Eating their own

There is nothing quite like a pinko punch-up.

Russell Brown has abandoned any pretense of blogging about his mother’s fabourite lamb-chop recipes:

A leadership change six months out from polling day would not look convincing to the electorate. But neither, it must be said, would a party led by Goff. In the wake of the Mt Albert by-election ? which demonstrated a terrible lack of skill in National?s lower ranks ? Labour had a high point from which to operate. Instead, its leader has looked uncertain and hesitant; unable to convert political opportunities or express a convincing vision. It?s not hard to see him entering the election as hobbled as Bill English was in 2002.

The shame of it is that this is not only a time when Labour needed to execute well, but one when the?country needed an effective, aggressive Opposition. What we have now is simply a shambles.

Danyl doesn’t mince words:

Goff was on Q & A yesterday arguing that he couldn?t stand Darren Hughes down because this would prejudice the outcome of the police investigation, and various pundits and commentators have argued that standing down a politician before they?ve been found guilty of anything denies them natural justice and holds them to an impossibly higher standard than other members of society.

All of which is rubbish. When the director of a hospital, or a police commander, or the principal of a school is informed by the police that one of their staff members is being investigated they stand their doctor/policeman/teacher down pending the outcome, especially if the undisputed facts around the charges cast grave doubts on the judgement of the accused person ? they may even be sacked prior to charges or a court trial. The same standard applies throughout society. If a company director learns his accountant is being investigated for fraud they don?t just leave them in charge of the company books on the grounds that it might prejudice the investigation if they don?t. That?s just silly ? no one else holds themselves to this arbitrary standard of justice that Goff has just invented.

and again after Clare Curran blogged about how terrible the media were:

…I guess Curran would say this is because the UK media is so fair and high-minded ? but my alternate hypothesis is that in the UK they have a competent opposition party, while Curran and her colleagues are Really. Fucking. Terrible. I know this isn?t very constructive, but to stop being Really. Fucking. Terrible they need to acknowledge that they are, and make HUGE changes to the way their party formulates policy, and strategy, and communicates with the media and the public.

They seem to be stuck with Goff. Fine. Then they need to change something else. Maybe they should hire someone from the Australian or UK Labour Party to review the election loss and debacle of the last two years and have them make recommendations on how to reform the party. Maybe they should just replace King and run the party on more of a co-leader model. I don?t really know.

I do know they can?t just drift towards electoral oblivion moaning about how mean the media are. The country needs an effective opposition and we?re paying these clowns a huge sum of money to perform this role. They have an obligation to the rest of the nation to do their fucking jobs.

Lew at KiwiPolitico likewise gets stuck in:

If you don?t give the media a compelling reason to care, don?t be surprised if they don?t. If you don?t provide them with something powerful to cover, they?ll go with scandal and innuendo?every time. In the fable of the scorpion and the frog, the scorpion stings the frog. Why? To do so is in its nature. Frogs, while unable to prevent scorpions from stinging, would at least be wise to deny them the opportunity.

With that in mind, some of the following in this case might also have helped:

  • Have frontbench MPs not do stupid stuff which appeals to the public (not the media) sense of scandalous voyeurism;
  • Have your party leader do more than the?absolute minimum possible in response to said scandal;
  • In doing more than the absolute minimum, have the party leader respond in?just one move rather than in several successive ineffectual steps which maximise the coverage across several news cycles, including a weekend leading into a Parliamentary recess when political news is going to be thin on the ground anyway;
  • Ensure the party president is sufficiently apprised of said scandal that he finds out about it by some means other than reading the papers;
  • Even in the incredibly unlikely event that you can?t do the preceding,?at least have your party leader and president sit down together for long enough to agree on a unified position, so as not to give credence to rumours of a leadership challenge.

It?s not that Labour didn?t give the media something to cover, so the media covered the Darren Hughes scandal by default: it?s that Labour?gave the media the Darren Hughes scandal to cover, covered in juicy scandal juice, and then didn?t give them anything more compelling to cover instead. (As if there is something more compelling than a sexual investigation into a male frontbench MP?s alleged dalliance with a teenaged male youth MP in the house of the deputy leader after a Parliamentary function, which was covered up for two weeks by the party leader.)

