagged by the revelation of the letter’s existence. As yet, we are still reliant on Labour Party researchers to verify whether Labour did or didn’t receive a sizeable donation from Liu. It should be remembered that National Cabinet Minister Maurice Williamson resigned because of his meddling in a Police investigation and not over a donations scandal, per se. Yet Labour had gone on to use the meddling/donation link to Liu as ammunition in its general attack on National and its fat cat donors. All it will take now is evidence of a donation from Liu to Labour to put the noose firmly around Labour’s neck.

Clearly, Cunliffe is now virtually a spent force as Labour leader. The gaffes he has made have not been major. We are not talking about economic disasters on the scale of National’s asset sales programme, which will penalize New Zealanders for decades to come. Nor can Prime Minister John Key credibly portray Cunliffe as the leader of a motley group of leftists, when Key himself seems happy to rely on the motley likes of Winston Peters, Colin Craig, Peter Dunne and the Act Party’s David Seymour to form his next government.

Cunliffe, however, has comprehensively failed to offer a credible alternative to the dismal Key administration. The succession of gaffes may have been trivial. Yet they were evidence of a team that seems unable to anticipate the attack lines from National, and which seems either panicked by them, or retreats instantly into a defensive crouch to limit the damage. Labour has shown no ability at confidently stating a policy, rebutting the predictable criticism and moving an argument forwards – not at least, without sounding condescending as it does so. Labour may have had a vision, but few New Zealanders have wanted to pursue it in the company of David Cunliffe. The polls indicate that Labour is headed for a catastrophe of the sort that befell National in 2002.

There is no visible alternative. Grant Robertson is cut from the same hyper-calculating, micro-positioning cloth. What really ails Labour is that it is a centre left party whose parliamentary caucus is terrified – literally terrified – of its own left wing shadow.

Fishing expedition
Whatever you may think of Kim Dotcom personally, he is being well and truly shafted by the New Zealand justice system. In the recent past, our highest courts have found against Dotcom when he has sought the evidence that the US is relying on for its extradition proceedings; yet when the Crown wants access to the research materials that local journalist David Fisher has used to write his book on Dotcom, journalistic privilege has been swept aside, and Fisher will now have to cough up his sources, notes and raw interview materials.

The Fisher judgement has been based on making a distinction between journalism in the form of conventional news reporting and long, investigative articles or programmes on one hand – and non-fiction books on the other. Fisher has already talked to RNZ about the bizarre logic of changing the legal protections on the basis of whether the end product is really long, and has a cover on it – even when the work methods, social purpose and serious intent are exactly the same as with a news item that IS protected by law from these kind of fishing expeditions. On this ruling, if you contribute to an investigative article you’re safe from the retribution by the state – yet once that article becomes a book, you’re not. Not if the state has been so royally pissed off that it still wants to pursue the matter in court.

As things stand, Dotcom is apparently compelled to serve as a proxy for the Crown and has to demand the materials from Fisher – and then hand them over to the Crown. It will get messy when and if Fisher does not supply exactly what the Crown is looking for. All this seems to be a function of the narrow legal ambit of the Privacy Act. It is a civil liberties issue on which all journalists and writers should take a stand, on Fisher’s behalf.

The White Man’s Burden, and Treasure
Well before Peter Gabriel, world music had an ancestral founding figure in the shape of a remarkable Rhodesian farmer called Hugh Tracey. Starting out as a teenager in 1921, Tracey was a self-made folklorist who searched out and recorded over 50 years’ worth of African songs and instrumentals of all kinds from around what was then Rhodesia, Tanganyika and the Congo. Here are a few Tracey tracks that have since found their way to a global audience.

