Vernon Small must have been at a different conference

Vernon Small normally sees things through red-tinted glasses, but he’s lost all perspective after drinking the Labour Conference Koolaid

There was a strange sense of calm over Labour’s centenary conference in Auckland over the weekend.

Strange, as in unusual … because in recent history they’ve been anything but.

From leadership white-anting to passive-aggressive clashes over policy positions on superannuation, man bans or trade, conferences in the recent past have been a seething mess.

Even last year in Palmerston North, when exhausted by years of in-fighting the party finally put on a united and convincing front, there was an underlying tension in the air as policies from the failed 2014 campaign were jettisoned.

It wasn’t helped by Andrew Little’s refusal to say a definitive yeah or nah to the Trans-Pacific Partnership in his first press conference.

This year, though, Little deserves some of the credit for the preternatural sense of order and relative serenity.

James Shaw described him as “unflappable” during the Green co-leader’s symbolic cameo.

Little’s deputy Annette King went for “no frills”

I think it is because even Labour have figured out that every time Andrew opens his gob, they take a hit in the polls. ?And at least one in three times, what comes out is so ridiculous, even the Labour-friendly media get stuck in. ?

His policy gambit was a plan to pay long term unemployed young people the minimum wage for six months to do community and conservation work.

It drove home the conference’s emphasis on Labour’s core message; jobs; which included the release of the substantial investigation into the Future of Work.

If there was a misstep it was the decision to have Little pre-release on TV3’s The Nation the report’s recommendation of a levy on free-loading employers to help pay for skills training.

The party’s leadership is adamant it was not whistling to even the most sensitive of dogs, and i tend to believe them.

If a politician can’t advocate training workers living in New Zealand in areas where we have skills shortages – evidenced by the demand to import skilled labour in those industries – there is something very wrong.

But some sections of the media, recalling Labour’s earlier “Chinese-sounding names” home-buyers census and Little’s comments about too many immigrant chefs, pounced.

Was the move to train local workers, as opposed to importing, say, asian chefs, an attack or levy on immigration?

It might have been wiser in hindsight to choose a less fraught appetiser, such as the guarantee of six week’s paid training for workers who loses their jobs to technological change.

But that distraction aside, Labour activists can head home happy that this time around they have presented a shipshape party to the electorate.

And who?is buying that?

Only Vernon Small it would seem.

They’re broke. ?All the key staff have left. ?And the MP exodus has only started.

Yeah, Labour are shipshape alright.

What was that phrase again?

Skipper’s feeling good.


– Vernon Small, NZ Herald