Even Chris Trotter now feels compelled to speak: (for some reason?the?post has disappeared, but no matter RSS still has it)

IT?S STAGGERING, the unabashed cynicism of so many of Labour?s defenders. As rumour builds on rumour and the indefatigable ferrets of the Blogosphere bore down deep into the political laundry basket, Labour apologists dismiss the political ramifications of the Hughes Affair with a Gallic shrug. ?Goff?s perfectly safe?, they say with world-weary certitude, ?because who the hell would want to take over the job now? Far better to let Goff lose the election and pick things up from there.?

It?s only when you begin to deconstruct this statement that the true extent of these apologists? cynical indifference to the fate of labour?s supporters becomes apparent. All that appears to matter to the Labour caucus and its mouthpieces is who gets what in the aftermath of John Key?s crushing default victory in November.

And be in no doubt, it will be a default victory. Key will win: not because he has the best policies (or, indeed, any coherent policies at all); not because he?s got the best team (between them the parties of the Centre Left could bring together a Cabinet of outstanding quality); not because he?s in some mystic communion with the zeitgeist (Key and his colleagues represent a view of the world that is fast disappearing everywhere except among the rump rightists of the Anglo-Saxon world); he will win because, bluntly, his principal opponents in the Labour Party are too tired, too timid, too inexperienced or simply too selfish to take the fight to him.

Trotter is clearly?imploring?a putsch against Goff. Forcing the shirkers in caucus to join the rebellion for the good of the party.

Those Labour politicians with both the capability and the will to lead should recoil from any suggestion that their best response to the Hughes Affair is to simply bide their time. As social-democrats, as promoters of democratic socialism (which is still Labour?s official political mission) they should assess as dispassionately as they can the full ramifications of Goff?s handling of the Hughes Affair, on Labour?s election prospects. And if they come to the conclusion that it was inept, and that keeping him on as leader will significantly reduce Labour?s chances of success, then they should start counting heads.

Because, even in the most selfish and deeply cynical terms, allowing National to win by default is a disastrous strategy. A Labour Party which begins to be perceived (justifiably or unjustifiably) as morally compromised will attract the votes of fewer and fewer New Zealanders. And a caucus driven by nothing more than personal ambition is bound to become increasingly reckless in its internal jockeying for power.
If all that matters is climbing to the top of the greasy pole, then increasingly the only skill that Labour politicians will seek to master is how to ascend. New Zealand Labour will become more and more like Australian Labor: a mechanism for the identification and elevation of alternative political (but not ideological) leaders. Its days as the people?s first choice for securing social and economic justice will be over.

If David Cunliffe, David Parker, Shane Jones and Maryan Street genuinely believe that by persisting with Phil?s leadership they are dooming Labour to an ignominious defeat and thereby exposing New Zealand?s poorest and most vulnerable citizens to social and economic assault, then it is their moral duty to replace him.

Replace him ? and make a real contest of this year?s general election. The working people of New Zealand will forgive Labour for losing a battle in which every soldier gave his or her all. What they will not forgive is a party whose best captains and bravest warriors, for reasons of personal ambition and private advantage, refused to draw their swords.

Bomber at Tumeke likens the Labour Party to the Catholic Church:

Regardless of whether Darren is guilty or not, the massive lapse in judgment of having an 18 year old at your home at 2am in the morning after a boozy night on the town is enough to have been stepped down immediately, to allow this farce to continue under the presumption of innocence is not what mates do. Mates go, ‘Maaaaate, that’s some pretty heavy sexual allegation shit right there, you’ll be standing down immediately and I will be making a statement right after you stand down’. That’s what mates do, they hurry their mates into making the honourable and righteous decision when allegations are this serious. Mates don’t stay shtum.

This is the Labour Party, not the Catholic Church.

Who know’s if Darren was trying to personally extend his slim majority, what consenting adults in the privacy of their homes do ain’t my business, but the fact he put himself into that position at all suggests his step down should have been a foregone conclusion rather than a timing issue through the media.

That Andrew Little didn’t know beforehand is staggering.