“Skokiaan”, for instance, was written by a guy called August Musarurwa within a group called The African Dance Band of The Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia. Tracey cut a great single with them: “Skokiaan” on one side and a fantastic version, with vocals, of Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood” on the other. Thankfully, Tracey ensured that Musarurwa copyrighted the “Skokiaan” track – later, the song became a huge US hit in the 1950s for Ralph Marterie and his Orchestra. In the Shona language, “Skokiaan” refers to the name of an alcoholic drink made from methylated spirits, and other bad stuff. In the US, the Cold Storage Band single was released under the catchier name of the Bulawayo Sweet Rhythm band. I’ve also tossed in a clip of Hugh Tracey talking about the African music and musical instruments he loved.

ENDS

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    1. 22 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on David Cunliffe’s latest troubles”

    2. By Aaron on Jun 19, 2014 | Reply

      Gordon, do you think it was ever possible for Cunliffe to gain traction given the obvious bias in the media and the need to watch his back?

      I would note that Helen Clark at this stage of her leadership was looking like dead meat too.

      I’d also love to see an investigation into how this campaign to destabilize Cunliffe has been carried out – that is the real story here – Well that and how the press gallery is so stupid as to promote the line that someone who forgot a letter from 11 years ago has had a brain fade – I mean I can’t remember anything I put in the mail 11 years ago, let alone some thing this specific that a staff member did on my behalf

    3. By Grump on Jun 19, 2014 | Reply

      The problem is, you will never beat Key and the unreal-politik brigade at their own game. Dish the dirt and hate and dog-whistle all you like, the Nats are simply the best at it, as has just been shown.

    4. By swordfish on Jun 19, 2014 | Reply

      “The polls indicate that Labour is headed for a catastrophe of the sort that befell National in 2002.”

      Well, just ONE poll, Gordon, not “polls” plural !!! Apart from the latest Fairfax, the most recent polls have them hovering around 29, 30, 31%.

      And it’s important to realise that this latest Fairfax records, first and foremost, a swing from the Left Bloc into the Undecided category. If you rely solely on the Decided respondents (as the MSM is apt to do) then you’d be forced to believe that a whopping 7 point swing from Left to Right had just occurred. But by re-calculating Party support on the basis of the ENTIRE sample (thus allowing for movement in and out of the Undecided category)you get the following:

      LEFT BLOC – 7.6 points
      RIGHT BLOC + 2.4 points
      UNDECIDED + 5.1 points

      Major swing from the Left into Undecided territory and a minor Left-to-Right swing. That’s a more accurate indication of the change in popular sentiment recorded in this latest Poll.

      It’s true, of course, that (1) Undecideds are more likely than average to end up as non-voters on Election Day, (2) this latest “scandal” (some would say MSM beat-up) may dent Labour’s / the Left’s poll support further and (3) as a corollary, the MSM will, once again, be pushing the ‘Labour is Dog Tucker’ headlines (just as they did in the run-up to the last 2 Elections), thus, in turn, further driving Labour voters into non-voting (or voting for the Greens / IMP).

      But you only have to look at the ‘Change of Government’ sentiment in this latest Fairfax-Ipsos Poll to see just how evenly split the Country actually is. Just a pity that many of those who do indeed favour a Labour-led Administration will stay at home on Election Day.

    5. By gunther on Jun 19, 2014 | Reply

      Gordon, seeing as you’re so sure that Cunliffe is a spent force, pray tell, who could possibly replace him? And unite the caucus? And appease the membership? And how could Labour ever hope to recover from the now years of in-fighting and dismal polling?
      Are you brave enough to call time on the Labour party itself?

      Things just aren’t as simplistic as you’ve described them here.

      You’ve managed to think 1 step ahead here but not 2.

    6. By BobbyJ on Jun 19, 2014 | Reply

      Too many ‘gaffes’ to be accidental. He may have to parachute George Smiley in.
      Great music though, keep it up. Maybe James Taylor – David sure needs one.

    7. By pop on Jun 19, 2014 | Reply

      Didn’t look like a spent force on Campbell last night. He’s a man with the spirit and fight still well and truly in him.

    8. By Kat on Jun 19, 2014 | Reply

      What about the Hardly Normal poll that puts National on 56.2% that’s bound to happen eh!?

      So which poll is it on election night?

      National:56.2% or 52% or 47% or 44% or 41% or ?

      Labour:19% or 23% or 27% or 30% or 32% or 35% or ?

      And who in reality is most likely to form a coalition govt?

    9. By swordfish on Jun 19, 2014 | Reply

      Well, Kat, the latest Roy Morgan’s just out and its results starkly contrast with this latest Fairfax. Conducted over somewhat different time periods – albeit with a slight overlap – but nevertheless the results do clash quite violently.

      National’s down 3 points in the RM / up 9 in the Fairfax. The combined Labour+Green support is up 2 points in the RM / down 7 in the Fairfax.

      The Nats are fully 7 points lower in the RM compared to the Fairfax. With Labour 5 points higher.

      I suspect National’s apologists on social media will be trying to put an emphasis on the different timing.

    10. By Kat on Jun 19, 2014 | Reply

      Yes Swordfish, the Nats are probably realistically on 44% or lower. And the Nats will keep falling up to the election, possibly to 42%. The Nats own internal polling most likely to show a deadlock between the left/right bloc on election day. That makes the most sense as Labours internal polling puts the party around the early 30′s%.

      Nationals apologists are just hot air and the current foray against Cunliffe reflects how worried Key is about an election night deadlock.
      The election will be a test for MMP and the maturity of the electorate.

      My only advice is solidarity, presentation of the true facts and keep up the rebuttal of silly commentary like this one from the usually level headed Gordon.

    11. By clairbear on Jun 20, 2014 | Reply

      I do agree that the polls will fluctuate and may in the end be inaccurate when compared to the election day results.

      However the reported trending does I believe have impact as it is reported along with the headlines (don’t ever forget the media are there to sell papers and advertising as their primary role and sensational reporting, includes kicking someone when they are down).

      These current set of polls are before this current problem that Labour has and whilst Key is out “seemingly” trying to push a NZ agenda, meeting with ex-Labour leaders as in Moore and Clark and supporting their and NZ interests meeting with Clinton, (perhaps a long game there) and Trade Ministers etc. Cunliffe is fronting up to the media trying to convince them that he still has a job and his caucus is loyal to him. One is a leader without question the other is arguing that he still is the leader.

      The media are not loyal I have seen Armstrong for instance climb into Key as much as he may be with Cunliffe – it is not their job to be loyal to any party.

      I think the perception with the media reporting now (except to diehard supporters of any given party) is that Key is going about the business of being New Zealand’s PM on the international stage, and Cunliffe is fighting for his position within his own party. I think the next poll will show a further drop with Labour and then they will get some lift into the election and in the end because of MMP it will be a close result.

    12. By Elyse on Jun 20, 2014 | Reply

      I agree with you, Gordon, that the Labour Party are afraid of their own left wing shadow. I like David Cunliffe and am appalled by the obvious campaign to undermine him, but I’m disappointed that Labour haven’t come down hard on National and their policies which are eroding if not eradicating the strengths of NZ: world renowned education system, first rate health care, state owned enterprises that provide the people with a stake in the future (and an income for the govt), unpolluted environment, and last but not least, an egalitarian society which was kind of the point of this little country in the first place.
      NZ used to be internationally respected, but is no longer.
      Kiwis elected their very own George Bush in 2008, having sneered at the actual GW for 8 years, and they’re continuing to give him a free pass.
      I find it hard to believe that a there are so many stupid people in this once progressive country.

    13. By Peter on Jun 20, 2014 | Reply

      I don’t really care whether Cunliffe has some connection to Liu and fully expect he didnt remember. The issue is that Labour and the left have had an orchestrated campaign to assasinate the character of one man – John Key. Even when they attack others in the party, it’s always “Key must have known”. The public are sick of and want to hear policy especially this close to the election and see that Labour have credible people to implement it. Instead it is continual personal attacks trying to portray distrust and dishonesty. And now Cunliffe is tasting exactly what he has dished out for the last three years.

      Oh and Gordon,partial asset sales won’t “penalize New Zealanders for decades to come”.

    14. By Kat on Jun 20, 2014 | Reply

      @ Elyse
      “I find it hard to believe that a there are so many stupid people in this once progressive country.”

      Like people who actually believe John Armstrong is not a National hack along with Audrey Young, Claire Trevett and Fran O’Sullivan, all right leaning commentators.

      And that asset sales won’t have a long term negative economic effect. These people most likely support the notion that ‘trickle down’ works.

    15. By Henry Barnard on Jun 20, 2014 | Reply

      Having been schooled by Jesuits from the age of 7 till I was nearly 16, I think even they would say that there is more than “fine” distinction “between Cunliffe’s inquiry about how long Donghua Liu’s residency application was taking, and outright “advocacy” for that application to be approved”.

    16. By J on Jun 21, 2014 | Reply

      With you Elyse, all the way, from ‘I’ to ‘country’, especially the word ‘stupid’.

      When we allowed Key to become Prime Minister, we agreed to ownership by America. Every so often he returns to America to receive his orders…

    17. By mpledger on Jun 22, 2014 | Reply

      I think it’s alright for a politician to advocate for a person as long as it’s not for preferential or partial treatment i.e. it’s for treatment that any person should expect from a government service.

      Beaurecrats will sit on complicated decisions if they can – maybe some new information will pop up from somewhere and make the decision easier, maybe they will be promoted and won’t have to deal with it, maybe it will become a decision that’s beyond their level of responsibility.

      Therefore I don’t have any problem with Cunliffe asking how long an application is going to take. As long as he does it for everyone who comes to him and their wait-time is already beyond what it reasonable or expected. And if the beaurecrats reply with “we need more information from X, Y & Z” than that’s an acceptable answer.

      This whole media circus over this is stupid beyond belief.

    18. By Malcolm on Jun 22, 2014 | Reply

      Gordon,
      If you are wondering who might be a leader to take the Labour Party back to a place where it can at least command some public respect might I suggest Dunedin North MP David Clark. A lesser known politician he is a least a man of some depth & rigor. Making him leader might challenge the Labour Party aim for something beyond making key voting blocs it thinks it owns by right dance to Labour’s tune all the way to the polling booth.

    19. By Delia Morris on Jun 23, 2014 | Reply

      All I want is this sick government out. Now if you think the Greens can cut it, well get them to. Any left party is better than the horror we are being subjected to under National.

    20. By MrSmith on Jun 25, 2014 | Reply

      Oh dear Gordon! After today revelations you are now looking like Cheer leader on this issue, you should and do know better than to follow the crowd, they are generally going in the wrong direction.

    21. By onenzer on Jun 27, 2014 | Reply

      gordon, help please. can you get an investigation into how and why all these israelis ripping us off in our shopping malls with dead sea skin care products have have visas to work in nz. see nz immigration online

    22. By bernard on Jul 3, 2014 | Reply

      Gordon how do you combat a corrupt mainstream media , it seems it does not matter who labours leader is , or what labour says the mainstream media by and large zealously negative toward it . so how do you respond to that if your labour ? . this has been going on for just over 7 years now non stop the pro bias toward national its simply brainwashing Gordon .

    23. By Dragon on Jul 14, 2014 | Reply

      Albeit though the Labour Party are a dissheveled rabble, full of Right-Wingers, it nevertheless is desperately important for all Working-Class New Zealanders that in the forthcoming snap Election (Chris Trotter accurately states that Keys’ advisers told him to hold an early election before the repercussions on the NZ public of National’s economic policies WELL AND TRULY kicked in: mortgage interest rates, relentlessly soaring food and power prices, etc)that we select “Labour” for the Electorate Vote, and New Zealand Green Party for the Party Vote.

      This is the only way to get rid of John Key and his merry gang of slimy crooks: Green Party membership is soaring, we are expecting at least twenty Seats this Election, and we have got the numbers to force the hand of the Labour Party into implementing REAL Socialist policies for the benefit of all Working-Class New Zealanders and create a genuinely egalitarian society where the nation’s wealth is fairly distributed.

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